A bright, white pigment composed of zinc oxide. Zinc white is permanent, opaque, and nontoxic. It was known as a white compound since the Middle Ages but was rarely used as a pigment until 1834 when zinc oxide was first listed by Winsor and Newton as a watercolor pigment called Chinese white. It quickly became a standard in watercolor paints but the early batches of zinc white were inferior to lead white in oil paints because of poor covering and drying properties. However, by the last quarter of the 19th century zinc white was sufficiently improved and became a widely used alternative to lead white in oil paints (Mayer 1969). The following grades of zinc white were sold:
- white seal: purest (>99% zinc oxide) but poor covering
- green seal: greater than 99% zinc oxide with better covering power
- red seal: slightly less pure, generally used for grounds
- gold seal: similar to red seal
- gray seal: contains some metallic zinc.
See also French process zinc oxide.
Synonyms and Related Terms
zinc oxide; Pigment White 4; CI 77947; Zinkweiss (Deut.); Schneeweiss (Deut.); Pergamentweiss (Deut.); blanc de zinc (Fr.); bianco di zinco (It.); blanco de cinc (Esp.); zincwitt (Ned.); sinkkivalkoinen (Fin.); branco de zinco (Port.); Chinese white; French zinc; absolute white; snow white; philosophers' wool; nil alba; nibil album; nix album; flowers of zinc; snow flowers; Florence zinc oxide; constant white; Hubbocks white
Soluble in acids and alkalis. Insoluble in water and ethanol.
|Molecular Weight||mol. wt. = 81.4|
|Refractive Index||2.02; 2.00|
Hazards and Safety
Noncombustible. Nonpoisonous, but slightly antiseptic. Inhalation or ingestion of dust may cause slight irritation. Zinc oxide fumes from firing may cause metal fume fever. Reacts violently with aluminum and magnesium powders.
Oil paints with zinc oxide may yellow and chalk with UV exposure.
° H. Kuhn, "Zinc White", Artists Pigments, Volume 1, R. Feller (ed.), Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1986. ° R. Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row, New York, 1969.
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- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, at http://www.wikipedia.com Comment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc_white (Accessed Nov. 29, 2005)
- Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
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