What is Liquid White for Oil Painting | You Should Know about It

If you are a fan of Bob Ross, you must have heard about the “Liquid White” used for oil painting.

As per the renowned artist, this liquid is an integral part of the painting process. It is essential if you are indulging in a wet-on-wet painting style using oil paint. 

Oil painting is an art, and with the right tools and techniques by your side, you can create some unique masterpieces.

So, if you just brought some oil paint and a canvas, you need to know all about the add-ons you can use. Liquid White is one such add-on that can make your painting glamorous. Let us check out more about it!

What is Liquid White for Oil Painting

What is Liquid White? 

Liquid white is usually a foundation coat for oil painting. Using this liquid helps prolong your color’s drying time. In simple words, it allows you a scope to work for days while the canvas is wet. Having access to wet canvas colors is crucial when using the traditional wet-on-wet method. It helps in a proper blending of colors in the canvas itself. 

For an experienced artist, Liquid White can be as good as something magic painted onto the canvas. However, the only downside to it is the cost factor associated with each purchase. Under the Bob Ross brand, this fluid is known as Liquid White.

However, it is also known as Magic White/Fluid White which another brand manufactures. 

Truth be told, they are both the same, with the only difference being the brand. This liquid has a cream-like texture as compared to the buttery texture of tube paint. With this texture, it is easier to apply & mix layers of paint both off and on the painting surface. 

On the other hand, liquid clear when compared to liquid white is a tad different. While liquid clear is a bit on the transparent side, the latter has a white shade throughout. However, the application pattern for both is the same. Most painters apply liquid clear sparingly as it is often combined with a layer of acrylic or gesso underpainting. 

Liquid white can be used all by itself as a base. However, in certain painting techniques, oil painters use a combination of white and clear.

Benefits of Using Liquid White for Oil Painting

Liquid white is mostly used for oil paint-based wet canvas painting techniques. So let us check out the benefits of using Liquid White as a medium for oil paints. 

Creates a Look Similar to Water-Color

If you have hands-on experience with oil paint but strive to achieve the look of watercolor, Liquid White would be of great help. It serves as a medium that is applied on the canvas to help the painting develop quickly and with efficiency. 

The wet-on-wet method of painting technique helps the artists achieve a beautiful look that is reminiscent of classic watercolor paintings. 

Requires Less Amount of Colors

Given that the colors are worked on a medium as opposed to plain canvas, you would require less oil paint to create a gorgeous painting. The paint goes into a proper painting surface very fast while staying loose to be worked around properly before it dries out. It is way different than the process seen with regular oil colors that are painted on any dry canvas. 

Helps Modify the Pigmentation

When you use Liquid White on your painting, it helps lighten or mute the color pigments during the application process. For example, a red-colored oil paint might look less vibrant, depending on the tint; it might also lean towards a slight pink color. 

This helps you achieve a natural gradient, such as painting a sky with a horizon with a less vibrant blue hue. Most artists find it difficult to achieve subtle gradation when using oil paint. Given that it is a thick textured paint using Liquid White makes the mixing of colors easy. 

Use as Highlighting

Apart from being used as underpainting, you can mix the Liquid White with the paint on your palette. It can also be applied as a canvas highlight for certain parts of the painting.

Some Essential Tips for Using Liquid White

Essential Tips for Using

Slow is the key

The best thing about using Liquid White is that it helps slow down the drying out of oil paint. So, you get enough time to paint your portrait or even rectify your mistakes with ease. You can take your time and go slow.

While an intricate painting would take Bob Ross mere 30 minutes, you cannot expect to achieve a similar feat. With time, sure, you might come close. However, if you are a beginner, it is necessary to go slow. You can take as long as 90 minutes, and if you are a bit experienced, 60 minutes works just as well

Paint your Liquid White Thicker

With any kind of painting, there is a general rule that you need to follow. Always remember that thin paint sticks to thicker one and not vice-versa.

So, if you paint a thicker coating of Liquid White on the canvas, the colors that have a thinner consistency will stick on it properly. If you feel that the colors aren’t staying well on a proper painting surface, you can add some Linseed oil to the palette and make the paint thinner. 

Use Artist-Grade Paint with Liquid White

Liquid White normally tends to soften the colors. For example, if it is ultramarine blue, it would turn pale, soft blue color which is easier to blend on the canvas.

However, if you happen to use student-grade oil paint, it can dull down the colors a lot. On the other hand, using artist-grade paint ensures that the true pigment is retained when painted on the canvas with a Liquid White undercoat. Therefore, painting with student-grade oil paint might make it look dull if you use Liquid White. 

Learn more about- How to Make Oil Painting Look Glossy

Keep in Mind the Drying Pattern

Another factor you need to keep in mind is that your Liquid White shouldn’t be thin as compared to the paint.

As mentioned earlier, thicker paints should always be below the thinner level. This affects the way your color dries out. If your Liquid White is thinner as compared to the color, the top coating with dry out faster as compared to the base layer. This will lead to the cracking of the topcoat. 

Liquid White isn’t the same as Gesso

Several new artists get confused between Liquid White & Gesso. While Liquid White can be used with oil paint, Gesso doesn’t go well with oil paint due to its acrylic base. In addition, the gesso has to be dried out completely before placing any type of medium or oil paint on top.

How to Make Your Own Liquid White?

If you are a beginner artist, investing in Liquid White might seem a bit out of the budget. So, if you are wondering whether Liquid White can be created at home, the answer is “Yes.” 

The ingredients used and the process involved is very simple. But, more than the ingredients, the trick is to get the consistency right. Magic White or Liquid White features a cream-like consistency that ensures the perfect blending of oil-based colors.

In addition, it cuts down the time required for painting as the blending can happen directly on your canvas and not the palette. 

To prepare your own Liquid White, you need to get Titanium White paint and Linseed oil. Here is the hard part where you need to mix the two slowly and achieve the right consistency, which is cream-like.

As per professional artists, you need to mix linseed oil & Turpenoid in equal parts to create a homogenous, cream-like mixture. Through the years, the recipe has changed vastly depending on the artist’s preferences. When creating your very own Liquid White, make sure you note down the formula.

This will help you recreate it later on. If you don’t want to go that extra mile, here is a video you can check out to get that exact formula and understand the right way to create Liquid White at home.

Is There Any Alternative to Liquid White?

As mentioned above, you can create your very own version of famous Liquid White using Linseed oil and titanium white. However, if you don’t want to do that, you can also use a layer of Gesso to get the job done.

First prime your canvas using light gray-colored gesso and landscape brush. You can mix your very own gray gesso using the combination of liquid black + white oil paint. 

Basically, the key is to get a color that is a bit darker in comparison to white pigment. Next, apply a thin film of linseed oil (boiled) once the gesso has dried completely. This is to get the painting surface ready for the wet-on-wet painting method.

While your canvas is wet, you need to apply a lean layer of titanium white color. The right to check if the titanium white amount used is enough is to opt for the fingerprint testing method. Gently press your finger on the painting surface and check whether your fingerprint details are perfectly visible. If so, it is perfect.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What Can I Use Instead of Liquid White?

As described in the article, you can use linseed oil and titanium white to a cream-like consistency. Your Liquid White alternative should have peaks that form when you mix them in equal parts. 

Q: Is Gesso the Same as Liquid White?

Liquid White isn’t the same as gesso. For example, gesso might not mix well with oil paints as they have an acrylic foundation and are mostly applicable for acrylic painting.

Moreover, if you do use gesso for oil painting sessions, you need to dry it out completely before applying any oil paint/medium over it. 

Q: How Do You Use Liquid White for Oil Painting?

Liquid White is used mostly as an under paint or base for your oil painting. Apart from that, you can also use it to blend specific colors on your palette to create a lighter and smoother texture for features that are to be added to the backdrop. 

Q: How Do You Use Bob Ross Liquid White?

When using Bob Ross Liquid White, it is important that you apply it evenly throughout the canvas. On the other hand, if you just want it as a base and not for the wet-on-wet technique, you need to let it dry for a minimum of 24 hours. This will give you access to a smooth white background for painting. 

Final Thoughts

For someone new to the wet-on-wet technique, Liquid White can be a great asset to ease your painting experience. It doesn’t just allow you more time to work with the colors but also helps you mix it smoother.

Remember to keep the Liquid White coat thicker than the colors you would use on top to avoid any cracking issues. And most of all, have fun working with your oil paint palette!

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Maria Tanish

Hello World! Tanish here, a student of Fine Arts. Drawing was my passion from an early age but I also love to do some DIY projects to spend my leisure. Even I work as a writer, to share my knowledge about the ins and outs of drawing and the art industry itself. As an artist, I always wanna share my experiences with you all.

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