The Secrets Of Black And White Gouache

Today’s scribes learning to paint Calontir’s preprints often start with a Reeves gouache set for their paints. They’re an inexpensive student grade non-acrylic paint that does well for painting entry-level awards. 

What do you do when you use up your first paint, usually white? What is the best white gouache to buy?” 

In gouache, there are several whites: chalk white, zinc white, titanium white, permanent white and lead white. It can be puzzling. What is the difference between the gouache whites?

In Calontir the gouache scribes use is a water-soluble gum arabic paint. It is not an acrylic product even though some of those are labeled “gouache”. 

While all those paints listed are whites they each have a different hint of another color. That tinge distinguishes them from each other. 

It is difficult for me to see the difference unless I paint them in side-by-side swatches. It’s even harder for you to see if I scanned them to post here.

Besides the slight color tinge, the various whites are made from different chemicals. Each behaves slightly different depending on what you do with it.

Chalk White or Lime White‘s use dates back to prehistoric times and continues until today. It doesn’t hide underpainting well, so it isn’t used for scrolls.

Lead White is poisonous because of, well, its toxic lead. Historically its use goes back to antiquity, a very early SCA era. While it is still sold by a few producers today, it is mostly used as Flake White in oil paint. It is seldom used for SCA awards.

Zinc White, initially called “Chinese White” when introduced by Winsor and Newton, is not period. It was first made in the early 1800s. Zinc White is a translucent gouache and does not hide underpainting well. Although I like it better for making tints

Titanium White is even newer than zinc white, initially sold in 1916. The website Pigments through the Ages describes Titanium White as the “Strongest, most brilliant white available to artists in the entire history of art.” 

I prefer Titanium White for highlights or strokes over underpainting. It is great for geometric diapering and small bar borders. 

And what about permanent white?  Permanent White is a based on titanium. The manufacturer just has a reason for not calling it “Titanium White”. Maybe they add something to it or they just like that description better. Blick describes their’s as “bleed proof”, so marketing may be a reason.
I prefer either Titanium or Permanent White gouache for adding details over the colored underpainting. If I’m mixing pink or another tint I use Zinc White.
Another color about which newer scribes often ask questions is black. Are their differences in gouache blacks? There are several blacks: jet black, lamp black, and ivory black.
Lamp Black is the popular gouache name for Carbon Black. It has been used as a pigment since early, early history. Traditionally Lamp Black was made by collecting soot from oil lamps. As charcoal, it also has a long history as a sketching material. While Lamp Black is the darkest most opaque black water-soluble paint, it is not a popular gouache paint today.
Black in
Zaneta’s Grant

Ivory Black is the alternative name gouache producers call Bone Black. It was used in prehistoric art and is still popular today. Originally it was made from charred bones or waste ivory. Today it is an inorganic synthetic product made from Carbon Black and calcium phosphate. 

Ivory Black is a dense black with a blue tinge. Ivory or Bone Black is a slightly less intense, black than Lamp Black. The synthetic version was discovered in 1929. 

Jet Black is a rich, deep, opaque black discovered in 1863 for dying cotton cloth. It has a blue tinge and makes blue greys when mixed with white. 
My favorite black, as you probably guessed, is Ivory Black. 
While this is an overview of the various white and
black gouache paints, you’ll want to try these out yourself. Test them on your favorite Bristol board, pergamenata or any unfinished preprints you have. How these whites and blacks handle depends on your touch too. 

As I read on Wet Canvas, “Your best teacher is your own brush”.

Prior Related Post:

Why Buy More Scribal Paint Colors?

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