Here is the sixth installment of my Minute Painting Videos. It’s about how to grind your own lead white.
Hand-ground lead white handles differently than tube paints, much more so than any other color. It’s the only color I still grind myself as I find there are many impasto effects a painter can not achieve with machine-ground lead white. Unfortunately lead white in powder is getting harder and harder to find.
Be very careful in handling lead white. Wear gloves and a mask and work in a space with proper ventilation. Lead white in power is very toxic.
I get asked this a lot, and have strong feelings about it, so I thought I’d quickly put down a couple thoughts.
For portraiture you absolutely have to use lead white (Cremnitz, flake, d’argent etc…). Titanium white kills all the other colors, and lacks the beautiful transparency that almost mimics human flesh that lead has. Every great portrait was painted with lead.
For plein air painting, on the other hand, I think titanium is vastly superior. Keying a sky with lead takes hours, with titanium just minutes. Lead can still be useful for impastos below the horizon (especially if hand-ground), but titanium is really all you need outdoors.
I’d just like to add that anyone who disagrees with me on this is wrong.