Theoretically Speaking: Painting White

Theory for the artfully inquisitive mind.™

Painting objects at the polar ends of the value scale can be a challenge even for the experienced artist.  How do you highlight white or shade black?  Following are a few pointers on painting white excerpted from my Color Mojo lesson plan. 

Painting White
There is a Season

  • White reflects colors of surrounding objects taking on these  nearby hues.
  • White objects must begin with a lower value than white in order to allow room for lighter values.
  • The base color can lean toward any hue to harmonize with the overall color scheme.  Toned green, gold or beige create warm whites while violet and blues create cool whites.  
  • Both warm and cool hues can be combined in the same object for pop.
  • White objects painted purely with neutral grey tones lack luminosity and appear dull.  
  • Using a mixed rich black to create greys will add warmth and interest.
  • Rich black can be created using a deep pure blue like ultramarine blue and a warm brown such as burnt umber.

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