For acrylic and oil painters in particular, white is perhaps the most important pigment. While watercolourists will reserve the white of the paper for highlights, oil and acrylic artists use white extensively in most paintings, whether for lightening colours, creating more opaque qualities, or even greying down certain colours.
Ever since the first attempt to create a synthetic white pigment 2,600 years ago, experiments and discussions about the best formula for white still continue to this day. Getting the right white is important: nobody wants to paint a beautiful landscape, only to find the white sky has yellowed after only a few years.
When purchasing your white paint, you may be confused by the different names. A tube of “Flake White”, for instance, could contain a lead-based pigment PW1, or it could be a hue, mixed from Titanium and Zinc Whites. These pigments have completely different qualities, so it’s important to know what you are buying.
White from a tube usually consists of several things: the pigment, the solvent (for instance, oil when buying oil paints) and fillers added to improve consistency. As with all colours, “student grade” whites will usually have a higher solvent and filler content than “artists’ quality” paints.
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