When I think about Landscape paintings I think about the bright colours, like the foliage Greens, Turquoise oceans, Blue mountain ranges, Red maples and Golden oaks of Autumn, Orange, Red or Violet sunsets, etc. I don’t often think about Blacks and Whites. Proper control of these two achromatic colours is essential for Landscape painting.
I find that there is very little information available in regards to using Black and White paints for Landscape Painters. Black and White are two paints that are so essential to my paintings and I hear even less about the Opaque and Transparent properties of them.
Blacks and Whites, I use two of each and in both cases, one is Opaque and the other is Transparent. Knowing when to use the Transparent version over the Opaque version is not rocket science. Opaque paints are great for covering over something. Where Transparent paints are great for glazing over something to change the Hue or Value.
White – The reflection of all visible rays of light
The two Whites I use in my paintings are:
- Titanium White – Opaque, neutral in colour and has very strong tinting strength.
- Transparent Mixing White – Transparent, neutral in colour and has very poor tinting strength.
- By mixing the two you can get a translucent white.
Rules of Thumb When Mixing with White:
- Adding White to a colour will lighten the color but also causes a hue shift that cools the colour. Adding a touch of the next warmest colour to the mixture can resolve this problem.
- Adding White to a dark transparent pigment tends to increase the chroma of the mixture up to a certain point. Using a Transparent White with a dark transparent pigment tends to achieve better results.
- Adding White to an Opaque pigment tends to diminish the chroma. Again a Transparent White will lessen the issue.
- Adding Titanium White to any colour tends to give a chalkiness or “pastel” quality to mixture.
- Adding Transparent White tends to lighten the colour as expected.
- Mixing any Red paint with small amounts of Transparent White will tend to produce a lighter version of the Red.
- Mixing any Red paint with Titanium White will quickly give you Pink.
- Add Titanium White to coloured Paints.
- Add Coloured Paints to Transparent White.
It takes very little Titanium White to overpower most paints but it takes a lot of Transparent White to overpower another paint.
I find using Titanium White works well for Pastel like Impressionist style paintings. Titanium White also works well for the underside of leaves as they are a lighter, chalkier tint of the top colour of the leaf.
I find Transparent White and Grey are great for giving a painting depth through atmospheric Perspective.
Black – The absence of or complete absorption of light.
I do not use any store-bought or single-pigment Blacks. They are just too black for me.They are too difficult to handle and can often look like a hole in your painting. I prefer to mix two different versions of Chromatic Black. Again one is Opaque and the other is Transparent.
The two Chromatic Blacks I use in my paintings are:
- Opaque – Mixture of Liquitex Ultramarine Blue and Raw Umber.
- Transparent – Mixture of Liquitex Alizarin Crimson and Phthalocyanine Green.
For my Opaque Chromatic Black I use Ultramarine Blue which is translucent and Raw Umber which is Opaque. Mixing them together in a 1 to 1 ratio gives me a simple, quick and beautiful, reasonably dark, Opaque Chromatic Black.
For my Transparent Chromatic Black I use Alizarin Crimson and Phthalocyanine (Phthalo) Green. It takes a lot more Alizarin Crimson than Phthalo Green to mix a Chromatic Black so measure out the amount of paint needed with Alizarin Crimson then add small amounts of the Phthalo Green into the mixture until Black is achieved.
Rules of Thumb When Mixing with Black:
- Adding Black to mixed colours generally reduces the chroma more rapidly than the value, drawing the mixture along a curved path rather than a straight line to Black.
- Adding Black to a colour will darken the colour but usually causes a hue shift that warms the colour. Add a touch of the next coolest colour to the mixture to resolve this problem.
If I find I need a very Black Black. I will paint a first application with the Opaque Black, wait for it to dry then paint over it with the Transparent Black. Thus using the rule that a Transparent paint will always darken.
I find I do not often use my Blacks to darken colours. I prefer to use the colours mixing complement to darken with. I do however, mix colours into my blacks to push the Black Warmer or Colder and I do often mix White into my Blacks to produce Greys.
Grey – The partial reflection of all visible rays of light
There are many ways to make Grey. Mixing Black and White is just one of them. Mixing any colour with its true complement will mix to a Chromatic Grey or Black. Mixing Transparent White and Transparent Black together can make wonderful useful Transparent Greys.
Rules of Thumb When Mixing with Grey
- Mixing a Grey with any other paint of the same value usually alters the Hue and Value as well as the expected Saturation.
I use Transparent Greys with touches of other colours for atmospheric perspective. I can create a one-dimensional landscape painting completely ignoring the Atmospheric Perspective and come back later and glaze over it with a transparent Grey, thus creating the Atmospheric Perspective. To push an object farther back I may use a second or third application of the same transparent Grey.
To represent a sunny day I may add a touch of transparent Phthalo Blue to the transparent Grey or for rainy days I may use a touch of Brown. For objects far in the distance I may use a touch of Violet or Ultramarine Blue to the Transparent Grey. For early mornings I may add Yellow or Orange and for late evenings I may add Orange or Red. I find glazing for Atmospheric Perspective far easier that mixing all the required paints up front.
One Last Note:
Mixing combinations of Blacks and Whites, Transparent and Opaque paints together will result in Translucent Whites, Greys and Blacks that are very useful for fog and smoke like effects.
I hope this information will help you with the use of Blacks and Whites in your Landscape paintings.