Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The White Test--After 8 Years...

Back in 2004, I was part of an online art discussion group called GoodArt. Virgil Elliott was the moderator, and he was then working on his book, Traditional Oil Painting, Advanced Techniques and Concepts from the Renaissance to the Present. He talked about how white was such an important color on an artist's palette, because we mix it with virtually every other color, and its properties affect the whole painting. This inspired me to test some whites.
I recently discovered that another artist, Jonathan Linton also tested whites and his results were almost the same as mine! The problem, as far as yellowing goes, seems to be the oil used. Linseed oil dries faster than the other commonly used oils, but it also yellows more. And if it is combined with a more transparent white pigment, like zinc or lead, the yellowing is even more apparent!


Gamblin (Artist Oil Colors)
  Quick Dry White
  Zinc White (Linseed)
  Titanium White (Linseed)
  Titanium-Zinc White (Linseed) I have a new tube of this color, and it is now made with safflower oil.
  Radiant White (Poppyseed) Gamblin now uses safflower oil for this one.
Le Franc (Artists Oil Color)
  Titanium White (Soybean)
Rembrandt (Artists' Quality)
  Zinc White (Safflower)
  Mixed White (Safflower)
  Titanium White (Safflower)
Utrecht (Artists' Colors)
  Titanium White (Linseed and Safflower)
Grumbacher (Pre-Tested Artists' Oil Colors)
  Soft Titanium White (Poppyseed and Sunflower)
Vasari (Classic Artists' Oil Color)
  Titanium White (Linseed)
  Flake White (Linseed)
M. Graham (Artists' Oil Color)
  Titanium White (Walnut)
Blockx (Artist Oil Colors)
  Titanium White (Poppyseed)
Permalba (Artist Oil Color)
  Original White
Winsor & Newton (Artists' Oil Color)
    Flake White #1 (Safflower)
Winsor & Newton (Griffin Alkyd)
  Titanium White
Winsor & Newton (Winton Oil Color)
  Soft Mixing White (Safflower)
  Flake White (Safflower)
Art Spectrum (Artists' Oil Color)
  Titanium White #2 (Safflower)
Holbein (Extra Fine Artists' Oil Colors)
  Silver White
  Ceramic White (Poppy)
Daler-Rowney Georgian
  Mixing White

The Results

Still bright white!
  Le Franc Titanium
  Rembrandt Titanium, Mixed, And Zinc Whites (this was the only zinc white that stayed bright)
  Utrecht Titanium
  Permalba Original
  Blockx Titanium
  Holbein Ceramic
  Art Spectrum Titanium #2

Kinda soft white:  still acceptable
  Winsor & Newton Flake #1
  Winton Flake and Soft Mixing White
  Winsor & Newton Griffin Alkyd Titanium White
  Holbein Silver White
  Gamblin Titanium, Titanium-Zinc
  Grumbacher Soft Formula

Not acceptable, sorry guys...
  Daler-Rowney Georgian Mixing White
  Gamblin Quick Dry
  Gamblin Zinc White
  Gamblin Radiant White
  Vasari Titanium White
  Vasari Flake White
  This is supposed to be white? It looked even worse when I first took it out of the dark. All colors were allowed to bleach in the light for a month before I photographed them.


  1. I should probably mention, the maximum amount of yellowing seemed to occur during the first year. After that, some of the samples seemed to lighten a bit.

  2. Thank you for posting this Linda. I just stumbled on Jonathan's post and your post makes a perfect companion for understanding and comparison. Thank you very much for your dedication and research, you saved me a lot of grief!

    1. Thank you for commenting, Clayton. I'm glad it was helpful!

  3. Edward, I'm sorry, I hit the wrong button and accidently deleted your comments... Yes, it would be interesting to see how Rembrandt whites with linseed oil would do. At the time I did the tests, they were just for my own use, and I never thought I would be showing them to other people. And I bought all the paint myself. I would encourage all other artists to test their own paints. (You will see results sooner than 7 years!) Most of the yellowing was in the first year. Leave them in the light for the first 30 days to bleach the oil. There are other factors you can observe in your tests, like warmth, shine, consistency, drying time, all important.

  4. I'm so glad I came across your blog! I have recently run out of my Griffin Alkyd Titanium white and I'm looking for a titanium white that dries fast, so I was considering getting the Gamblin Quick-Dry White but after your results I think I might reconsider.
    I am looking for a white that dries quickly for underpainting purposes. I bought a large tube of Graham Quick-Dry white and unfortunately found that it still dries slowly and it is very fatty...to the point that thin glazes bead when applied on top of it.
    Based on your experience may I impose on you to suggest a white that dries Quickly and is Lean for underpainting so that I won't have any beading problems when glazing?

    1. I personally do a transparent underpainting, so don't use white. But when white is used for underpainting, I think it is usually a form of lead white, like flake or Cremnitz white. Read the label and make sure it's the real thing, not a "hue" The pigment is PW1. There may be some yellowing from the oil it is made with, like my Vasari paint above.

    2. I should also mention that lead white is TOXIC and should be used with great care.

    3. I haven't tried it myself, but Winsor Newton makes an Underpainting White that is non-toxic. http://www.winsornewton.com/products/oil-colours/

      This is a good website for information on oil painting materials http://www.amien.org/ Check out the forums!

  5. How would you describe the application of the blockx titanium? I know you said Grumbacher was almost liquid? I'm looking for a professional grade titanium white to replace the student grade, but i can't find something that will give me the almost glaze like quality I found in the student grade for painting the subtitles of skin.


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