What’s in White? (How to Paint White Objects)

Hi friends! Today we’re going to continue our colour-mixing adventures and turn to an often over-looked colour: white!  White is used in acrylics to create tints and add final, sharp highlights, but painting white objects themselves can sometimes prove challenging.  You’re first thought might be to whip out your Titanium White and go to town, but doing this will leave you with a very flat-looking object.  How do we create dimension in a white object?  The secret is knowing just what’s in white….

In paint, white is the absence of colour.  So how do we paint something with highlights and shadows if it has no colour!??  Well, we have to think back to white in terms of light.  Remember that in light, white is the addition of ALL the colours together, right?  Well this is important in painting.  White will actually reflect the colours around it, just as if it were light and not paint.  Therefore, in order to paint a white object with form (ie. shadows and highlights), we have to look around the object and see what other colours are reflecting on it!how to paint white

See that picture of the vase over there?  Looks pretty white, right?  But look inside the vase, where the flower stem is sticking out.  Do you see how the inside of the vase is actually green?? It’s reflecting the stem’s colour!  This can be hard to see at first, because our brains are telling us that the vase is white, and that we shouldn’t be seeing any other colour.  But in order to paint this vase realistically, we have to give the inside of it that hint of green in order to add shadow and give our vase some depth.

Another thing to paint out about this picture is the highlight…do you see how the highlight areas on the top of the vase and at the lip are the whitest whites of the entire image?  If one was to paint this image, those areas would be the ONLY areas of pure Titanium White.  Remember that we have to reserve our purest whites for highlights only, and this principle applies to any colour…including white itself.

So this means that if those highlight areas are the only pure whites in the picture…then the rest of the whites in the image aren’t actually white (well, pure white, anyways!).  They’re all tones and shades of white!! (Or tones of other tinted colours).  This vase is full of greens, beige colours, and greys, but when looking at it our mind perceives it as white.

I hope this post is helpful!  Painting white objects can seem intimidating, but it’s really no more complicated than any other colour!  Just remember that objects we perceive as being simply white are actually much more colourful than we first think! 🙂

Until next time, keep creating!

-Ashley <3

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