White The color of purity
White is the most important color on the palette. It is not unusual to use as much white in a painting as all the other colors combined. The first whites were weak like chalk but the invention of White Lead during the Greek era was a revolution. It took 2000 years to pass for a competitor to this highly toxic substance to arrive. Zinc White had too many disadvantages of it's own to wean artists off the warmth and opacity of White Lead just yet though. When Titanium White was developed in 1919 the writing was on the wall.

Titanium White PW 6   ASTM  l
Chemical type and description
Inorganic synthetic opaque white from anatase or rutile ore. Vast quantities are used in industry. The best all round white, non toxic and very opaque. Problems with chalking in its early years of introduction were soon overcome and this pigment can be considered problem free, can be used in all media. Also known as Titanium Dioxide.
Not considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic, Fresco, Pastel, Chalk.

Zinc White PW 4   ASTM   l
Chemical type and description
Inorganic synthetic opaque white. Produced by one of two methods, the American method, directly roasting zinc ore, or the French indirect method which is burning vaporized zinc metal. Also known as Chinese White (for no obvious reason) and Permanent White, it is non toxic but while quickly adopted in water based media in the 1830's, its cold tones and relative transparency made it less successful in oil paint. It is the perfect mixing white for Gouache where its transparency is an advantage. While it is safe enough to use in acrylic it is too transparent to compete with Titanium Dioxide.
Cadmium considered toxic. Do not ingest or breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic, Fresco,

Chalk PW 18   ASTM   l
Chemical type and description
Inorganic synthetic Calcium Carbonate. Calcium Carbonate comes in many forms and was originally natural chalk, now known as whiting in pigment form. The modern version is far whiter as it has no impurities and is called Precipitated Chalk. When used in pastels it makes much softer pastels than the natural equivalent. Chalk is also used in Gouache to impart body, bring out the brilliance of the color. It also imparts the necessary opacity. This inert pigment is often added to Pthalo Blue to reduce its excessive strength.
Zinc White is not considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
 Linseed oil, Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Pastel, Chalk.

Other whites Tools and binders
Lead White (PW 1) also known as Flake White, Cremnitz White, Underpainting White, and Silver White. Very poisonous and should be avoided.

Gofun Shirayuki
A traditional Japanese white made by allowing Oyster shells to decompose until all organic matter is gone then grinding the remaining shell. It is believed that there is only one traditional manufacturer left doing this. The pigment can be obtained from Kremer pigments. It has a pearl like luster.

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