Tuesday, February 28, 2017

How Can I Get Whiter Impastos?

After the recent post about painting the Donut Jar, we got a couple questions about highlights.


Peter Drubetskoy said...
So, I've tried this a couple of times and had trouble. Even when the transparent watercolor layer is dry, the top layer of gouache, while looking OK on application, dries to a kind of grey semi-transparent layer - almost never to an opaque white layer, I found that white charcoal pencil works better for me, (but again, the watercolor needs to be dry-dry for it to work)
One caveat is that I use dried gouache that I re-wet, not fresh from the tube. But then if I want to use this technique on the go, I prefer to have dried pans of gouache instead of carrying tubes.
Do you have any advise here?

Fabio Porta said...
I usually have the same issue with gouache, and am virtually unable to lay white gouache on top of darker layers, as it gets too transparent. If I make it thicker, it's harder to lay down, so I guess it should be about finding a good balance?

Peter and Fabio, here are a few tips to get those white highlights whiter:
1. Use titanium instead of zinc white.
2. Use tube paint, not pan colors.
3. If the paint comes out of the tube runny, squeeze it out on absorbent paper first to make it drier.
4. Make sure the surface you're painting over is totally dry.
5. Don't scrub. Just put it down and leave it.
6. Use a thick impasto. For that you may need a stiffer brush.
7. You can push it into the paint to build up the blob of paint on the brush. 

16 comments:

Steven Thor Johanneson said...

Yep ... that's how ya do it, James. A nice and concise explanation. I find it helps to think of Gouache in terms of Oil techniques with thin darks and thick lights. Always find your site interesting.

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James Gurney said...

Hey, Peter Drubetskoy— I think your comment got automatically deleted by Google because of the link in it made it look like spam to the system. Peter says: "Thanks, James! Luckily, I got a Titanium White tube with the super-cheapo Royal & Langnickel set I got on Amazon. I'm going to try it."

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Thanks, James, it looks like the comment went thru but it is on the original post (I submitted it before seeing this one) Thanks so much for the inspiration and advise!

shropshire climbing centre said...

Thanks for this timely post, James- this is exactly the problem I was struggling with earlier today (and on every previous occasion I have used gouache). My question is on getting highlights in off-white or high key colours. I have your "gouache in the wild" video, but I have also been trying smaller sketches using an approximation of Nathan Fowkes' palette, where he uses watercolours and only white gouache.
Do you feel that opacity of non-white highlights is best achieved using mixed gouache colours, or will mixing white with watercolours straight from the tube work as well? Coming from a straight watercolour background, I find I am more familiar with the colours in watercolour form (Burnt Sienna for example seems to differ markedly between the W&N gouache and watercolour versions)
Thanks, Karl

James Gurney said...

Karl, good questions.

There are a couple ways to use the "white gouache tube + watercolor pan" option:
1. Do the painting as much in transparent watercolor as possible and only use the tube white for a few "fixes" at the end. No mixing with the colors.
2. Start transparent, bring in the white where you need a bit more opacity, mixing it with the pans. Then clean the white out of the pans when you get home.
3. Let the white mix in with all the colors.

There's not a whole lot of difference between modern watercolor and gouache and they can be used in conjunction with each other. The downside of using your pan watercolors with white is that once you "foul" the transparent pans with white, it's harder to get back a clean transparent tint. And as you suggested, if you want to play with gouache, the paint that comes out of gouache tubes is inevitably more juicy, rich, saturated, and opaque.

Russ Holt said...

My preference is Schminke white

Matt Dicke said...

I was wondering if there were differences in brands of white as well. I have used the Holbein and W&N percent or titianum white. They both use the same pigment but I find the W&N has better coverage and opacity. Based on Russ' comment I am going to try out Schminke. I have some colors by them and only some as they are very pricey. That said every color I have by them has a very high pigment load and aren't chalky but very vibrant, which I was surprised by. So sometimes you get what you pay for.

Matt Dicke said...

Should be permanent white not percent

Matt Dicke said...

Great response and tips. Thanks Jim

Glenn Tait said...

Karl, the pigments are different in the Winsor Newton watercolour and gouache Burn Sienna. Watercolour is made from PR101 while the gouache is PR101 and PY42.

M. Graham is a brand that uses the same pigment mixtures in both their watercolour and gouache lines. Though I use gouache from the tube I did some tests and the M. Graham gouache rewet quite well, though not to full tube strength.

As an aside M. Graham's Burnt Sienna is made from PBr7, which is why I identify my paints by pigment rather than name because there can be some noticeable differences in similar name colours between companies - as you have seen.

Jared Cullum said...

One thing I picked up from watching Joseph Zbukvic and Alvaro Castagnet is to use it directly out of the tube by holding the tube and putting a little on the brush, kind of like tooth paste. That has worked well for me. They do that with orange or red too sometimes for really strong impasto pops of color, like taillights on a rainy scene.

Chris said...

Love your blog. I've had bad results using white gouache with watercolor for highlights. Recently I found an amazing product called Aqua Cover a white paint made somehow from watercolor paper and comes in various shades of white, geared to the specific watercolor paper one uses. I've tried it and it's wonderful. There are many YouTube videos on how to use it. Oh, and it's ok to use with your good brushes.

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Chris, thanks for the tip on Aqua Cover, I might give it a try. There also something similar (?) I found that might also be of use:
Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleedproof White, 1.0 oz

James Gurney said...

Great discussion. By the way, a few more thoughts:
1. On most surfaces, highlights are never pure white. Generally they're a combination of the color of the light and the color of the surface.
2. Even on chrome objects, solar highlights often look brighter if they've got a touch of yellow.
3. Pure white highlights can "jump out of key" in a picture. If a picture is carefully keyed, say to green or blue, it's often a good idea to keep the highest lights from being all the way to white.
4. What Sargent often did was to paint a thick, juicy pure white gouache highlight, let it dry, and then lightly overpaint it — quickly —with a bit of transparent pure watercolor.

Steven Thor Johanneson said...

I many times use a touch of Naples Yellow (W&N) with Titanium White Watercolour or Gouache, or lightly glaze the Whites with colour ... sometimes both.