5 Ways to Use White

White is a tricky color to portray well in paintings, but you have many options for how you use it. Here are five tried-and-true ways you can use white pigment in your paintings:

  • Use it as the color of white objects in color paintings.
    For a great example of this, observe J.M.W. Turner’s clouds in his Grand Canal, Venice (see this image at www.artchive.com/artchive/T/turner/grand_canal.jpg.html.)
  • Tint other colors.
    Do this by mixing your white directly with the color that you want to lighten. Pink, for instance, is a tint of red.
  • Lighten your colors by a variation of pointillism.
    This involves putting hundreds of tiny spots of white paint amid hundreds of equally tiny spots of another color. If you intersperse white points with red points, for example, you’ll get an apparent pink. This is the least often used method for using white to lighten another color.
  • Layer the colors.
    Use white to lighten another color by either laying the color over a white surface, or putting the color down first and then laying the white paint over it. Some of the old masters, particularly landscape painters, used a technique called veiling. They would first block out the major forms in an underpainting in a dark umber, and then cover it with a thin translucent layer of white call a veil. After that, they’d paint the remaining colors and details over the veil.
  • Neutralize other colors.
    Achieve this by mixing a white pigment with a black pigment, to yield a gray tone with same tonal value as the color you want to neutralize. Then, mix just enough of the gray into the other color to de-intensify it. This technique is particularly effective for flesh tones.

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