|OIL PAINTING: WHICH WHITE SHOULD I USE?
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.
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.