Get to Know your Colors: White

Hi guys! So to accompany my colour harmonies video series that started on Tuesday, I thought it would be fitting to start looking at the colours we use in art and crafting a little more in-depth.  This next series of posts I’ll be writing will be called “Get to Know your Colours” and for each main colour, I’ll explain the psychology involved with that colour including the positives and the negatives of the emotions it can invoke, where it it located on the colour wheel and the effects it has on the colours around it, and the main ways involved in mixing the colour.

So I thought a good first colour to start with would be white, the purest of colours!  So with that said let’s get into it!

The Color White
The Color White

The Colour White

White is the brightest of any paint colour involved in art.  It is the ultimate highlight, and is usually saved until the last stages of an acrylic painting for that final pop of dimension.  In watercolour, the opposite technique is used, as it is the bright white paper that gives the transparent paint their luminosity.  White areas of the paper are conserved and carefully painted around in order to keep that fresh highlight look.

Colour Wheel Location

White is not located on a traditional colour wheel.  It is mixed into colours to create tints: variations of a hue when mixed with varying amounts of white.  The colour becomes lighter and less saturated as more and more white is added, resulting in soft colours that eventually become pure white.

Mixing White

White creates a sense of purity and elegance in a painting
White creates a sense of purity and elegance in a painting

White is not a mixable colour, as it is the result of the absence of colour in paint terms.  In the light spectrum, white is actually the combination of all colours mixed together, but in painting white must come from a tube, untouched by any other colour.

The most common paint colour in acrylics is Titanium White, an opaque and strong pure white.  It can easily overpower weaker colours, but can add that strong white highlight when needed without letting any other colour show through.  The other popular white used in painting is Zinc White, a more transleucent colour that has a weaker tintinting strength that Titanium, and can tint colours more easily without overpowering them.  Zinc White cannot block out other colours below it, however, so if only one tube of white is you option, Titanium White is the way to go, just be cautious with how much you use.

The Psychology of White

White is purity manifested in colour.  It is untouched, clean, reflective, bright, calming and peaceful.  It is traditionally worn by Western brides and doctors because it represents purity.  It also represents beginnings, as we all are faced with staring at a white blank canvas before beginning our paintings.

Use white in your artworks to create moods of cleanliness, innocence, completeness (including the completeness of the painting with the final white highlights), a sense of pristine, simplicity, and openess.

Be careful with using too much white,however, as it can also create senses of being sterile,

Too much white can make an image look cold and sterile.
Too much white can make an image look cold and sterile.

stark, jarring (think about too many pure white highlights…they can become off-setting to the viewer), empty, isolated, and frankly, sometimes boring.

The secret to using white is to use it deliberately, and in controlled amounts. When used correctly, white can not only add the final touches to your artworks, it can create an entire mood for your viewer in itself.

Further Reading

Here’s a few past posts I’ve written that deal with the colour white if you’re itching for more information:

What’s in White?

Don’t Get Caught in the Highlight

The Right Way to Start a Painting

Colour Psychology

So thanks for reading guys, I hope you’re liking this series so far, lots of colours to go!

-Ashley <3

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