View Full Version : Transparent vs. opaque colors?

01-25-2007, 07:47 PM
I've noticed while experimenting with my first 2 paintings that some colors are more opaque than others. How do I know which ones are and which ones aren't? The tube doesn't say, so I'm assuming it's just a matter of figuring out which colors do what. Help!

01-25-2007, 08:23 PM
What brand of paints do you have? Liquitex has the Opacity on their lables, but for Golden and some others you have to hunt it down. Golden in particular rates their opacity from 1 to 7, I believe, but for Liquitex it's either opaque, transparent, or translucent.

01-25-2007, 08:38 PM
Some brands are marked and others show. For example almost every jar, tube of Golden on the label has a bar of black and white with a smoosh of color over it showing how transparent, opaque or transluscent a color is. On ocassion the color charts will show this info as well.


The one on the left is opaque and on the right transparent.

01-25-2007, 08:59 PM
Well, I guess the answer is... buy better quality paints! I have the cheap stuff. I don't think it's even student grade. Some of it has a "permanence" rating in *. But that wouldn't have anything to do with the opacity, would it?

01-26-2007, 01:49 AM
Yes, permanence is a separate question from opacity. If you can find a color chart or some sort of literature for your line of paints, it should have a key to explain how many stars means what. Pigments that are rated ASTM I or II are considered to be artists' quality.

Color charts will usually say whether a certain color is transparent or opaque, also.

John H
01-26-2007, 02:06 AM
On a piece of scrap canvas you can paint a black stripe and let it dry.
Then paint a stripe of each of your colors across the black stripe.
This will give you a good idea of transparency/opacity of your colors.
The more transparent the color is, the more you'll be able to see the black stripe through it.
The more opaque the color is, the more it will cover the black stripe.
(This is similar to what Golden has on their tubes; black bars with a color swatch painted over the top).

01-26-2007, 02:46 AM
Well, I guess the answer is... buy better quality paints! I have the cheap stuff. I don't think it's even student grade.

yes use the cheap stuff for underpainting and start replacing them with good quality paints. i've experimented enough with cheap stuff to have noticed that lower quality paints tend to be less opaque, no matter what it says on the tube. now i buy top quality only and golden has become my favourite brand.

01-26-2007, 10:03 AM
Thank you for all the great info. I guess I'll be heading to the art supply store today to stock up on a few quality staple colors. And a color chart!

01-26-2007, 10:22 AM
This discussion is very useful for me. I buy Russian paints and in acrylics all the colours I buy are opaque - except for the yellows and oranges which are always transparent. Then I buy these in Liquitex.

01-26-2007, 10:23 AM
Some brands are marked and others show...The one on the left is opaque and on the right transparent.

Oh yes, I forgot about those little swatches. However, that image shows something curious. If you look at Golden's color chart (http://www.goldenpaints.com/products/color/heavybody/hblightperm.php), Red Oxide has a Opacity rating of 1, and CP Red Medium is rated at 2, from a range that actually goes to 8. From that swatch I'd imagine it to be closer to maybe 5 or such. Transparent red oxide, for example, is an 8. There's a big gap between a 1 and 2 rating.

Charlie's Mum
01-26-2007, 10:51 AM
Also look on the good paints for a little icon displaying the opacity/transparency .... a square - empty, black or half and half :D

However, making your own colour chart as John has suggested above is always a good idea ........ as is a colour mixing chart of your own - it will help you learn the basics of colour mixing quite quickly.

01-26-2007, 11:40 AM
Yes, I definitely need practice mixing colors to match my reference. Sometimes I get close, other times I wonder if someone replaced the 4 bulbs in my ceiling fan to a rainbow of colors! What was I thinking?!?!:p