Painting with Gamblin Radiant Colors

Gamblin Radiant Colors: (clockwise from top left) Radiant Lemon, Radiant Yellow, Radiant Red, Radiant Magenta, Radiant Violet, Radiant Blue, Radiant Turquoise, Radiant Green

Vibrant. Subtle. Harmonious.

Gamblin Radiants work together as a system of accent colors, enabling artists to easily and predictably punch-up the color and intensity in their paintings. When used in mixtures, the Radiants allow painters to warm-up or cool-down colors without darkening them. Radiants can also neutralize colors into more nuanced mixtures.

Gamblin Radiant Colors are composed of eight intense tints – mixtures of pure color and white, at Value 7 on the Munsell System. In this page, we share how the Radiant Colors came to be and we showcase how painters utilize Radiant Colors in their work.

Development: a Radiant collaboration

Wolf Kahn’s Studio

Gamblin Radiant Colors were developed out of Robert Gamblin’s friendship with painter Wolf Kahn. Wolf’s landscapes are spoken in the language of pure color – the natural world is expressed through a vibrant palette and bold shapes. Wolf is just as fluent in working with soft pastels as he is in oil paint. As pastels are a “dry” medium, one would have sticks of pure pigment (Ultramarine Blue, for example) plus several tints of that pigment at different values. Wolf took the same approach to his oil color palette – incorporating pure colors from the tube alongside lighter tints. Robert worked with Wolf in developing the eight intense tints that became known as Radiants.

Wolf KahnA Brook Flows By It, oil on canvas 36″ x 52″

Modern Tints

Each of the Radiant Colors are tints of modern organic pigments. The one exception is Radiant Blue, which is a tint of Ultramarine. Modern organic pigments retain their intensity in tints in mixtures, which is the reason the Radiant Colors maintain such a high chroma at their light values. It’s also worth noting that these modern organic pigments are transparent in nature, yet the Radiant Colors are all opaque, due to the addition of titanium white in their formulas.

Radiant White: the brightest of whites

Gamblin Radiant White

Gamblin Radiant White is pure titanium dioxide bound in safflower oil. Radiant White is the brightest white oil color Gamblin makes. Safflower is paler than linseed oil which means that Radiant White is not only brighter, but it is more neutral in temperature compared to linseed oil-bound whites. With its high load of titanium dioxide, Radiant White reflects back 97% of the light that falls on it.

Without modification, Radiant White is Gamblin’s most brushable white – meaning it has the least amount of resistance under the brush or painting knife. Radiant White is also slower drying than other whites, making it useful for painters who wish to work wet into wet or otherwise desire more open time.

Techniques for painting with Radiant Colors

Lori Putnam

Colored whites

Radiant Turquoise, Radiant Violet, and Radiant Blue have become my first “go-to” colors for lightening values when cooler colors are needed. Rather than heading straight for my Titanium White, these colors serve me better because all three are cool, very light, and intense and they help with neutralizing colors. For example, if I am trying to neutralize Napthol Red and do not want a dark, warmer color (as I would get if mixed with its complement, Green), I add Radiant Turquoise. The result is a rich, cooler, mid-value color.

Napthol Red mixed with Radiant Turquoise:

Similarly, I can get a more natural violet by mixing Radiant Blue with my Napthol.

Napthol Red mixed with Radiant Blue:

Mixing with Radiant Turquoise vs. Titanium White:

By lightening Quinacridone Violet with Radiant Turquoise instead of Titanium White, I will get more nuanced color mixing. The mixture of Quinacridone Violet and Radiant Turquoise passes through the blue section of the color wheel, yielding beautifully subtle mid-value blues. When Quinacridone Violet is mixed with straight white, the corresponding tints remain in violet hue family.

Here I use mixtures of Quinacridone Violet and Radiant Turquoise in this painting of snow on a sunny day:

Lori PutnamBlurred Lines, oil on linen, 28″ x 36″

Warm and cool Radiant mixtures

Try this: mix Cadmium Orange with Radiant Turquoise in one pile and with Radiant Violet in another. These two greys will be the same value, but one will appear cooler and the other warmer. When placed next to one another in the distant landscape, the beauty of a late afternoon mountain comes to life.

Anna Rose Bain

More than Radiant

When I started experimenting with Gamblin’s line of Radiant colors, I expected they would end up in the “occasional use” drawer. To my surprise, I found myself employing them in nearly every painting—especially figurative works—with Radiant Green and Radiant Turquoise claiming permanent spots on my palette. Some of the others (like Radiant Red and Violet) join the party almost as often. Whenever I teach or give a portrait demo, the first thing people ask me about are “those bright colors” on my palette and how to use them.

I find Radiant Green and Radiant Turquoise particularly useful in adjusting the hue and/or temperature within a painting, while maintaining light values. Others in the Radiant line, such as Radiant Violet and Radiant Red, are almost impossible to substitute. The Radiant Violet is very cold in color temperature. I’ve seen nothing else like it on the market. Depending on the nature of the light source, Radiant Violet and/or Radiant Red are often the perfect choice for painting the brightest highlights on a model without having to default to titanium white.

In this passage of a recent alla prima portrait (below), you can see a subtle light blue along the temple area and around the eye socket. In those areas where there is a plane change, gradually turning away from the light, the color becomes cooler, but not necessarily darker. This was a perfect opportunity to use Radiant Turquoise.

Anna Rose BainKat Profile

In addition to creating luscious skin tones, the Radiant line is great for nailing local color. The little boy in this portrait (below) was wearing a white and sea-green shirt, and sat outdoors on an overcast day (so cool light). Instead of mixing white with Phthalo or some other darker color, I was able to use Radiant Green almost straight out of the tube for that shirt. Additionally, you can see passages in his face and throughout the painting (leaves, stone steps, etc.) where I mixed the green and turquoise in, creating an overall harmony for the piece.

Anna Rose BainSimon
Anna Rose BainSimon (detail)

In this portrait of Colquitt (below), I used Radiant Violet all over the background (in front of a light transparent wash of ivory black), and for the bold highlight in the middle of his forehead.

Anna Rose BainColquitt

Radiant colors are invaluable for cooling down a color mixture without getting a darker value and for obtaining bright highlight or local colors without having to use a ton of white.  Whether or not you are painting from life, the Radiant colors are wonderful shortcuts for all of your “high key” needs.

Featured artists and contributors:

Wolf Kahn

Lori Putnam

Anna Rose Bain

Gamblin’s Alternatives to Titanium White

Alternatives to Titanium White

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. 

Pure White  
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
jacobsenfineart.com

Eric Jacobsen, Backyard, oil, 8” x 16”

Titanium Buff 

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 BuffWarm 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

Dave Bernard, Sitka Morning, oil, 12” x 16”

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
www.krisekstrand.com

Kris EkstrandLine of Passage, oil on canvas, 60″ x 48″