The Baffling Attributes of White Paints

There are several versions of white paints and their attributes can be a bit confounding. Warm, cool, tinted, leaded, non-leaded…..How does one choose?

Let’s start with the reason most painters use white and what it does. Simply, most painters use white to lighten a color’s value. It’s not the only way to do it, and not necessarily the best way to do it, but it is the most direct and basic method. It also will dull and cool the color you want to lighten because white is actually the lightest version of grey.

That being said, here are some of the properties of whites.

Titanium White is the most opaque and is non-toxic. Some see it as a replacement for Lead White. To my eye Titanium White is the coolest white.

Zinc White is the least opaque, slow drying, and creamy. This, too, has been used to replace Lead White. To my eye it is a warmer white.

Some companies make whites using a combination of both Titanium and Zinc in the hopes of getting the best of both. Jack Richeson’s Shiva line of paints uses both whites in their Titanium White and Ultra White though I’m pretty sure the ratios of the two colors are different for each color as they look and interact differently with paint hues.

To my eye Lead White is the the cleanest of the whites and the warmest. It is also far and away the most expensive. It handles very differently than other whites in that it’s ‘ropy’. It’s more fluid. Think of the Rembrandt ‘drippiness’ in some of his paintings.

Cremnitz White is also a leaded white, as is Flake White.

I wanted to visually see the difference of each of the whites and then see how they reacted with Jack Richeson Shiva paint. I will be writing another blog on Shiva, but for now let’s focus on this.

Below you can see the whites and the companies I used. JRS is Jack Richeson Shiva, W/N is Windsor Newton, and M. Hard is Michael Harding. I noted the pigments of each of the paints as well. The only one not listed is Michael Harding, but it is a PW1, the same as W/N Cremnitz.

White the whites do not show up well at all in the photo below, you an see how they are interacting with each of the colors I used. For each hue I took the color to about its middle value using each of the different whites. To my eye, Lead White allowed the color to maintain its hue the best. You can see that there is much more integrity in the colors all the way down the line especially when compared to the Titanium Whites. It also dried the fastest and glossiest. Remember when I said that white will dull and cool a color? It’s most obvious in the Titanium band.

shiva-1

The next whites that allowed the integrity of the colors to stay truer were W/N Cremnitz, and that makes sense as it is also a Lead White, and JRS Zinc White. In my tests, even in the violets the color stayed truer though Zinc has a warm bias to it which I thought might have dulled the violets due to its creamy/yellow/warm bias. In fact, there is a glow that is maintained, especially in the JRS Ultra White. Cremnitz did not dry glossy which makes me wonder what else might be in the M. Harding Stack Lead White?

shiva-1

Finally, I want to mention Gamblin’s Warm and Cool whites. These whites are made using Titanium and Zinc as the base and then adding other colors to tint the white. Just as an FYI, you can do this yourself with the colors on your palette.

I hope this helps. Let me know what your tests show!

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Pastels and Oil Painting

Did you know that you can draw and mass in an oil painting with pastels and use that to guide your through your painting? I don’t remember where I learned this great tool, but I use it a lot as it keeps me on track.

Pastels have the same pigments as oil paints. The difference is in the binder. So it makes sense that you can use pastels with oil paints and have everything work well. In my YouTube demo I show the start to finish painting but I want to share a bit about how and why using a pastel base to create an underpainting and keep you on track.

How: Take your hard pastel (I use NuPastels) and lightly mass in the areas you want. In the photo below I’m starting to lay in my light and dark pattern using pastel.

peonie pastel small

You can use any color(s) you want but when I choose colors I’m thinking about (1)how they will work with the overall finished painting, and (2) Do I want a simple lay in of just lights and darks using just 2 colors, or (3) Do I want to give more detail to the lights and darks and use maybe 2-3 values of light pastels – leaves on trees tend to be dark in color, but if they are in the light area I might use a darker light pastel to indicate the masses of this dark light value -and 1 or 2 values for the darks?

Once the pastel has been applied I take a clean brush and dip it in Turpenoid or Gamsol and then lightly blot the brush. Beginning with the lightest colors I use my brush to paint over the pastel. Don’t let it drip, unless you like that effect, and keep your brush clean. Once you’ve done all the light area go to the next lightest area and continue working until you have completed all the lights. Do the same in the darks.

Peonie Gamsol small

When I’ve done all the painting I then take a soft brush and soften the whole thing. This will need to set up for about 10-15 minutes and I will set out my paints while waiting for the Gamsol to evaporate. It doesn’t need to be dry, but if it’s too wet it just is slippery and it’s easy to loose what you’ve just done. Plus the pastel mixes with the paint and will affect the color.

Peonie Gamsol Softened

This the painting after softening with a brush. You can see it’s a really cool abstract version of what’s to come.

When and Why: (1) You can use pastels to quickly tone a canvas. (2) It’s a great way to set your plein air painting as it will keep you from chasing shadows and light. After you do a thumbnail and decide on the design, transfer it to your canvas using pastel and set it with your Gamsol or Turp. You will have saved so much time that even taking the 10-15 minutes for the abstract to set up you will still be ahead of the pack. 3) Use this to start a really large canvas and this will save you HOURS!! I painted a 6 foot painting using this method and it saved me days of work.

Here is the finished painting:

Peony Finished

Let me know your thoughts and if you’ve ever tried this.

 

 

Colors: What’s Not to Love?!!

I was so excited to read this email from Gamblin and wanted to share it. So when I emailed Gamblin, Scott Gellatly, Product Manager for Gamblin, kindly gave me permission to reprint it here. Some of these colors are already on my palette, but I will definitely be adding some of these others. And when, at the bottom of their Notes they say, “contact us if (they) can assist you”, they mean it!

New Year Color Notes
You can probably guess our 10 most popular colors. Most likely, several of them are part of your basic palette.
There are many reasons that Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine Blue, and of course Titanium White are so valuable and therefore chosen so often. This newsletter is not about the “mega-stars” of the artist’s palette, it is about a few colors I feel could use more recognition.
Perylene Red
Perylene Red
It seems like I have spent my whole paint-making career showing artists alternatives to Alizarin Crimson. First, the crusade was to help artists find our Alizarin Permanent, which has a higher lightfastness. And now I would like to highlight Perylene.
Yes, I know its name does not playfully roll off the tongue the way Alizarin does, and perhaps its hard to figure out how to pronounce it correctly (pera-leen). But jeez, it is beautiful. It’s transparency has fire inside; add a touch of black and it smolders with sophisticated sexiness.
Transparent Earths: Orange, Yellow, Red
Our line of Transparent Earth Colors are quite beautiful and of incredible value because of their glowing transparency.
In contrast to the natural earth colors, the Transparent Earths are synthetic iron oxide pigments that are made solely to be transparent. So if you want an earth color that will give the warm transparent glow that you see in a Rembrandt, a Transparent Earth will get it done.

Detail: Rembrandt, Self-portrait as Zeuxis Laughing

Cobalt Green
Cobalt Green
The family of cobalt based colors is as permanent as an artist’s color can get. Yet Cobalt Green is the least chosen of the whole group. But it has certain uses that make it invaluable:
  • in dry country landscapes where the greens are very muted, such as in the American SW
  • in abstract painting as a green that has a beautiful restrained character
  • in portrait painting where the translucent flesh tones have a cool under-painting as in the Italian Renaissance

Detail: Orajio Gentileschi, Lot & His Daughters

Manganese Blue Hue
Manganese Blue Hue
Ultramarine, Phthalo, Cobalt, Cerulean, Prussian: is this close to the order of hierarchy of blues in your use of color?
My recommendation: no matter what blue you put first on your palette, Manganese Blue Hue should be second. Why? Simply because it is the blue that is the coolest in the spectrum of blue. Most other blues are warm blues or middle blues. And unlike Cerulean Blue it is very reasonable in price.
Lay a stroke of MBH next to one of Ultramarine Blue and you might for a second mistake the Ultramarine for a violet. I’ve always thought of Manganese Blue as a breath of fresh air, so clean in color, so light in spirit. It is always on my palette.

Karen Ann Myers calls Asphaltum her skin tone “secret weapon”
Sap Green and Asphaltum
One challenge in oil painting has to do with darks. Make a dark too opaque and those sections of the painting can look lifeless. But by keeping darks somewhat transparent they never seem “heavy.”
Is the dark you need “warm” or “cool”? If “cool” is the answer, then Sap Green is perfect for this purpose. An important use of Sap Green is painting the deep dark areas often found in landscape paintings.

Sap Green

Asphaltum
If on the other hand you need a warm transparent dark, then Asphaltum will do the job nicely. We originally made this as a custom color for Nathan Oliveira in the mid 90’s. He needed the emotional energy of real asphaltum but wanted a material that would age well. And today, artists like Karen Ann Myers are finding their own special uses for our Asphaltum.
Any White but Titanium
Last but certainly not least in importance I want to discuss white.
With Warm White and Cool White, we now make 9 different white oil colors. Each one has a unique set of qualities. Titanium White should be your choice only if you need a very high tinting strength opaque white, that is warm in color and moderately fast drying and a little bit stiff.
You might be best served by a whiter white, or a softer creamier white, or a more transparent white, or even a super stiff white… Below is our chart of whites to assist in choosing the white that best supports your painting.
If this idea is intriguing to you, please consult our newsletter “Getting the White Right.”
Please contact us if we can assist you in any way.
Have a great New Year of painting.