Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors makes more of their artist’s grade Titanium White than any other color… by far. For most painters, it’s the first white we use. And for some, the only white ever used. There are some good reasons for this. Gamblin Titanium White has a strong tinting strength and an unparalleled, beautiful texture. It’s terrific for direct painting techniques and for quickly lightening the value of other colors.
With that said, many painters could be better served at times by whites other than Titanium White. Swapping Titanium White for any number of alternatives can solve problems and create meaningful, new artistic possibilities. Let’s explore a few.
Whether the painting in question is abstract, representational, a bit of both or somewhere in between, there are situations where the use of straight, pure white is called for. For these situations, we recommend Radiant White, our brightest white. Radiant White has a high content of titanium dioxide pigment and is bound in safflower oil, yielding a bright white that has a neutral temperature. Our testing indicates that safflower whites hold their colors best over time.
Tempering Tinting Strength
No white pounds color down like Titanium White. It’s high tint strength can overwhelm colors, making them appear chalky in tints. A number of our other whites contain less titanium dioxide, which means a lower tint strength, and in turn more saturated color mixtures as well as more subtlety and control in color mixing.
If you find Titanium White a bit too strong in mixtures, we’d suggest trying our Titanium Zinc White. We designed it to be the perfect, all-around mixing white and to have the perfect texture to support the work of painting.
Flake White Replacement combines a lower tinting strength with a dense, ropey texture. Even stiffer than Titanium White, but less powerful in mixtures. Titanium White in our 1980 line is a valuable alternative when an even lower tint strength is desired. Titanium Zinc White and 1980 Titanium White are both bound in safflower oil.
The swatches below show Titanium White, Titanium Zinc White,and Titanium White 1980 mixed 5:1 with Quinacridone Red.
For comparison sake, we prepared the same mixtures, but reversed the ratios – 1:5 white into Quinacridone Red:
How about matching the color of your white to the color of your light?
Gamblin Warm White and Cool White are designed for painters who want to factor the color of the light into their color mixtures. The color of the light source influences all of the other colors in the painting’s subject matter. Using a white that matches the temperature of your light makes it much easier to create a consistent quality of light and color harmony throughout your painting.
Why not take this a bit further and use other high-value colors as your white? Below are a few examples.
Portland Grey Light
“Using Portland Grey Light as a white is great for tonal painting. It is slightly darker in value than pure white so the value range is limited on the light end. But what is most exciting to me is its effect on color. It creates lovely harmonious mixtures when added to the cadmium colors on my palette. The result is beautiful half tones that are not as chalky as they would be if white were used. These harmonious, greyed-down tones sit beautifully together on the canvas as a result of them each having a common ingredient…Portland Grey Light.”
– Eric Jacobsen
In our discussion of colored greys, we consider Titanium Buff to be a yellow-grey. When used as a white, it simultaneously mutes and warms colors and results in a subtle harmony.
“On an Alaska fishing trip in early July, I shot a photo as first morning light permeated the distant misty landscape and played across the ocean surface with a warmth that belied the cold morning. To capture this unique atmosphere back in the studio, I set aside my usual Titanium White for tinting and switched to Warm White and Titanium Buff. Warm White was used in a limited fashion for my lightest values and highlights, while Titanium Buff was used in nearly all color mixtures. As a muted tinting color, Titanium Buff unified and subdued my color palette helping to better capture the scene.”
– Dave Bernard
Gamblin Product Specialist
Portland Warm & Cool Greys
“I found my paintings became chalky and dense due to the overuse of Titanium White. So, I set that tube a bit out of reach on my palette and now use Portland Warm Grey or Portland Cool Grey when I am looking for the “right white.” There is very little real white in the natural world and these soft grey tones have proven to be a good option on their own or as a basis for mixing other colors.”- Kris Ekstrand