The Mysterious Disappearance of Flake White
Why Can’t I Find Flake White?
Flake white is getting increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain in the art supplies world, so we thought we would explain to our customers why.
The short and simple answer is that Flake White is made based on a lead white pigment. Due to the toxicity of lead many companies have decided to stop producing the paint. However in the UK and the EU lead white pigment is not actually illegal in ARTISTS paint as long as it is packaged in child proof containers, however it is illegal in other products. The relatively low amounts required by this portion of industry has led to a decline in production of the pigment in general. This means it is more difficult for companies producing the paint to obtain lead white and also more expensive, leading many to stop production altogether as the product becomes financially inviable. The companies which do continue to produce it raise their prices as production cost increases.
The alternatives available for artists who want flake white are fairly limited. Zinc white and Titanium white have virtually replaced flake white in many paint ranges but both of these paints have fundamental differences. Titanium white has a higher opacity and tinting strength which means it can overpower tints more easily than flake white. Some artists also complain about its chalkiness when compared to flake white. Zinc white is less opaque than either flake white or titanium white and is weaker in tinting strength.
Companies like Windsor and Newton also produce substitutes such as flake white hue. This is not a genuine flake white but an equivalent such as cadmium red hue. However given the rising costs of lead white and the difficulty in obtaining in it many artists will have to consider making the switch to one of these options sooner rather than later.