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Ways to paint white in watercolor are discussed here, however, undoubtedly the most beautiful white in watercolor is the white of the paper.
However, sometimes you mess up and whoops, you paint right over a white you wanted to save.
No worries, whites you wanted CAN be painted on top of your watercolor wash without fear the watercolor police.
Master painter Singer Sargent used white gouache liberally, both for tints and highlights in his beautiful watercolors.
Read more about Sargent’s watercolors here
First set of Ways to Paint White in Watercolor
Whites That Paint Over Watercolors
This figure shows a variety of whites painted over a dry opaque watercolor red.
At the top, each white is painted straight from the tube
Lower, each is thinned with water
- A Sharpie white paint marker
- Pro: amazingly convenient to use
- Con: the white it makes is not terribly strong unless reapplied in layers.
- white watercolors:
- M Graham Chinese White
- Holbein Chinese white
- Con: Unfortunately, Chinese white watercolor dries somewhat grey and does give much “punch” as a white once it dries.
- white gouache
- M Graham zinc white
- Holbein Primary white
- Holbein Permanent White
- Schmincke Titanium white
- Titanium is the brightest white pigment
- I cannot see much difference in these despite different whites and brands
- Casein (Second Favorite)
- Richeson Titanium white
- Pro: Gives a nice bight white
- Con: Thick paint, little challenging to paint thinly AND thickly
- Acrylic Titanium white (Brand does not seem to matter )
- Pro: very white
- BEST WHITE:
- Dr Phil Martin Pen-White
- Pro The thick, beautiful bleedproof white is one of my favorite products to use. It creates a very dense, opaque white on paper. The ink is waterproof and stays opaque.
Best of the Ways to Paint White in Watercolor
Certainly, the best way to achieve whites in watercolor is to use the unpainted white paper.
- Bleached white watercolor paper is the brightest white
- I love Fabriano’s EXTRA white cold pressed paper when I know I will be using whites.
Why to plan Whites in your paintings
Areas of unpainted white watercolor paper
- add interest and character
- make your paintings look exciting and interesting
- appear loose (who doesn’t love a loose-looking painting)
- seem spontaneous.
Mask to “Hold” your whites
Masking fluid makes use of the white of the paper by masking the area on which it is applied.
- The fluid needs to be applied before painting
- must be completely dry before you paint over it
- It will ruin good brushes use cheap brushes and wash immediately with soapy water
To achieve fine lines or small highlights use:
- a stick
- a drafting pen
- an inexpensive calligraphy pen
My favorite brand of masking fluid is the Pebeo drawing gum because it is
- thin in consistency
- easy to see because it is blue
- removed easily,
Remove the mask with a your finger or a tacky eraser.
Save your Whites without mask
Painting around the white area of the paper allows for softer edges, color gradations and a “glow” if desired.
Example of saved whites and “glow” in Singer Sargents painting
An old painting of white onions with “saved” whitest white of the onions
Try to leave “extra” whites to make your painting more interesting.
If you use the “waterlogue” app, the watercolor effect adds many small whites to your photograph
If you are painting from a photograph, while you learn to imagine where your “extra” whites could be see what waterlogged suggest for extra whites.
Here are “extra” whites in
Using the white of the watercolor paper as the background
For best effect, paint bold, graphic shapes with texture and marks on the subjects when the white paper is the unpainted background.
For example, the bleed backs and texture on this bird work with the empty white background.
Paint a subject where the white in the subject will directly connect to the white of the background.
Learn more about painting whites here.