Addressing the chalkiness of titanium white

Titanium white is my preferred white - I'm used to it and I don't want lead everywhere. But in some colour mixes it goes chalky. For example, I have two different blue shirts I'm painting and the blue-leaning-green looks great but the warmer blue looks like chalk. But what does that mean?
I recall I think it was Mark discussing this but can't recall where. What I want to understand is, in what mixes will titanium white create chalkiness and how can we address it? Are there particular colours that emphasise this effect? I think orange is another colour that goes chalky. Secondly, what exactly is happening to create this chalky impression? Too cool? Loss of chroma? Something else? Is it:
a) the actual mix so that if you viewed it alone it would look chalky; or is it
b) When it sits beside the normal version of the colour it is an unnatural lighter version that doesn't look like light falling on it?
I want to understand what is happening and with which colours, and options to mix in so that I can counter it in any situation.

Comments

  • edited September 6
    Not sure what you mean by "chalky", @Abstraction. Do you mean that the paint loses it's oily sheen/luster and becomes flat like chalk? I've never noticed this effect. If you are using a limited palette, and if you don't want to use lead,  I'm not sure how you would lighten colours without using TW. Perhaps expand your palette and try using lighter, pure pigments instead of white. For example, instead of lightening Ultramarine with white you could use, say, Cerulean blue which is much lighter than Ultramarine and may not need lightening with white. Another example might be to use Cadmium orange (cadmium sulfoselenide) instead of lightening a dark red with yellow and white to make a light orange. I love Langridg'es Cadmium orange - it's light in value so you may not need white.  And it's a powerful mixer and great for warming light greens without darkening them.
    DesertskyAbstraction
  • Abstraction

    Mark discusses milked up shadow values and chalkiness here… https://youtu.be/UqcorjUytVo

    Suggest using as little white as possible.
    Avoid tubed colour made with multi-pigment components, usually labelled as a ‘hue’.

    Wet Canvas discussion on chalkiness suggests that when colour dries matte it takes on a higher reflectance value and appears lighter. Thus shadow values being earth colours are prone to sinking and losing lustre and depth. The remedy here is oiling out or varnishing.

    Others put the view that this visual illusion comes from usually over-bright values in the shadows and lack of middle-tone transitions from light-to-dark.. It is less about using too much white paint in my experience seeing this in so many paintings.

    Another factor may be excess solvent creating this matte effect, consider oil/solvent ratio. Try doing a painting without solvents and do a side by side comparison.

    Matting may be caused by poor priming allowing the support layers to suck the glossy oils away.

    So could be a vicious combo of matting, priming, solvents and milking. A lot to fix huh?

    Denis

    DesertskyAbstraction
  • @tassieguy By chalkiness I mean that as you lighten the colour it starts to look less like the original material and looks as though the colour is mixed with white chalk. It's obviously paint and the illusion is killed. I like the orange suggestion - I often use cad yellow light to warm highlights to suggest warmth of sun.
    @dencal I don't think it's a matting issue and I don't use hues, solvents and mostly don't use mediums.
    It may be the lack of smooth transition, which was something I was looking at this morning and thinking of exploring. I also suspect there can also be a washing out of warmth within the colour because titanium is quite cool. I suspect transparent colours are more susceptible because of the opacity of titanium.
    dencal
  • Titanium white is slightly blue in hue. If you add a touch of a high chroma yellow that might help.
    Abstraction
  • Abstraction

    If you can rule out these four contributing factors, matting, priming, hues and solvents, then the remaining potential causes are mixing and the basic attributes of titanium white.

    The addition of zinc to titanium white was clearly an attempt to tone down titanium white more towards the banned, softer lead whites. The lithopone (porcelain) white and barite whites all seem to contain zinc sulphate.

    Try extending the limited palette to reduce the reliance on titanium white to lighten values.
    For example use more cerulean blue instead of ultramarine blue and t/w. Use yellow ochre instead of burnt umber and t/w. 

    Denis 


    Abstraction
  • Also high chroma colours like phthalo blues hold their chroma much longer than ultramarine blue when tinted with white.
    tassieguyAbstraction
  • What brand of paint are you using. Sounds like student grade. 
  • edited September 6

    @Abstraction - I don’t know what the cause is for your chalkiness. You have received some good suggestions to follow up with. I think it will take a little experimentation on your part to figure it out – and decide how to deal with it.

    I think it is not a matter of some few colors or mixed-color hues or student grade paint being responsible. I think this happens as a matter of course when one mixes white with a color: a loss of saturation and gaining perhaps too much lightness. This can happen with any type of white pigment, but since titanium white is so light, this can happen more easily than with lead or other whites.

    I think that zinc oxide continued to be added to titanium white long after its problems were known because the zinc oxide had a few benefits: hardening the film structure and keeping the titanium really light by its bleaching action.

    If by chalkiness you mean a loss of color saturation, and not just the lightness of the value: this happens for me regularly. Before starting any painting, I work out the color harmonies first. This includes each color with a few values as a color string: usually the color and 2 lighter and 2 darker than the color. If any loss of saturation will take place, I can see it before it is on the painting, and figure out what to do about it.

    Some ways I deal with it:

    1. Use less white paint. (Duh! I know this sounds so obvious, but for me, it’s the range and variations on the values which are important, and not the accuracy of the values to the source image per se.)

    2. Find a light color, in addition to or replacing the white, to add to the base color to lighten it. One example: I use some dull yellows or a mix of yellow and white for this.

    3.  Another solution I use frequently is to glaze over the dried, too chalky paint with the color I want. If one wants to paint directly, then this glazing won’t work.

    I find it useful to take a photo of the source image before starting the painting, and then converting it to grayscale to see, without the distraction of color, how the pattern of values works out – or not 😊  I also take photos of the painting at various stages, convert to grayscale, and see if I have gone off track with the values. Almost always, since I had covid 2 years ago, I make mistakes with the values. This is now the new norm for me and so I just deal with it.

    If you could post a few photos of the problem area, this could be useful. Plus I am always interested in this kind of thing.

    PS – I have spent many hours examining the el Grecos in the WDC National Gallery of Art. His 3-d modeling of form was weird: the highest saturation was frequently not in the highlights or even the mid-values, but in the darker areas. His color use was pretty dull overall, but this reversal of where we expect to find saturation made his images flicker and come alive – at least to me.    

    Abstraction
  • @Abstraction, Let me guess - manganese blue again?
  • What brand of paint are you using. Sounds like student grade. 
    I agree it does sound like it. I expect where I've faced this in the distant past that might have been the case. Now I use a mixture of artist quality oils. Langridge, Winsor & Newton, Gamblin, Art Spectrum, Daniel Smith...
    Suez said:
    @Abstraction, Let me guess - manganese blue again?
    No. In this case mostly french ultramarine.
    dencal said:
    Try extending the limited palette to reduce the reliance on titanium white to lighten values.
    For example use more cerulean blue instead of ultramarine blue and t/w. Use yellow ochre instead of burnt umber and t/w.
    I'm not a very limited palette kind of person. I started there and it taught me much. Then I inherited a lot of paints and I have no qualms about grabbing an additional tube paint here and there.
    Desertsky said:

    If by chalkiness you mean a loss of color saturation, and not just the lightness of the value: this happens for me regularly. Before starting any painting, I work out the color harmonies first. This includes each color with a few values as a color string: usually the color and 2 lighter and 2 darker than the color. If any loss of saturation will take place, I can see it before it is on the painting, and figure out what to do about it.

    Some ways I deal with it:

    1. Use less white paint. (Duh! I know this sounds so obvious, but for me, it’s the range and variations on the values which are important, and not the accuracy of the values to the source image per se.)

    2. Find a light color, in addition to or replacing the white, to add to the base color to lighten it. One example: I use some dull yellows or a mix of yellow and white for this.

    3.  Another solution I use frequently is to glaze over the dried, too chalky paint with the color I want. If one wants to paint directly, then this glazing won’t work.

    I find it useful to take a photo of the source image before starting the painting, and then converting it to grayscale to see, without the distraction of color, how the pattern of values works out – or not 😊  I also take photos of the painting at various stages, convert to grayscale, and see if I have gone off track with the values. Almost always, since I had covid 2 years ago, I make mistakes with the values. This is now the new norm for me and so I just deal with it.

    PS – I have spent many hours examining the el Grecos in the WDC National Gallery of Art. His 3-d modeling of form was weird: the highest saturation was frequently not in the highlights or even the mid-values, but in the darker areas. His color use was pretty dull overall, but this reversal of where we expect to find saturation made his images flicker and come alive – at least to me.    

    Very helpful suggestions. I'll experiment around these ideas. I'm also having trouble with my samsung galaxy image quality highly reduced and making everything look like pastels - I'm not the only one to have this with Galaxy when I searched online. So currently struggling with photos because the monochrome would be helpful. I'll try it anyway I think.
    I'll experiment with a set of renditions of the shirt colour at different values, glazing, neutralising the coldness of the titanium...
    Fascinating about el Greco.
    Thanks all for advice everyone.
  • I use Marks pallet.  I currently don’t use higher saturation from cad orange or cerulean blue, but seeing @tassieguy recommend that gives me ideas.
    What I have been doing is using yellow to lighten up the value.  And if adding it to blue I knock down the resulting greenish hue with a bit of red.  If adding it to a reddish color I can knock the red down with umber and or blue. 
    If the color I am matching is very white then I will start with white and go from there.  For example the music sheets or the edges of playing cards, etc.
    It probably sounds like a lot of work to do it this way but it works well.  I may look at adding cad orange, yellow ochre and cerulean to my pallet and see how that works.  I’m sure it will feel weird mixing with them at first.
    Abstraction
  • @GTO - that's really close to what I was thinking - with some really practical tips.
    I only get to paint on the weekends I'm around, so can't get to this yet. The other thing that occurred to me is that the true colour is usually at the turning of the shadow (el Greco aside, apparently). So that the chroma is strongest in good even light - gets washed out a little in highlight - and can reduce intensity in shadows. I suspect it's that transition I haven't managed well.
    The other warmer blue shirt that worked so successfully was done in almost grey (built from mars black and some phthalo) and then I put some more colour intensity in selected spots. In recent paintings I've taken to adding slightest touches of intense colours on a more neutral section as though it glints, almost impressionistic.
    Suez
  • @Abstraction Marks instructions point out using yellow to lighten the value as well.  
    I tend to see the higher chroma adjacent to the area just outside around the highlight. 
    But that’s an observation that is fine to break in my opinion.

    Abstraction
  • GTO said:
    @Abstraction Marks instructions point out using yellow to lighten the value as well.  
    I tend to see the higher chroma adjacent to the area just outside around the highlight. 
    But that’s an observation that is fine to break in my opinion.
    I will look more closely. Your management of values is exquisite.

  • El Greco most often used very rough canvas that was not woven in plain-weave as most are today. The weave texture he, and others of his time and location used, affects the surface texture appearance and how paint was applied and received most critically. El Greco put it’s features to masterful use.

    El greco’s shadows are vibrant and saturated solely because he glazed those areas with vegetable lake paints which are beautiful, transparent, and still there after all these years.
  • Suez said:
    El greco’s shadows are vibrant and saturated solely because he glazed those areas with vegetable lake paints which are beautiful, transparent, and still there after all these years.
    That's a good point. Glazing over a dark light absorbing pigment mix should result in better lightfastness than over a reflective white.
  • Suez said:
    El Greco most often used very rough canvas that was not woven in plain-weave as most are today. The weave texture he, and others of his time and location used, affects the surface texture appearance and how paint was applied and received most critically. El Greco put it’s features to masterful use.
    I’ve looked further into this and discovered that the canvas weave El Greco used would be more absorbent than plain weave linen canvas as it was woven with the original purpose to be used mostly as bath towels. This, in addition to their rough surface texture,  may explain why much of the unglazed surface of his large paintings look so dry.
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