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White is the heart of any line of artists' colors. Between half and three quarters of the paint on most oil paintings is white so the white oil color holds most paintings together. Artists often put their money into colors and then try to economize by buying cheaper grades of white. While artists may not think this affects their paintings, it does! If the white oil paint is inferior so is the entire paint film.

When selecting white oil colors, consider the "reducing power" of the white. The more opaque the white, the higher it's tinting strength and the more it will "reduce" the color. The higher the reducing power, the lighter the value of the color/white mixture (tint).

Titanium White and Gamblin Radiant White have the highest "reducing power." They make the brightest, most opaque tints. High quality, pure titanium dioxide reflects 97.2% of incident light. The most brilliant white pigment, Titanium White is non toxic and less prone to yellowing than Lead White. Radiant White and Titanium White, both excellent choices for direct painting styles, will reflect the highest percentage of light off the painting surfaces.

There are 3 basic white pigments used by artists when doing oil paintings - they are Titanium White, Flake White and Zinc White. The following are the essential characteristics of the basic whites.

Titanium White - titanium dioxide (oxide)
Reflects 97.5% of all available light. Monet would have loved Titanium White because he wanted his paintings to look soft, like velvet. Most opaque white, perfect choice for direct painting but difficult for color mixing because it takes so much color to tint Titanium. Titanium is completely inert, does not change by aging or normal chemical action, but it does require more oil to grind than other whites and can show some yellowing because of the darkening of linseed oil when it dries. It does not dry very quickly and is more Zinc white in this respect. Titanium White does not dry as hard as Zinc white eventually will, and consequently will make a more flexible film.

Flake White - basic carbonate of lead

Flake white has a heavy pigment requiring very little oil, and combines in time with oil to make a very flexible film. It is regarded as the most reliable white on which to build a painting. It can be applied more heavily than other whites with less danger of cracking than other whites. Flake white dries well and is a "warm" white. Note: Being composed of lead, Flake white is poisonous it absorbed into the body, but this does not happen by external contact.

Zinc White - zinc oxide
The most popular and transparent of the whites, it is also slow drying. It is a "bluish" (cold) white color, not nearly as strong and opaque as Titanium White and therefore can be very easily controlled. Zinc is recommended for scumbling and alla prima painting. Impressionists who painted directly liked Zinc White for its transparency and slow dry time. But Zinc's slow drying time and brittleness does not make it a good choice for general painting

Gamblin Radiant White
Gamblin Radiant White is the brightest, whitest oil color. Its tinting strength and opacity are the same as Gamblin Titanium White. Radiant White is a good choice where the color white is critical, excellent for abstract paintings.