Color Spotlight: Buff Titanium (PW6:1)

Daniel Smith – Buff Titanium

This Daniel Smith-specific color is a warm, semi-opaque, granulating light tan that turns other colors into gentle pastels. Derived from the Titanium White pigment PW6, this is a soft dove color that looks at home in landscapes.

Experiment Results

Gradient: Grades evenly but has a limited range of values. In dilute it’s basically invisible. In masstone it is still a light tan.

Granulation: Granulating.

Opacity: Semi-opaque.

Glazing: Glazes to still quite a light color (pale warm gray-tan).

Comparison to Other Brands

Letter Sparrow – Buff Gouache

Letter Sparrow – Buff Gouache (PW6:1)

Being gouache, this is more opaque, it also appears to have slightly higher tinting strength. It’s non-granulating.

Letter Sparrow Buff Gouache vs. DS Buff Titanium

Color Mixes

Like a white, this makes colors pastel, but it’s a gentler and less opaque pastel than a flat white. The mixes are gently granulating. Buff Titanium tends to have a smoothing effect on very granulating colors, make them a bit more uniform, and a granulating effect on smooth colors, making them a bit more textured.


DS Buff Titanium (PW6:1) + DS Goethite (PY43) on Stilman & Birn Alpha

Jane Blundell swears by this mix for sandy beaches and sandstone.

Monte Amiata Natural Sienna

DS Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7) + Buff Titanium (PW6:1) on Stilman & Birn Alpha

I thought this might be a competitor to Goethite, but MANS creates a less granulating mix with more definitively yellow-toned pastels. Not a great sand option really.

Van Dyke Brown

DS Van Dyke Brown (PBr7) + DS Buff Titanium (PW6:1) on Stilman & Birn Beta

I love-hate this mix; the granulation is really nice, especially when the VDB floats above the BT, but the overall effect looks extremely chalky to me.

Transparent Red Oxide

DS Transparent Red Oxide (PR101) + DS Buff Titanium (PW6:1) on Stilman & Birn Alpha

I’m shocked by how smooth some of these look; plain TRO (at least the DS version) is quite granulating but most of these mixes look like very smooth peachy tones.

Quin Burnt Orange

DS Quin Burnt Orange (PO48) + DS Buff Titanium (PW6:1) on Stilman & Birn Beta

QBO is very similar to TRO except that it’s more orange and gets less dark, so it’s no surprise that the Buff Titanium mixes are more orange and get less dark. QBO also seems to hold its granulation more, appearing as speckles in the mix rather than smoothing as TRO does. This is a better mix for orangey sandstone compared to the TRO.

Quin Rose

DV Red Rose Deep (PV19) + DS Buff Titanium (PW6:1) on Stilman & Birn Beta

My favorite of these mixes is the one that’s almost entirely pasty Buff Titanium which actually creates a sort of Potter’s Pink hue. I didn’t think you could do that with PV19 rose. The pale diluted version is a pretty pastel peach.

Potter’s Pink

MaimeriBlu Potter’s Pink (PR233) + DS Buff Titanium (PW6:1) on Stilman & Birn Beta

Potter’s Pink has granulation strong enough to stand up to any mix, and in none of these did it ever “smooth out.” The mostly-BT mix looks like a reasonable sand/sandstone to me, though the more PP-tilted ones are too pink.

Indanthrone Blue

DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) + DS Buff Titanium (PW6:1) on Stilman & Birn Alpha

BT brings out the subtle granulation in IB, which is listed as “non-granulating”. I could see these warm, light blue mixes being used for a cloudy sky – the kind where the clouds are really heavy. Might be too warm/yellowish though. There is a slight greenish tone to the mixes that are more tilted toward BT.

Ultramarine Blue

HO Ultramarine Deep (PB29) + DS Buff Titanium (PW6:1) on Stilman & Birn Alpha

Very similar to the IB mixes, especially the ones with more BT. I thought these might be more wildly granulating because, on its own, Ultramarine Deep is a lot more granulating than Indanthrone Blue, but the BT appears to be “smoothing” the Ultramarine Blue.

Cobalt Turquoise

SH Cobalt Turquoise (PG50) + DS Buff Titanium (PW6:1) on Stilman & Birn Beta

This is my favorite mix. The yellow tone of the Buff Titanium is subtle, but it’s enough to make the Cobalt Turquoise greener, and the resulting granulating mix looks to me like the warm aqua-colored lichen I see on trees here in the northeast US.


WN Viridian (PG18) + DS Buff Titanium (PW6:1) on Stilman & Birn Alpha

The BT neutralizes and warms the green a bit creating a naturalistic granulating, light tan-green color that also looks like it could be useful for lichen or algae.

What Others Say

The granulating nature of this ecru colour adds a wonderful dimension to a number of watercolour mixes and creates pastel colours otherwise not possible. I especially like it for skin tones, and for the lovely sandy beach and sandstone rock effects it creates with Goethite. … I use it alone for some light marble textures but more often I mix it to create sandstone or other textures. It’s terrific for [u]rban sketching but also perfect for flowers such as Proteas. For mushrooms you only need [B]uff Titanium and Raw Umber.

Jane Blundell

One of my favorite colors to paint lighter areas of brown birds.

John Muir Laws

Buff Titanium: of the colors on this list [of colors used in the desert,] I used this one the least, but I wanted to include it because it is quite fun to experiment with. More opaque than most watercolors but not as opaque as white gouache, it occupies a neat middle ground that allows it to change the appearance of other colors in high concentrations, while in low concentrations or when used wet-in-wet it behaves more like normal watercolors. It is a nice base color for sandstone, too, albeit a tiny bit bland. 

Claire Giordano, Fall in the Southwest: Favorite Colors

My Overall Review

One thing I didn’t appreciate about this color before I tried it is that it is white – I mean, it’s a granulating, off-white color, but the pigment is a variant of Titanium White (PW6), and so, in behavior, it is a lot like mixing with white. Like Titanium White, it creates chalky opaque pastel mixes. Sometimes, that’s what you want, especially for creating “heavy” effects like stormclouds, rocks, and so on. You should not expect luminosity; for luminous pastels, your best bet is to dilute your colors with plain water.

With that caveat in place, there’s a lot to say for this color. The granulating, warm pastel mixes look more natural and earthy than pastels with plain white. You can get some unique effects that are perfect for highly specific natural occurrences. Primarily, it makes wonderful sand.

Beach from overhead with the Summer Palette, on Fabriano Artistico CP Extra White 140lb/300gsm. Sand is made from Letter Sparrow Buff Goauche, plus a gray-brown made from Da Vinci Burnt Sienna Deep and Holbein Ultramarine Deep.

For me, personally, I think this is too much of a niche color. The situations where it would be perfect don’t come up that often, and in the meantime, when I have Buff Titanium on my palette, I am tempted to use it in situations that it doesn’t belong. There is no regret like when you try to lighten an almost-perfect tree bark brown with a bit of Buff Titanium and end up turning it into a chalky, grayish mess.

I think this is an example where, instead of finding “the perfect” sand color or “the perfect” lichen color, I’d rather figure out how to make these effects from combinations of more versatile colors on my palette (e.g. lichen with Cobalt Turquoise and MANS, or light-colored brown shadows with diluted Van Dyke Brown).

However, it’s a useful take-along if you’re going to the beach and plan to paint a lot of sand.

On my palette? Summer Palette only.

Favorite version: I suppose the granulation of DS is more useful than the LS gouache, although that’s the one I’m using for now. I have not tried the main competitors for this color, which include Roman Szmal Buff Titanium, a new Da Vinci Titan Buff, and American Journey (a DIY-able mix of PW6 white and PBr7 brown, which I would not predict to have the same unique qualities as the DS Buff Titanium).

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