Working with titanium white

One of two kinds of white, most often used in modern art – titanium white. They are superior in some qualities of other popular styles – lead and zinc.

Background information: lead free

the White paint was used by artists since ancient times. In the first century BC the Roman historian Pliny described the process of creating white lead from sawdust with the use of vinegar. Subsequently, every major European country had developed its own technology for the production of white lead. They are widely used in painting, icon painting, for technical needs. However, the lead-highly toxic material. The damage to the white lead of professional artists and builders, as well as the poor engaged in their production, it is impossible to calculate.


there was an alternative dye – bone white, being made from the bones of lambs, white from chalk, egg shells and even pearls. But they were extremely rare, difficult to manufacture and therefore expensive. Because of this, the artists continued to use toxic lead. More common types are kaolin, antimony, sulphur, lead, tin – still did not reach the production volumes of white lead.
This lasted until 1780, when two French chemists, Bernard Courtois and Louis Bernard de Gitane Moro, began looking for less dangerous paint. Their choice fell on zinc oxide on the basis of which was slightly toxic. The problem was their price. Zinc oxide worth four times more expensive than lead, so many artists remained faithful to the old material.


In the late XVIII century by the Englishman William Gregor and klaproth a German, have discovered a previously unknown metal, which later was replaced with lead in mass production of white. But until the beginning of XX century the Titan was considered useless, good-for-nothing metal. Only in 1908, European chemists have found a use for it – the titanium dioxide was used in the production of a new type of white. Beginning in 1920, Europe had established mass production of titanium oxide, almost completely displacing lead from the market. To Russia innovation got just the thirties of the last century. Due to this fact researchers are able to distinguish authentic works from the beginning of the century fraud: negligent copyists do not take into account that the Russian avant-garde artists wrote mainly with the use of white lead, later supplanted by Titan.

Comparison of different types of white

  • Toxicity. white Lead are highly toxic, and is currently used solely for artistic paints. International Association of labor protection forbids painting the walls of living spaces with the use of white lead. Male painters of eighteen and women of any age are prohibited from working with lead. Zinc oxide is slightly toxic, does not pose a threat to life, and titanium you can write without any harm to your health.
  • Opacity (hiding power). Zinc oxide have the lowest cover ability, so that they successfully used in classical painting with glazes. Titanium white glaze to make impractical, as their coverage is much higher (2,7). But they are perfectly suited for more dense painting a La prima-this pigment is well overrides other colors.
  • Color. Zinc white have a slightly warm tone, titanium – cold.
  • the Resistance. Zinc oxide, especially when a large ink layer thickness, eventually covered with cracks. With titanium white this is not happening – one of their varieties is so durable that it is used for painting spaceships. White lead is also very strong – it is they owe their preservation work of the old masters.

Other features of titanium white

Over time, the work, written titanium white, may acquire a bluish tinge. In oil painting white these should be used with caution. It is not recommended to mix with some other colors: azure, cobalt, kadmiya. When mixing with them, may have the effect of razmalyvanie, and formed fragile colorful compounds. Titanium white turn yellow over time. Titanium dioxide when mixed with organic pigments over time may become discolored. It is not recommended to cover the work using titanium white oil Topalovym varnish – the darkening is inevitable.

because Of all these shortcomings in the mid-twentieth century artists refused to use titanium white. Their production was suspended. But other titanium white ­– acrylic, gouache or tempera, was produced at the same pace. They continued to be used by many painters. Titanium white oil too long has been forgotten – their high opaque ability, non-toxicity and relative low cost has them back on the shelves, and today anyone can practice to determine whether it is acceptable for him to use them.