Using Masking Film with Colored Pencil

Using Masking Film with Colored Pencil

One of the beauties of using colored pencils is the variety of available tools. Some are made just for colored pencil use. Others were first developed for other mediums but have been adapted to colored pencils. One of those is masking film, and today, I’d like to share my first experience using masking film with colored pencil.

It all started with an article I wrote for EmptyEasel describing step-by-step how to use masking fluid. You can read that article here.

While I was shopping for the supplies for that article, I saw masking film and decided to get that, too. I had a head study of a horse with flying mane that I thought might be a good subject for testing both forms of masking.

But before I begin, let me explain what I mean when I talk about masking a drawing.

What Is Masking?

When you mask a drawing, you cover part of it so it doesn’t get drawn or painted over. Watercolor artists do this quite frequently at the beginning of a painting so they can do broad washes of color but still have unpainted paper for some areas. They use various masking mediums but the results are all the same. You pull up the mask and you have fresh white paper where the mask was, but all the rest of the paper has color.

I tried a form of masking with oils. But instead of using masking film or masking fluid, I cut the subject out of a piece of paper, then taped that shape to the canvas while I painted the background. It worked, but I quickly discovered I got better results by carefully painting around the subject. Carefully painting an outline of the areas I wanted to work around was also helpful.

Masking isn’t as useful with colored pencils, but it can be useful. In this post, I’ll show you how I used masking film to protect the mane on my horse drawing.

Using Masking Film with Colored Pencil

Here is the portion of the drawing I worked with using masking film.

Using Masking Film with Colored Pencil - Step 1

Masking film comes in sheets and rolls. Since I wasn’t sure how much I would use masking film, I choose sheets for this part of the project. For the article I used as the demo for the article on masking fluid, I used the same drawing. You can see the fluid in the illustration below, because it’s orange.

Masking fluid is painted onto the artwork. Masking film must be cut to whatever shape you want. There are two primary ways to do this.

Step 1: Decide How to Use the Masking Film

One way is to place the film over the drawing and cut the design from it directly from the drawing. You can also draw your design on the back of the masking film, then cut it out and place the mask onto the drawing. There are benefits to both.

You don’t have to line up lines after the film is cut to shape with the first option. With a half finished drawing, like the one I’m working on, that can be a huge advantage. But you have to cut carefully so you don’t cut the drawing paper.

The second option removes the risk of paper damage, because you cut the masking film separately, and then place it on the drawing. But you have to make sure the lines on the masking film match the drawing perfectly. That can be a hassle for intricate designs.

Using Masking Film with Colored Pencil - Step 2

Step 2

I chose to draw the pattern on the masking film and cut it out, then place it over the drawing. Why? Because I didn’t want to run the risk of cutting through the film, which is very thin, and into the paper. In hind sight, it would have been better to place the film over the artwork and carefully cut away the parts I didn’t want. It would have been no more time consuming and would have resulted in a much more pleasing masking.

However, I took the more cautious route and ended up with a good (not great) masking.

TIP: The next time I do a mask like this, I will cut the mask and lay in the the drawing paper before I add any color. That way I won’t need to worry about matching the shape of the masking film to the shapes on the drawing.

Step 3: Layering Color

Once the masking film is in place, the drawing process is the same. Work around and over the masked area until you have the result you want.

One way the film is different than masking fluid is that I couldn’t work over the masking fluid without lifting it. Masking film, on the other hand, was easy to work over, even with medium or heavier pressure. It didn’t move or pull up or otherwise interfere with the drawing process.

TIP: This stage of the work would go a lot more smoothly and quickly if you use a wet media or something like PanPastels to drawing the background, rather than the regular colored pencils I used.

Step 4: Remove the Masking Film

When I finished the background, I removed the masking film by carefully pulling up an edge with a fingernail, then pulling the piece or pieces up one at a time. The film came off easily and without leaving residue. Another advantage to film over fluid.

Here is how the drawing looked after removing the masking film.

If I Use Masking Film With Colored Pencil Again

Masking film worked extremely well for this purpose. Better than the masking fluid (read about that here).

But in retrospect, I would do things differently. I would:

  • Apply the masking film to the drawing before applying color.
  • Lay down a piece of masking film large enough to cover the drawing.
  • Carefully cut away the parts I didn’t need.

These changes in method would allow me to create a more accurate mask, and that would result in a more realistic area, instead of this blocky look.

All is not lost, however. There may still be hope for the mane. If there is, I’ll be sure to let you know how it turned out!

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