Make Your Own Liquid White

What is Liquid White?

At Art Max we have had quite a few people come in asking about magic white or liquid white after seeing it on TV or in a tutorial/lesson and so we have done some research to figure out just what is magic white and whats so special about it. Liquid white is a secret mix from the Bob Ross company which is used in his wet-on-wet oil painting technique. It is used as a base coat on top of the canvas which you then paint into with your colours.

Bob Ross & Bill Alexander

Most people come across magic white after watching a Bob Ross demonstration video or attending a class where they teach his methods. Bob Ross was a student of Bill Alexander who came up with the original magic white.  He furthered the development of magic white and re-branded it as liquid white. It became popular after people saw him using it on his show.

Bob Ross the creator of Liquid White

Bob Ross himself

Bob used the liquid white in his wet-on-wet painting technique to quickly build an oil painting in one session. By applying the liquid white to a fresh canvas you can quickly blend other colours into your white base. The wet base lets your colours blend with the background and creates the nice soft edges typical of Bob’s paintings. You can see some of his work on the official Bob Ross YouTube channel.

How to make your own Liquid White

While the exact formula of liquid white is unknown, we can still make an approximation using just two or three ingredients. If you have used authentic liquid white before then you already have an idea of how it should feel as paint, and how it should come out going on the canvas. The mixture is a little bit trial and error and a little bit your own intuition.

  • Start with a blob of Titanium White oil paint then add a few drops of Linseed Oil, mixing well. You want enough liquid white to give the canvas a nice smooth coat.
  • Add Linseed Oil until your mixture is 75:25 paint:oil and have a feel.
  • You can increase the oil up to 50:50 paint:oil ratio or until you feel it is the right consistency.
  • If you are new to Liquid White, start with 75:25 paint to oil and see how you go.
  • Add more oil to your mix if your painting is not blending as much as you want.
  • Try adding some artists turpentine or odourless solvent to your mixture. This will speed up the drying time.
  • Oil paints already have linseed oil (or some other oil) in them. Different brands have different amounts of oil in the paint so you will likely need to experiment to get the mixture right for you.

When your liquid white mixture is ready paint it over the canvas in a smooth, even layer. Now you are ready to start painting. Liquid White was developed for the Bob Ross wet-on-wet method so watch a few of his videos and try to follow along. You’ll be painting like a pro in no time.

Liquid Clear and Liquid Black

For liquid black use the same method as above with Lamp Black oil paint for a black-black, or Ivory Black for a brown-black. For Liquid clear try using just a thin layer of Linseed Oil or try Spectrum clear – a clear oil paint from Art Spectrum. If you plan on using any colours as a liquid base coat, keep in mind that the colour will be mixing in as you paint over it and plan accordingly.