Experimenting with chalk resist (masking fluid alternative) UPDATED


According to this site:
Chalk resist: Chalk resist is a thick paste made from powdered chalk mixed with water. This paste is brushed onto the desired areas of a sheet; once it is dry, the thick layer of chalk protects the underlying paper from wet watercolor washes. The chalk can be easily removed by counter-rolling the sheet or by rubbing it gently with a knife to reveal the clean white paper underneath.

I re made and tested this masking technique.

  • Its pros:
  • It doesn’t smell.
  • It is easy to apply
  • It doesn’t destroy the brushes so you can take advantage of their precision during application.
  • It doesn’t stain the paper.
  • It is easy to remove.
  • It can be applied above dried colours,
  • It is easy to made and it is not costly.

Why did I test this technique?
Recently I encountered various problems with my masking fluid, a Talens one.

First I almost fainted while I was masking some areas on one of my paintings due to its terrible ammonia smell.
And second.. Look what this thing did on my painting!!!


Though I removed it completely this thing stained my paper.

Anyway.. the combination of terrible toxic smell with THIS result made me look for an alternative solution.
Searching up and down the web I end up to the above “old recipe” and I decided to give it a try.

I will present you here how I made and how I used the chalk resist as an alternative to masking fluid.

First I bought a piece of chalk. Classic chalk for school use of the kind that is used on black boards. Not the synthetic one though. The chalk I bought is of the dusty kind one.

Then I crashed it in my mortar until it turned in a very fine powder.


I put a small quantity on a porcelain plate and I mixed it with a little water


And then with a tea spoon I mixed it and rub it well until it got a creamy consistency.

The final mix looked like this:


The mix was ready to use.
The sketch I decided to work is some marbles.
I wanted to mask the marbles areas in order to work with the background.

Below I’m applying the chalk resist on my paper.
When chalk is mixed with water gets a creamy colour. So it is easy to detect it even when it is dry.
On the other hand chalk doesn’t destroy the brushes as it can be rinsed completely of their bristles with water.
So any brush is suitable for applying it on your paper. Just wash your brush afterwards in your water container. Below you can see the brush I used. A no 5 synthetic.


Below you can see various steps of the chalk resist application. All the images were shot with my camera and are close ups.





After finishing the application I washed my brush..


And look!! It came out perfectly clean. No damage and not stuck bristles.

And below is the sketch scanned with the chalk resist dried. As you can see it has a pinky beige colour.


While it was drying I prepared my colours.


Then I wetted my paper as I wanted to make a wet on wet background.


As you can see the dry chalk changes colours when it gets wet.. but it stays in its place. ( I had to change a bit the contrast on this shot in order to see clearer the wet surface. The colour of the wet chalk is not brown of course).

And then I applied my colours. Below is the application of colour on my background (scanned after it dried).


Now it was time to remove it.
According to what I read online old masters used to roll the back of the paper on the edge of their desk in order to break somehow the chalk.

I made my sketch on my sketchbook and so this wasn’t so convenient. So I rolled a bit the paper with my hand ..


And then I thought something better.
I took a plastic card and I scrubbed the chalk of the paper.
Look below how I did it.




It is very very easy to remove it this way. I scrubbed it well until all chalk turned into powder again. ( I threw the powder in the bin). In order to be sure that there was no residue left on my paper I rubbed the surface with a dry soft cloth. ( a kitchen towel -just in case).


And below are the areas that I masked after removing the chalk.


I applied colour on some of the marbles in order to see that the paper was perfectly workable after removing the resist. I also lifted some colour from the background AND I re masked some highlights on top of the already applied colours.

  • Conclusion:
    Who said that old recipes don’t work?
    In this case the chalk resist worked better than the modern masking fluids.

    Its pros:
  • It doesn’t smell.
  • It is easy to apply
  • It doesn’t destroy the brushes so you can take advantage of their precision during application.
  • It doesn’t stain the paper.
  • It is easy to remove.
  • It can be applied above dried colours.
  • It is easy to made and it is not costly.

Its cons?
None. I can’t find any disadvantage.

Below is my study finished.


Thank you for reading my review tutorial. I’ll be glad to answer to your questions and queries on the comments below.


UPDATE 15-10-2017

Here is a small update.
The above recipe needed an improvement due to the difficulty that the chalk resist has to be removed from the paper.
I was missing the magical ingredient and today I found it.
My initial idea was to mix it with alcohol in order to make it dry a bit faster and not stick that much on the paper, but alcohol didn’t dilute properly the chalk. But then I thought that alcoholic drinks the kind of gin of vodka are actually a mix of water and alcohol both distilled in the drink.
And so I tried Vodka that worked like a charm.
Do what I did on the photos above but instead of mixing your chalk resist with water, mix it with vodka. It will mix of a same consistency liquid chalk resist, that has though the tendency to keep to the bottom the larger particles of your chalk. This is nothing that you can’t fix. Just stir well with your brush the chalk before applying it to your paper.
Also pay attention to apply your resist thickly and as evenly as you can especially towards the edges ( the outlines of the shape you want to mask). Don’t apply it in layers because it will not protect evenly the areas you want to mask.
Let it dry, apply then your colour washes, let these dry completely too and then just scratch lightly with your nail and even better with a plastic spoon or something soft and round ( a bone paper folder perhaps?) the resist from your paper. It will be removed in flakes.
Don’t forget to remove with a soft dry cloth ( kitchen towel bath towel etc) any dust that the chalk resist might leave behind, from the previously masked area. Chalk resist tends to leave a bit of chalk residue. Remove this with a dry cloth and your paper will be fine.

The Vodka I used for my new experiment is Absolut. But I assume that any other brand will do for the job. I’m not affiliated with this or any other company.


6 thoughts on “Experimenting with chalk resist (masking fluid alternative) UPDATED

  1. Corey

    Do you think this would work with acrylic paints?

    • I haven’t test it with acrylics but it might work if you apply it thickly on your surface.
      Keep in mind that this is just a resist . It is not suitable for extremely wet techniques but it works with moderately diluted washes.

  2. Ivka Lepoeva

    I use baby powder instead of chalk

  3. Hi, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog in Opera, it looks fine but when opening in Internet
    Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, awesome blog!

    • Does Explorer still exist? lol
      Thanks for the tip. I’ll check it out.

  4. Jan

    Brilliant Instructions for which I am Grateful!

Comments are closed.