Why White Matters in Your Watercolor Mixes

Rules are both a boon and a bane. They are not, as the intellectually lazy would have you think, "meant to be broken." They can also create startlingly unnecessary obstacles and restrictions that stifle growth and innovation when painting. When accepted and obeyed without inquiry or critical thought, rules can also hinder creativity. 

Learning the Traditional Watercolor Ways

There are hundreds of hues in the realm of Brown, Black, and White. With white alone, there is Lead White, Eggshell, Barite, Titanium White, Zinc White, and many more, each with its unique flair. Using them can add depth to any watercolor works. However, classic ideas of watercolor paintings are:

  • Because watercolor is a transparent medium and your paper is white, you don't require white. All you have to do is prepare ahead of time, mask if needed, and dilute your colors as necessitated. Beginners often make the mistake of using white to brighten colors, which it does not. Instead, it makes things hazy and opaque, diverting your attention.
  • You don't need black since there isn't much of it in nature. Beginners often use black to deepen colors, but, in fact, it simply makes them greyer. Other more effective methods to darken your colors include utilizing them at a higher intensity (or concentration) and combining them with pigments with a broader value range.
  • You don't need brown since you can simply combine it with your current colors for a more exact match. Orange may be readily replaced and changed by simple mixing.

What Makes the Use of White Effective?

Allowing yourself to experiment will improve your creativity on how to paint with watercolors. To start, here are some ways to break away from rules and use white. 

Gives Color Possibilities

Using white opens the door to a new realm of color-mixing possibilities and a new dimension to the appearance of your watercolors.

If you mix white with other colors, you get a pastel version of that color—and pastels aren't only for Easter or vacation clothing. They may represent deserts and cloudscapes. These lighter shades are also frequently opaque. Many people think that opacity distinguishes watercolor from gouache. The distinction is that gouache is solid thanks to a lightening agent. The opacity of colors will vary depending on the pigment used. Instead of seeing white as a whitening agent, think of it as a transformative agent, altering color opacity and giving it a milky or hazy look.

Bring Out Spontaneous Details

One approach is to paint by feeling and is appropriate. If you didn't prepare for every white element, do it now. However, when applying the final touches, take caution. Use a  good brush and a white of the right consistency and opacity to pop out and balance other colors. 

Essential Primer

When painting over a white piece of paper, whether a color washes or not, the effect is intriguing. You may either prime with white and let it dry or go in wet-on-wet. Choosing white watercolor paint will yield a different impact. You may change them by knowing the characteristics of your palette's colors. For instance, an Eggshell has a larger particle size than Barite, affecting the texture of anything painted over it.

Final Thoughts

The use of white in watercolor painting is a contentious issue, but the decision is entirely yours. When it comes to the usage of white in watercolor painting, there are certain schools of thought. They are legitimate, and you can't consider any to be "wrong." You may use both watercolor and gouache in the same painting, or you can use just transparent colors depending on your preference. 

Learn more on how to improve your color mixes by learning from watercolor lessons of E. John Robinson. Check our digitized E. John's lessons to help you with your watercolor projects.

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.