Venice carnival mask- watercolor batik tutorial

Last night I finished a watercolor batik on rice paper of a masked person at Carnivale.  The image was shot years ago on a trip to Venice, Italy.

Watercolor batik  is the process of painting on rice paper.  Melted paraffin wax creates a resist and protects the underlying layer from further paint.   When finished you iron the painting with newspaper on both sides.  Newspaper absorbs and removes the wax.


I began with a line drawing and transferred this to the rice paper.




I apologize, I did not photograph the first stages of the painting.  It was late and I wanted to paint.

In step 1 I painted the background.  This is highlighted in red.  Since I chose a cool palette, I threw washes of ultramarine blue, cerulean, cobalt, winsor green, viridian, and several reds on the rice paper.  At this point I had not applied any wax resist.  I simply put the wet colors on the paper and allowed them to mix.  Rice paper has little sizing- the colors will run and blend with adjoining colors.

If the colors run beyond the pencil lines, wet the rice paper and use paper towels to soak up the color and remove it from unwanted areas.



In step 2 I applied yellow and a few reds to the painting.  When these were dried I used the wax to protect the whites and yellows of the paper (as indicated in red).



I slowly built the middle and darker values, dabbing them to blend and fade values, and finally drying with a hairdryer.  Wax was applied to sections to protect from further paint.  When 90% of the rice paper was covered with wax, I applied the darkest darks and dried.

I crumbled up the paper to allow the wax to crack, added a very watery mix of ultramarine blue, then coated the surface of the painting again in wax.  Adding wax at this stage traps the beaded mix of ultramarine blue.  When ironed, the wet paint will bleed through the cracks and transfer to the painting.  It gives the painting energy, though can be very random.


Newspapers were sandwiched between the painting and I used an iron to remove the wax.  Careful- this can get messy and I do not recommend removing the wax near or above carpet.

Finally, Chinese opaque was used to pull out lost highlights and I added touches of black (alizarin crimson and winsor green mixed) to define the beads.

Supplies used:

Ginwashi rice paper

Cheap brushes for appying the wax.  Do not use nice brushes since wax will destroy them.  And please keep your watercolor paints and eletric skillet on opposite sides of the painting so you do not accidentally dip your sable brushes in the wax (that’s not the water!).

Electric skillet for melting wax.

Parrafin wax (aka Gulf wax).  Available at grocery stores- though most employees have no idea what it is or where it is located.

Watercolor paints and brushes. 

Paper towels.

Lots of newspaper.

Cooking/pan lining paper.  Place under your rice paper before you begin applying wax resist. This does not absorb the wax.

Thanks to artist Kathie George for indirectly teaching this technique.  I saw her work in Watercolor Artist several years ago and was inspired to try watercolor batik.

The original painting is available for sale, and I will have giclee proofs available on my etsy and Fine Art America sites within a few days.

Enjoy your weekend

Ryan Fox

(919) 645-8345




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