Skip to main content

The Magic of Watercolor

Lesson 21 of 24

Reserving Whites & Lifting

Molly Murrah

The Magic of Watercolor

Molly Murrah

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

21. Reserving Whites & Lifting


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Overview Duration:1:05:57
2 Q&A Duration:47:19
  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Paint Properties Duration:25:46
2 Understanding Color Duration:11:06
3 The Color Wheel Duration:22:18
4 Other Color Terms Duration:21:35
5 Mixing Colors Duration:10:27
6 Light & Shadow Duration:13:11
7 Q&A Duration:21:36
  Class Trailer
Now Playing
2 Papers & Manufacturers Duration:41:35
3 Watercolor Brushes Duration:45:21
4 Putting it All Together Duration:14:13
5 Q&A Duration:23:24
  Class Trailer
Now Playing
2 Drawing for Painting Duration:50:40
3 Proportion and Perspective Duration:29:47
4 Supplies for Next Week Duration:48:09
  Class Trailer
Now Playing
2 Creating Textures Duration:11:57
3 Reserving Whites & Lifting Duration:29:11
4 Wax Resist Duration:07:00
5 Other Techniques Duration:25:37
6 Things to Remember Duration:10:57

Lesson Info

Reserving Whites & Lifting

all right so now we're going on to reserving whites and lifting so this is a detail of a painting this was a full sheet watercolor painting that I did a number of years ago and all of these areas here these little white highlights this little white highlight here down here all of these we were covered up with masking fluid first and I put the masking fluid down on wet paper now this was a painting that I didn't soak first because I didn't I wasn't looking for a nice soft edged under painting this was just a painting that I taped on a board and I painted directly on top of it because I was sort of doing isolated like in other words I did that duck and then I did the next duck I wasn't running huge brushes of loaded color across the full sheet and so I wasn't too worried about it buckling that much and it didn't buckle that much but all of these areas were reserved with masking fluid and then I finished the entire painting and when the painting was done and completely dry I went back and...

I lifted the masking fluid off now sometimes like this area right here that had masking fluid on it but I knew I didn't want that to be lifted back completely toe white so once I took the masking fluid off I went and painted a color on top of it so it gave me the feeling of a highlight without it being a stark white highlight which was for that piece back in the back it was mostly in shadow was exactly what I was looking for so masking fluid is great in one course I remember somebody as david I think it was you somebody had asked do you ever do masking fluid on wet paper and you do you do use masking fluid on a piece of paper that you are going to soak later but you put the masking fluid down before the paper is wet you put it down while the papers dry then you went the painting and you just pain all over the wet or if you're going to soak your paper first and stretch it you soak your paper put it down in your board staple it and then let it completely dry before you then go in and put the masking fluid on and my you can do it either before the paper is soaked or after the papers soaked but in any case the paper has to be completely dry when you put the fluid down I've experimented once with putting mascot flowing masking fluid down on what paper and it just didn't work very well for me some people can do it but it's it's hard to lift and it's interesting it can it can it can harm your paper but some people put it down and then they just kind of leave it there so you know there's no right or wrong way to doing any of this so each one of us has some masking fluid so I would suggest taking out you can use that same piece of paper if you want and this is this is our little tube of masking fluid that we got supplied by daniel smith and it came you pull the top off it came with some little nibs I'm sure you can't see this little nib but it's a little name and you cut the end off of it and you stick it on the end of your masking fluid and then you turn it up and the masking fluid will go through the tip of the nimh and so you can put it put it down now if you put it slow like I'm doing you're going to get little fat beads with little skinny connectors if you do it fast you can get closer to a straight shot and if you turn it way up this way see what I was doing I was holding it sideways and this would actually be a great technique I don't know if you can see this let me hold us up this would be a great technique if you're like trying to do can you see the one on top how it's round beads it's casting a shadow if you're doing a necklace on somebody's neck and you wanted to get like a that the idea of round beads around their neck that would be a great way to do it if you want it just a perfectly straight line you hold it pretty much straight up and down and you have to move pretty fast now I often times what I will often dio is I will use a quill pen and this is also masking fluid one thing you never do with masking fluid is you never shake it don't shake it ever because it has particles in there that when they're shaken they start to clump together and then what'll happen is they'll separate out from from the medium that they're in and they will now one other thing let me tell you right now as soon as you get done with your name sticking and water so it doesn't dry because if you if you keep the masking fluid in the neb and let it dry out then the nib is this good as done you're not going to be able to use it again but anyway there's a medium that the particles of the masking fluid float in and if you shake the bottle those particles would start to stick together and they'll form like little round balls in your bottle and it won't work well at all to use your masking fluid so I'm just going to do a sit on example of using my quill pen and this you can get a really nice fine line not is nice and finest is I would want in some things like cat whiskers I did the cat whiskers on this cat that you're going to see when we get to the next slide or a couple of slides down and I did them with this quill pen and they're still just thicker than I want them to be but the quill pen will still give you somewhat of a thin line compared to some of the others so now I'm washing this off before it dries sticking the pan in there and we're just going to let this set for a minute because this has to dry before we can go back in and take it off and see what kind of effect it's creating and actually my first beads of masking fluid that came out of the daniel smith bottle were so thick that may not drive before we start painting over it I hope it does so we'll just set those sign now don't leave it on the paper too long because it has to always be applied to dry paper you can't leave it on the paper too long or otherwise it might be difficult to get get up sometimes you can leave it on and you just can't get it off later you let it completely dry and then you can do two things to lift it off you can use a rubber cement pickup which is this little thing here that I'm got in my hand mine's kind of dirty but it's a rubber cement pick up you could get them just about anywhere and you use it to lift up your masking fluid or you can use you can scrape it off with your finger I mean it'll it'll come up it's like it's like dried rubber cement and it works the same way you could just get it up that way and sometimes if it gets too thick like over time it'll dry out and you will have a bottle of masking fluid that you've hardly used but because you've had it a year it's you know I've known people who were able to thin it out with ammonia and keep on using it after that but once you put the ammonia in you don't shake it you just lightly stir it to try to get it to mix in and you can also thin it down because masking fluid is pretty it's pretty thick it's kind of hard to work with and if you're looking for really really fine touches with it some people thin it right away and then that helps them they can reserve some white areas that way yes you know anybody who uses the masking fluid on what they're doing a pen and ink drawing that they want to go in and do a watercolor fills in can you put some masking fluid on on say like india ink and it won't lift yeah absolutely no and that's one of the things that were going to do actually let's go ahead and do that take out that take out the very gated wash that I had that I had you you know like I just asked everybody to do an eight sheet of watercolor that just has some color on it and we're going to put masking fluid right on top of paint I'm going to use my quill pen because that's my name is soaking in water now if you can get to the place where you're really good with this quill pen you can learn how to write your name and that's the way some people get their signature on their paintings paint around it or they paint underneath it with a light color and if you press down hard on the quill pen the areas of the quill pen really stretch out and you can get kind of a thick line and if you don't press quite so hard you get a thinner line let's do something that looks like it might be ah highlight on an apple or something like that this is why I love these quill pins you just have more you have more control okay so let's just that's on your paper that has some paint on it so we'll have to set that aside and then what we're going to do is we're going to go in and paint on top of that and you'll see how that works in other words you'll get the highlighted area but that highlighted area was on top of a gn area that had color and so you're going to get ah highlighted area with color in it and then a darker area around it and that's what the the masking fluid does itjust reserves it reserves an area that you don't want to accept paint now you might as well leave this out actually because the next thing we're going to do is we're going to cut a stencil so I provided everybody in the class with these pieces of this is just like laser acid state that you can run through your printer and they work okay they're a little bit hard to cut but they work ok so I gave you cutting surfaces so you'll have to sort of share your cutting surfaces too because you don't want to cut into your blackboards so I'm putting a cutting surface down now let's just take a gave you a little little magic markers and what you do and let's pretend that I have some sort of outline of of ah tree branch here on my variegated wash what you do is you take your clear stencil you put it down on top of the area of your painting that you're going toe lift color from and say I've got just these tiny little leaves here that I want a lift back and so I'll just draw some funky little leaves here on a stem and you have to use a permanent marker on this kind of paper they don't make it too complicated otherwise it'll take you too long to cut it out but that's just a little drawing that I did I don't know if you can see that I mean lift that up can you see what that looks like it's just a few leaves in a stem okay so let's take this out I'm going to use my exacto knife but you can also use just a single edge razor blade and I brought the single edge razor blades for all you guys so you go in and you just start cutting your stencil I like the exact o because it gives you sort of more control over how you do your curves and you can go toe down into really fine points it's just a little bit easier to use than the single edge razor but single edge razor also works and you have to press pretty hard to get into this stuff this paper's not easy to cut and I'm I'm I'm probably gonna have to cut come back and cut areas of it again but you just follow your black outline and you're black outline corresponds to something on your painting part of your painting that has been drawn that you want to reserve or lift back or this is just a easy way because painting wet around an object and getting yur color to be even toned and to look just right is very very difficult and if you've got a small area that you have to paint around it's oftentimes just way easier to go in and cut a stencil and go back and lift it later no that's pretty much coming up okay that pretty much came up so what you do then is you put this back on your area that you want to lift now this is kind of complicated there's a piece in here that that will be kind of floppy and kind of hard to deal with because it's been cut out so you're gonna have to do this sort of like in sections I think now I brought you guys a white sponge that little white sponge this is called a magic eraser wet your sponge you get just bunch wet put it in your clear water and we're going to do part of this shape using the sponge and just hold down the part of the stencil make sure it stays on the paper and just lightly rub over it and the stencil keeps the sponge from going into any part of the paper see what happened just lifted that write out the stencil keeps the sponge from going into any part of the paper that you don't want to have the color lifted out of you can use a sponge if you want to get something that's a little bit less sharp you can use your scrubber on top of your central that gives you a little bit more control and actually that that'll do a pretty sharp edge too but you don't have to go quite so far with it you can only lift back a little bit of it and I would you want to get in and block because the water will absolutely soak underneath the stencil so you need to blot your stencil make sure it's you know nice and dry and then if you're going to put it down again you just lay it down in the same position and you go in and do the rest of it but it will soak underneath the stencil my art teacher uses bacon paper there's a certain kind of bacon that she buys just so she can get the paper that's in the package that's the kind of teacher I like yep you have bacon use it yeah yep taken centrist yes absolutely this is a bacon centric country company there you go see that effect this one is lifted back quite a bit this when I used the scrubber didn't lift it back that much this one obviously I don't know whether the paper was still wet or what but it started to ow I know what that is what it is that's arches that's the watermark on the paper that's what I'm seeing the paper's not damaged there that's arches a r c h e e s but I got three sort of different effects here depending on how hard I rubbed in which tool I used to rub and that is lifting it's a great way to do it people do these wonderful paintings of hydrangeas and things like that where they have those light gossamer leaves and they're just beautiful and so much of what they do is done with lifting now if you can see here in this area of the painting where I used the masking fluid the masking fluid is pretty much dry there and when it's dry it drives back to sort of a clear fluid and you can't really see it anymore this little white dot here is where I put a lot of masking fluid and it's still wet and that's the white of the masking fluid that's still wet when that white disappears that'll be pretty close to being dry and then you can paint over it and then go back in and lifted so we're just going to let this set a little bit longer okay so we did we just use our stencils and these areas in this painting here that you can see all of these areas were lifted with stencils this area here this area there this painting came alive when I went back in with stencils and created all these little highlights throughout the painting this is a very big painting and this is just a small section of it but but when when I came back in and lifted thes highlights the painting just came alive I mean because the light because it was it was so representational of light and what light does and how great it is to have it in your painting and it allowed you to get all of the values to going straight from the very very dark all the way up to the light of slight okay now this is a detail of the painting of the cat that I showed you previously this is where you use scrubbers and you make sure you use the right side size brush in order to lift the area that you're thinking of lifting so again let's take that variegated wash that we just worked on and go to another section of it and use your scrubber and try to use your scrubber in some kind of a recognizable shape you know like try to do a circle or try to do another leaf with your scrubber yeah you have to wet your scrubbers first but you'll see the difference in the line quality you can get a shape but the outside edges won't be that christmas and in that painting at the very beginning where I had the lights I just went in with my scrubber after I lifted the masking fluid and I just did circles around where the masking fluid wass and that's how I got those that sparkly light effect so get to know your scrubbers well I would get a couple of different sizes too I use a little scrubber that's this little one here I use this one a lot and I actually have four different scrubbers and I use all of them and I'll show them all to you right now put them in the right size order I never get to figure out which way to go okay so this is a really big one with the flat head this is the next biggest size and this has the rounded edge this is the size that I asked for in the kit because this is actually the size I use the most often but second most often I use this little one because when you're scrubbing your usually trying to get highlights off of things you're trying to go around the rim of a cup and you want that little little bit of highlight around the rim of the cup or the edge of the flower or just you know a way the top of a wave and so using all of these different scrubbers I use them all and I used these to the most these two right here the very small the midsize and then these two come in very handy later they're worth hamming now you can use a stiff oil brush a lot of people have oil brushes you know made out of like cog hair and stuff like that some people use really stiff oil brushes they work pretty well anything that has some stiffness to it so that it can with water hold enough water toe and then put it down on your paper and lift the paint that's what that's what's required there so let's take our let's go back to our masking fluid area now because I think that's pretty much dry that's dry enough anyway this side over here because you can't see it the masking fluid is completely dry so I'm going to go in what kind of color oh I don't think it matters this is going to make an ugly color because I'm putting purple on top of orange not going to be pretty get a darker color there's my name watercolors my game anyway there's the little cross hatching I did with the masking fluid I put my name down now it's not white because I painted on top of an r an area that already had a deep amount of color on it but you can see how you could build up lads this way you can build all kinds of things this way by painting masking painting I'm asking again painting just a process and that's why getting your strategy figured out ahead of time is really really important I don't know that this is dry no it's not quite dry yet so we're going to leave that let's go back to our initial one that we did now are masking fluid because it could just came out in these big fat drops I don't think that's going to work very well at all but I am going to show you what happened in that area where I put masking fluid down over here just on the white paper because that's completely dry see that it's a great effect and then when all this blue paint dries you go back in with your rubber cement pick up and you lift up the masking fluid you're right backto white paper so that works really really well now let's see if our salt is our assault seems like it's pretty dry I don't I want youto if you scrape it off you need to scrape it off on something that you can collect it with because you don't we don't want to end up with all of this salt and usually what you use is some kind of like a credit card or a straight edge or not a razor blade because you can scratch your paper but get it like a credit card will go in and just left all this stuff up and you can see the difference the table salt leaves kind of a fine lifted effect lifting effect and the kosher salt leaves the coarser lifting effect okay so I don't have it completely off yet but it's close enough so you can see the fine fine lifting that's with the table salt and then this one down here that's with the kosher salt this head I believe kosher salt on it but you can see the difference some of it was done when the paper was really nice and wet and then this one up here was done when the paper was almost completely dry and you could hardly see any effect at all so you've got to practice with this and figure out when your when your best timing is I mean look at the texture of them that's pretty interesting and the texture and this is well pretty interesting stuff think about the surface again surface of ah you know one of those grey rocks it has all tiny little speckles of black all through it and stuff like that you could put the salt down painted leave the salt down painted again lifted up I mean you can create these effects and lots of different ways myriads of ways okay so that's our salt this was our splattering this was our lifting these are not very pretty to look at right now but you can see how that would be a very effective in your painting once you decided how you wanted to do that so this all this area right here was all lifted out of this painting after I painted it because I wanted a soft defect I wanted a soft effect on her fur and so I went in and I lifted later but I still got the look of fur because there were still ways to get you know the striations in her coat and all of that and then these whiskers I painted I used masking fluid on but they were really too thick they just were too thick for me and I didn't have the I didn't do them right they'd sort of went all kind of like along in a line here and you know how whiskers go into various places so I went back in and I lifted out these areas here too bring the whiskers back in so that they look like they came out from both of her cheeks in the right place and it worked okay but I probably if I did this painting again probably what I would do is use a paintbrush with opaque white paint because these whiskers air just a little bit too thick for me I wish they were a little thinner

Class Description

Join Molly Murrah for a fun, 5-week watercolor class for beginners. Learn about color, papers, brushes, drawing and composition, as well as many great painting techniques that will get you working and playing with watercolors!


Susan Mueller

Absolutely loved this class! I've been fiddling with watercolor for the last year, but have never really taken any art classes. This was the perfect intro level class in so many ways, covering basic principles of color, composition, etc. - and always in a warm, encouraging atmosphere. I learned so much about watercolor as a medium, and I would recommend this to anyone interested in getting involved with it. Would love to take a class with Molly again!

a Creativelive Student

I absolutely love this medium and have owned the material for about 5 or so years now, afraid to waste them. I've bought books but realizing I am both a visual and audio learner, this is the format for me. It is so important for me to be able to replay and review the information that taking a local course is just not as convenient as this has been for me. Molly is a delight to watch and listen to, she is such a wealth of knowledge. Thank you Molly and thank you CreativeLive!!! I am in love with this site.

Linda Berg

Molly is captivating! Her soothing voice exudes her love of watercolour painting! She is very organized and knows how to paint with watercolours and how to teach it as well. Not all painters can teach... I was drawn into her 'teachings', loved listening to her wealth of knowledge, and signed up for her course. Oh, I recommend it totally!