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Preserve White


There are several ways to preserve areas of the painting that will remain white in the finished painting. An area can simply be painted around or it can be masked with a variety of methods. Masking is a technique used to cover an area temporarily in order to prevent it from being painted. (The same techniques can be used to preserve a previously painted area.)

Paint Around

The easiest way to preserve white areas in a painting is to simply paint around them. Use a large brush to paint large areas; change to a small brush to get into the small areas.

Another way to paint around white areas is to wet the area around the white and then drop in paint. The paint will only go where the paper is wet.

Frank Webb uses a lot of white in his paintings. He often starts a painting by applying a wash to everything that is not going to remain white. He calls this the "mother wash." After the mother wash has dried, he superimposes progressively darker washes on top.

Masking fluid (liquid frisket)

Click on this link to read detailed information about Masking Fluid.

Frisket Film (contact paper)

Lay frisket film (with the backing still attached) over your drawing. Trace the drawing onto the frisket film with a fine-tip permanent marker. Cut out the shape, remove the backing and adhere it to the watercolor paper.

Frisket film often has a problem of paint seeping under the edges. To avoid this, cut the frisket film 1/16 inch smaller than the shape it is to cover. After it is placed on the watercolor paper, fill the 1/16 inch gap between the frisket film and the edge of the shape with masking fluid. This seals the edge so the paint cannot seep underneath.

Masking Tape

A single piece of masking tape can be placed over a shape that is to be protected. Since the masking tape is semi-transparent, you can see the lines of your drawing through it. Use a sharp knife to cut the tape to fit the shape.

For larger areas, several overlapping pieces of masking tape can be used.

Paper or Matboard

Cut a piece of computer printer paper, wax paper, or matboard to fill most of a shape to be protected. Use masking tape to secure the paper in place.

Wax (candle, crayon, wax paper)

Draw on the watercolor paper with a white candle or white crayon. When you paint a wash over the waxed areas, the wax will resist the watercolor, leaving a white line.

Lay a piece of wax paper on top of the watercolor paper, then draw on the wax paper with a stylus. Wax from the wax paper will be transferred to the watercolor paper.

Wax Batik
Method 1
  1. Ink a stamp with a VersaMark.
  2. Stamp the paper.
  3. Cover with clear embossing powder and heat with a heat gun.
  4. Apply watercolor paint and let dry.
  5. Place a piece of computer printer paper over the top of the design and heat with an iron until the embossed pattern appears in the printer paper.
Method 2
  1. Cut rice paper to the size you want. (Some batik artists prefer Awagami Ginwashi or hemp paper.)
  2. Sketch your drawing on white paper and place it under the transparent rice paper.
  3. Trace the design onto the smooth side of the rice paper with a permanent, waterproof pen such as a Pigma Micron 05.
  4. Melt paraffin wax in an electric frying pan or glue pot. Melt the wax slowly in a well-ventilated area to 200 to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. At higher temperatures the wax can catch fire.
  5. Place a piece of waxed paper beneath the rice paper to keep it from sticking to your work surface.
  6. Place a piece of dark paper below the wax paper to make it easier to see where you are placing the wax.
  7. Decide what areas are going to be white in the final painting. Those areas will receive the first layer of wax.
  8. Dip an inexpensive natural hair brush into the hot wax and spread a small amount onto the paper. (As soon as the wax is applied, return the brush to the container of hot wax so it will be ready for the next application.)
  9. Apply small amounts of lightest value watercolor paint over the dried wax and onto the rice paper. (Since rice paper has no sizing, the paint will spread rapidly. To avoid hard edges, brush the edge with a wet brush and gently blot with a paper towel.
  10. Let the paper dry thoroughly.
  11. Add a second application of wax over areas you want to protect from the next darker wash.
  12. Apply the darker wash over the second layer of dried wax.
  13. Continue waxing to protect areas from the next progressively darker wash, until you have applied the darkest layer of paint.
  14. After you've added as many applications of wax and as many layers of watercolor as you want, let the paper dry.
  15. Cover the entire front of the paper with another coat of wax to be sure you've waxed every area at least once.
  16. When this layer of wax has cooled, peel off the wax paper that was placed between the rice paper and your work surface.
  17. Gently crinkle the rice paper into a ball.
  18. Flatten the crinkled paper, being careful not to brush or shake off loose pieces of wax.
  19. Apply a final wash of watercolor over the paper. (Some of the wash will go through the cracks, but most will bead up on the surface of the wax.
  20. Without waiting for the paint to dry, apply a final coat of wax over the entire front of the paper, going right over the wet beads of paint, sealing them into the wax.
  21. Remove the wax by placing the batik in the middle of a stack of 6 sheets of newspaper and heating the stack with an iron set to the cotton setting. (The heat will melt the wax and the newspaper will soak it up.
  22. When you see the wax starting to bleed through, replace them with fresh papers and continue heating. Repeat this process three or four times until the newspapers remain clean and all the wax has been removed.
  23. Mount the batik on a piece of white or off-white matboard using double-sided or line tape.

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