Lithopone is an artificial, non-toxic white pigment consisting of barium sulphate (Baryt, BaSO4) and zinc sulphide (ZnS). It is produced in a special manufacturing process in which both
components are precipitated in one process.
Depending on the zinc sulphide content, different types of lithopones are distinguished.
As the zinc sulphide content increases, so does its brightness. Lithopone is also known as Charlton white, Chinese permanent white, enamel white, sulphur zinc white or sulphide white.
Lithopone at Amazon (Please click on picture)
Lithopone was discovered in the first half of the 18th century. It is still used today for primers, paints and fillers. It can also be found as a pigment in pastels, oil paints and plastic dispersions. It is a well light-resistant pigment, compatible with all pigments and binders and also non-toxic.
Lithopone + binder (glue water) gives a very good primer.
1. We take gelatine powder or leaf gelatine (edible gelatine) and mix it with a thin liquid aqueous solution.
Wallpaperpaste (methyl cellulose) can also be used to produce glue water.
2. Now stir the lithopone powder into the glue water.
3. Spread this white primer on the tensioned paper with a sponge, paint roller or flat brush. If we use a brush crosswise, if we use the
sponge in circular movements. Please apply several thin coats rather than once too thickly! In the past, glue water was usually
produced from rabbit glue (skin glue). Skin glue is a glutinous glue. The starting material glutin is found on animal skins. In its
purified form it is used today as edible gelatine.
Other sources also report the use of gum water (gum arabic in aqueous solution) as a binder for primer pigments. Gum arabic is also available in powder form, which can be dissolved in warm water.
The white primer can also be tinted with paint powder. This can then be used to produce a true Carta Tinta, a drawing paper tinted in colour (often grey), by coating the paper with the coloured
primer. This Carta Tinta was very popular with Renaissance artists.
The coloured tone paper available on the market is unfortunately useless for silverpoints.
Instructions for use rabbit glue:
If you want to use the old masters' rabbit glue for the production of the glue water, here is a manual:
1. Fill a glass half full with the rabbit glue. Then pour water into the glass until it is full. Height of the upper edge of the granulate.
Allow to soak overnight.
2. Heat a pot of water on the hob and put the softened glue in it and occasionally stir with a wooden stick. After only a few minutes you
will have a ready-to-use glue, which can be further diluted with water as desired.
3. Do a few experiments and you will soon have the glue consistency you need for your work. The glue should
I can't cook. If it cooks, it can become unusable.
If we need additional rabbit glue in the following days, we refill our glue glass with glue granulate, add water and let the whole thing soak again overnight. So we can repeat the process over and over again. In between, close the glue glass with a lid.
Lithopone priming is the first choice for silverpoint drawings today.
Cheap opaque white from the tube is diluted in water and applied thinly crosswise with a sponge. Opaque white often contains lithopone in varying proportions.
Zinc white gouache:
Zinc white from the tube (also zinc white acrylic or watercolour paint), contains zinc sulphite. The whole thing is diluted in water as with opaque white.
Gypsum primer: gypsum + binder (glue water)
Fine gypsum (= calcium sulphate) from the hardware store, mixed with glue water as a binding agent.
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