Colorful Fridays–Transparently Healing White

Not only is Zinc White not toxic, if you are big on plein air painting, it doubles as sunscreen and topical treatment for poison ivy, as well.

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“The first of all colors is white … We shall set down white as the representation of light, without which no color can be seen; yellow for earth, green for water, blue for air, red for fire; and black for total darkness.” Leonardo Da Vinci (

Many artists’ paints must be used with caution because of the potentially toxic properties of the pigments.  Not so with Zinc White.  Not only is Zinc White not toxic, should you happen to get poison ivy while out doing a little plein air painting, you can reach into your paint box and pull out your handy tube of Zinc White.  Slather it on and continue painting.  Suppose the sun is beating down but just a few more minutes and the painting will be complete.  A little Zinc White on the nose for sun protection and carry on.  And that Zinc White comes in mighty handy if you are looking for transparent lightening of the paint without the heaviness and chalkiness of Titanium.

Winsor Newton states Zinc White is “cold white” in appearance and “is particularly suitable for mixtures with cool colors and for glazing and scumbling techniques as it does not over power other hues.”  Golden Paints states Zinc White has “1/10th the tinting power of titanium white,” and “Zinc White is the best choice for use with the highly transparent hues”.  Golden Paints also states, “with Zinc White you have more control.”  Zinc White won’t take over the paint and turn it into a pastel quite so quickly as the much stronger Titanium white.

Artist’s experiments have concluded much the same thing.  A Blog Related to Art finds Zinc White has a cooler and bluer effect on paint mixes with greater transparency and states, “you can more easily make small adjustments to a paint’s lightness without accidently making it too light.”  On her blog, Lezley Davidson says, “skin tones are great ideas for Zinc Oxide when you need a white.”  Samantha Dasilva makes a comparison of Zinc White and Titanium and concludes Zinc White “slightly effects the value of the color” and is “highly transparent” and “great for glazing.”

With Zinc White, the tinting is mild and won’t affect the basic value of the paint.  It is excellent for transparency and glazing, particularly with the effects of skin tones.  Zinc White is the best choice for light airy whites and those with a bluer or cooler look.  Zinc White won’t give that thick opaque look that Titanium White is well known for.  If you don’t want to overpower your work with white, then go for the Zinc.  And if not, you can always add it to your First Aid Kit.  Along with poison ivy and sunburn, Zinc White is great on that diaper rash you got after wading through the poison ivy to reach that sunny spot you sweltered in all day while painting your fabulous plein air creation.  The things we do for art!

Grumbacher demonstrates mixing with Zinc White:

To buy pure zinc oxide pigment go to Amazon

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