A very short guide to using white & black watercolour paints

Posted by Jeff Rowley on


The technique used to acheive white in your watercolour painting is meant to be acheived by the lack of colour, instead using the paper to provide white to create highlights in a painting (commonly using making fluid or wax resist techniques), if that's the case why do manufacturers produce two whites in their ranges? Most typically Chinese and Titanium White.

Chinese White is the traditional option, originally introduced by Winsor & Newton in 1834, it is semi-opaque and has a blue undertone, many artists using it at the end of their painting for highlights or to dull some colour mixtures during painting or mix with others to create pastel shades.

Titanium White (Opaque White) is a more modern alternative and is the whitest, most opaque white that gives it high a tinting strength and excellent covering power. Also not all papers or surfaces used are white or white enough to begin with so highlights are preferred to be created using paint instead.

If using white to mix with other colours be aware that all transparent colours will become opaque when mixed with either of the whites.


While some Watercolourists choose to mix their own dark tones and blacks, it is easier to use a pre-mixed version. Ivory Black is the most widely used, on its own, it’s a velvety black with warm brown undertones whereas Lamp Black, as well as being more opaque, is a cooler colour, with blue undertones.

Both may be mixed with other colours to create darker shades. 

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