Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wrapping Up the Whites

The last two of the four most common white pigments is Zinc White and it derivative Chinese White.
Zinc White is made from pure zinc oxide and was developed in the late 1700s. It is used mainly in oil painting for over painting and glazes. Zinc White is more transparent than the other whites.
Because it is relatively slow drying, Zinc White is useful for highlighting, as it will not dry faster than the color it was painted over. Because Zinc White is so "clean" it is very valuable for making tints with other colors. Tints made with Zinc White show every nuance of a color's undertones to a greater degree than tints made with other whites.
The lack of pliancy in Zinc Whites can cause cracks in paintings after only a few years if this color is used in excess. It would be a poor choice for painting a winterscape having large expanses of white, because Zinc White dries to a brittle film that would crack. According to
Pigments Through The Ages, some artists during the late 1890's used Zinc White as a ground for their oil paintings. They wanted to utilize the brilliance of this color, but did not realize its long term disadvantage. After a period of years, all of these paintings developed cracks where older works painted on more traditional grounds remained free from cracks.

Chinese White is a derivative of Zinc White and is used in watercolor. It was created by Winsor and Newton in 1834 as a superior alternative to Zinc White. It is heated at much higher temperatures than the late eighteenth century variety, which makes it more dense. The name 'Chinese White' is said to have come from the oriental porcelain that was very popular in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today, Chinese White is synonymous for Zinc White in watercolor.

Source: Pigments Through The Ages
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