Lead white roundup

I am testing the excellent Michael Harding brand Cremitz white. It really is good stuff. Along with Kremer’s Cremitz white, it’s among the best lead whites that I’ve used. Of course, the lead whites from all the manufacturers still providing the all-important paint are excellent. By the last count, there are eight art supply manufacturers offering lead white today. I’ve used them all.

As all painters know, since the EU regulated lead-based paints, the number of suppliers has fallen as the prices have skyrocketed. In this post, I provide a summary of the remaining lead paint suppliers.

Before I do, here’s a photo of this morning’s palette with the piles of Harding Cremitz white in the middle. I used the paint all over my unfinished painting, White Balloon. This paint handles like a dream.

All of these are excellent, professional-level paint. While the more expensive brands on this list might be slightly better than the reasonably-priced brands, none of them are twice as good let alone four times better in the case of Old Holland.

Today, besides the 40ml tube of Michael Harding that I’m testing, my paint drawer is filled with RGH and Blue Ridge.

Old Holland225ml tube$240Cold-pressed linseed oil binder.
Blockx200ml tube$118Poppyseed oil binder.
Michael Harding225ml tube$115Choice of linseed or walnut binder.
Rublev150ml tube$115Wide variety of lead whites.
Kremer250ml jar$199Choice of linseed or walnut binder.
Doak150ml tube$50Good stuff.
RGH250ml jar$65Offers a variety of lead whites and binders.
Blue Ridge150ml tube$45Basic lead carbonate. Walnut and safflower binder.

When I have a little extra money (inside joke), I might buy a tube of Harding white. Otherwise, I’ll stick with my guys RGH, Doak, and Blue Ridge.

As regular readers know, I refuse to buy Old Holland white. Doesn’t Hunter Biden use Old Holland exclusively?

  6 comments for “Lead white roundup

  1. Pingback: Titanium white
  2. The “Just Paint” tests showed that walnut and safflower oil offer nothing that linseed doesn’t other than weaker paint films. Safflower and walnut may start out less yellow from the tube but yellow just as much as linseed, according to that testing. It just takes time. The only oil that beat linseed soundly in yellowing was poppy. According to their tests, though, it cracked. Also, some poppy oils are yellower than others. How much that matters beyond the color work when the painting is wet is something I can’t answer. Maybe some of them have more impurities removed or maybe it makes no difference.

    How much we can rely upon those particular tests is something I can’t answer, as they have the conflict of interest of selling things. That includes refusing to provide some details under “trade secrets” when asked in comments. Still, the testing did seem quite interesting.

    I paint on rigid supports and no longer paint thickly so I am willing to risk fine cracks to have some paints ground in poppy, like cobalt violet light — one of my main paints even in a limited palette, manganese blue (hoarding my last Blockx tubes and using the much duller OH tubes when I don’t need the intensity), and — of course — white. Which is worse, the yellowing of colors like cobalt violet light to the point where they lose their violet tone and become red* — or fine cracking? I’ll take the cracking to keep the chroma. For the same reason, I mix a little bit of zinc oxide white into that one (and manganese blue). Tests on Wet Canvas showed that the zinc inhibits the yellowing of those pigments (a problem due to their large molecular size and transparency). Yes, it also inhibits the formation of a sturdy paint film.

    *(I haven’t had a reddening issue with Holbein’s PV47 version, which is bluer to begin with and the jury is still out about PV49 and PV14 in my work.)

    There’s no free lunch. If there were, acrylics wouldn’t be porous, would have the beauty of oils, wouldn’t off-gas formaldehyde, wouldn’t dry so quickly, and would go on smoothly.

    Eventually, we’ll be painting with light (to be displayed via large flexible computer displays) and augmented reality. That augmented reality will likely also, some day, include direct brain interface rather than glasses. That might even include the ability to see colors our eye-based color vision can’t work with, such as blue-yellow and red-green — depending upon how well the brain-interfaced system could deal with our limitations in color processing.

    Prior to that, if I could afford it, I’d start a company selling 3D printing using artist-grade pigments (like cobalt violet light, quinacridone magenta, pyrrole orange, and the other maximum chroma around the color wheel pigments). There are high-chroma pigments (such as some made with Yttrium) that haven’t been produced for artists due to the cost, which would be used in a thin top layer. Painters would use special ultra-high gamut monitors to create their work digitally, or perhaps with VR goggles, and the machine would create the paint and varnish layers. That way, any sort of toxic or too quickly evaporating solvents/chemicals could be used, without artist exposure, to maximize the chroma and the longevity of the paint layer. As someone with somewhat shaky hands, I would be a lot happier if the computer could paint for me. More broadly, though, artists need a larger gamut in paints, without all the drawbacks (such as additives to extend shelf life). The 3D painting printing machine could have a refrigerated paint storage unit or make the paint on demand.

    Anyway, I have innumerable inventive ideas (not just dealing with painting) and no money so someone else will get all of that done.

  3. Oh, and the point of all that, which I had forgotten whilst writing it, is that I am not thrilled about Blue Ridge’s choice of oils. If the “Just Paint” tests are wrong and safflower in particular does actually offer a long-term yellowing reduction then — maybe — it’s worth the reduced-strength paint film. Walnut?

    Or, perhaps it’s worthwhile to have a white that’s brighter out of the tube, regardless of the yellowing. In any case, I like the poppy oil Blockx uses and hope my work will be considered good enough to warrant conservators’ attention (which I doubt).

  4. A lot to chew on, J.A. It’s been some time since I experimented with high-chroma paints. As you know, they’re the most difficult colors to control and harmonize. I have a drawer full of them. I should trot them out once again.

    You probably know this site, but the best place I know for pigment info is Handprint (link in the left-hand margin). The author/artist concentrates on watercolors but he provides a treasure trove of information and examples.

    I like Blockx too. Does Blockx use poppy oil for all colors?

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