Titanium white is a highly durable, all purpose white paint, favored for its opacity, brilliant whiteness and brightness. The primary pigment used in it is titanium dioxide, which, in its pure form, reflects 97.2% of all available light. Titanium dioxide is used in numerous applications, both industrial and artistic.
The name titanium comes from the Latin word Titan, which is from the Greek Tito, meaning "day" or "sun". Titanium white is a non-toxic, chemically stable substance made from the minerals anatase and rutile. The pigment that provides the color, titanium dioxide, was first discovered in 1821, although the modern technology needed to mass produce it was not available until 1916. In 1916, both the Titanium Pigment Corporation of Niagara Falls, New York and the Titan Company AS of Norway began mass production of the pigment. In 1921, an American manufacturer first introduced an oil paint with this pigment that was suitable for artistic use.
Titanium white’s masstone, while neither warm nor cool, lies between lead white and zinc white. It has superior tinting strength to both lead and zinc whites, which means that it takes a lot of color to tint it. The paint tends to have a slower drying time than lead white, but dries faster than zinc white.
Unless titanium white is mixed with the correct pigments, it leaves a spongy film once dry. For this reason, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are often blended to achieve a better finish. This mixture is often called titanium-zinc white.
Titanium dioxide, as a pigment, gives the paint the opaqueness that is desired by artists. Its excellent covering power makes it popular for artists to create layers of opaque white. Another benefit is that it is less prone to yellowing than other white pigments. Artists favor it because it is good for direct painting, rather than tinting. When using this paint, artists are advised to not use too much of it, because it has a tendency to overpower other colors.
A good quality titanium white for use in artwork can be pricey. Cheaper brands use less titanium dioxide pigment and add less expensive inert pigments and vehicles. A vehicle is the oil that is used to give the paint its desired consistency. Linseed and poppy oil are commonly used as vehicles in this type of paint.
Besides titanium white, titanium dioxide is used to “color” an endless line of products. It is found in correction fluid, toothpaste, road-marking paints, white fireworks, coatings, plastics, inks, sunblock and tattoo pigments.