The beauty of working with watercolour paints is that they sparkle once spread on the paper. They are so very vibrant and a joy to manipulate as you create. Many of the colours available are transparent which adds to their brilliance but that also means you can see right through them to any pencil lines or previous layers of paint underneath. Traditionally you never use white paint when painting with watercolours, the white of the paper acts as your ‘white’. Knowing this helps you to prepare and to plan ahead. When you need an area in your painting to remain white you can just carefully not paint there and that can be easier said then done. You may need to use a resist technique.
As you can see in the pictures above one marvellously simple way to “save your whites” is to block out these areas with the masking tape resist technique. Not only does this protect your whites but it allows you to paint washes of colour freely over your entire watercolour paper surface for a continuous appearance. Be sure to do a test sample with this resist technique and your masking tape. This will ensure your tape provides the right amount of stickiness to adhere to the paper to keep the paint out yet be able to be removed without tearing your paper. Not all masking tapes are created equal, so you may need to shop around to find the best fit. Avoid coloured masking tapes like green and blue, they can throw off your sense of colour while painting. Using understated standard beige coloured masking tape will be less impactful which works to your advantage.
At the start of my painting above I lay down a border of masking tape for my edges. Then using an x-acto knife and a rubber cutting mat I cut out four tree trunk shapes from four strips of masking tape. I was careful to make sure their shapes were slightly rounded and organic as you would see trees in nature. I then pealed them up from the mat and positioned them down onto my watercolour paper, being careful to press the masking tape down firmly. I was now free to paint away, layering my watercolour washes across the rest of the painting. You can see that I painted all of my sky and lake and the distant islands first. Once everything was dry I pealed up my masking tape to reveal the clean white trees on my paper beneath. Now for the fun part, embellishing my birch trees with colours, shading, textures and additional branches. I hope this inspires you to try this helpful painting technique. I found it hard to resist!