How To Lighten Paint Color Without White – Break The Rules

When I first started painting I was under the belief that you always used white to lighten a paint color and black to darken it. That assumption went out the window when I tried to lighten red with a little white and instead of getting light red I got pink. This got me thinking, there must be alternative methods to lighten your oil paint without using white paint. In this article, I will show you some alternatives on how to lighten paint color without white.

How to lighten paint color without white

The best method to lighten paint color without using white is by adding lighter opaque colors, such as yellow or blue over the darker ones, pick hues that are much lighter than the color you want to lighten. For example, if you want to lighten a dark red then add some yellow paint – this will result in an orange color while also making your red less intense.

Yellows I found will give a warmer highlight to the paint while using white gives it a more cooler lightness. Mixing the two will give you a bit of the best of both worlds results.

How to lighten paint color with another color

Also, you can use lighter versions of a color on top of the darker one to lighten it. For example, using Ultramarine blue over Navy blue can bring down the intensity of a darker color without changing its hue too drastically.

Remember to use opaque colors and not translucent ones as translucent colors will just appear as a glaze and not lighten anything.

I actually realized this trick when I was coloring a Ferrari with Cadmium Red and instead of using white to lighten it, I used Cadmium Yellow and Vermillion for the lighter shades. Of course, it also helps to learn to layer colors in the correct order so that you do not need to lighten a color with white in the first place.

To do this, you should learn to color using watercolors as you learn to paint from light to dark where the light or whitest parts are pretty much left unpainted.

You can also use various shades of grays but I think grays are basically a darker white so who are we kidding, if you’re going to use gray then just use white.

If this is a bit beyond your current skill level then there are a few more methods you can follow:

Method 1: Glazing

Glazing is a method of layering thin, translucent coats of paint over an existing layer of paint. This method can be used to create a lighter color without using white pigment. To glaze, you will need to dilute your oil paint with a painting medium, such as linseed oil, and apply it over the existing layer of paint. Repeat the process until you achieve the desired level of lightness.

Works best with oil paints.

Method 2: Scumbling

Scumbling is another technique that can be used to lighten oil paint without using white pigment. This method involves applying a thin, opaque layer of paint over an existing layer of paint. The top layer of paint is then partially removed, revealing the underlying layer of paint. This creates a lighter, more translucent effect.

Works best with oil and acrylic paints.

Method 3: Toning

Toning is a technique used to modify the color of a painting by applying a thin, transparent layer of color over the entire surface of the painting. This can be done by mixing a small amount of color with a painting medium, such as linseed oil or turpentine, and then applying it to the surface of the painting. This method can help to lighten the overall color of the painting without using white pigment.

Works best with oil paints.

Method 4: Thin the paint

Although you can dilute acrylic paint with water, it will lose its viscosity and texture as a result as the water will thin it out to the point that it will also lose any opaqueness.

Also, you cannot add water to oil paints. But you can use paint thinner instead.

Works best with both acrylic (using water) and oils (using a medium or thinner).

Method 5: Using Contrasting Colors

Another way to lighten your oil paint without using white pigment is to use contrasting colors. For example, a dark blue can be lightened by adding a yellow color which will create a green shade. Or, you can mix an orange or pink tone with the blue to get a lighter hue.

You can also wait until the paint is dry and then add the contrasting color or lighter color without having it mix with the coat beneath.

When it comes to working out contrasting colors your best friend is a color wheel. Just pick a color and to find its contrasting color, just refer to the color directly opposite.

Canva has a nice tool to help you how to pick good color combinations, just pick the Complementary option.

how to draw a color wheel

Learning How To Lighten Paint Color Without White – Wrap up!

There are several methods you can use when learning how to lighten oil paint without using white pigment. By using techniques such as glazing, scumbling, toning, and contrasting colors, you can achieve a lighter color while maintaining the natural translucency of the paint.

These methods may require some experimentation to find the right balance, but with a little practice, you can achieve the desired effect. You can also use more than one technique in one painting.

I really hope that this article has been informative and helpful in understanding how to lighten paint color without white, for me it was a game changer. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about oil painting techniques, please feel free to reach out to me via the Contact Us page.

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