Mar 14, 2022

COLOR OF THE MONTH | Bright inspirations from Chinese White

To follow the playful pop of pastel introduced by Periwinkle Blue and the Purple Color Trend for 2022– this month we take inspiration from a soft color instead.

A bright color,  Chinese White. A white with a super small hint of green inside it, that makes it a very special neutral. Interestingly, a new colour trend we spotted a lot at in the last Milan Design Week, in September 2021.


|| Discover more: Milan Design Week 2012 Trend Report  


White Color Trend 2022

About Chinese White




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White Color Trend 2022

History & Facts




Considered to be a non-colour white doesn’t feature on a traditional colour wheel. It is achromatic, in other words it means it has no hue.

White however, can be treated like a colour in itself. While white fully reflects and scatters all visible wavelengths of light, black does the opposite and absorbs all other colours. It was a fundamental colour for the ancient Greeks who saw the world in terms of darkness and light.

The antithesis of black – white is associated with light, purity and goodness.

In ancient Egypt, white was connected to the goddess Isis, with priests and priestesses of the goddess only dressing in white linen, while Romans wore white garments (togas), as a symbol of citizenship. Apparently, the exact shade of white could denote class or position. Someone of higher position would choose brighter shades of white, whereas the average citizen would wear off-white togas. 



Did you know that white was one of the first colours used in art?


Today we may turn to a blank white sheet of paper to draw, however look back 18,000 years ago and Paleoithic artists took to the walls of caves and used calcite or chalk as a background or highlight. Examples of prehistoric cave drawings exist at Lascaux, France and provide us with the earliest example of humans using white pigments

However, the earliest mention of a white pigment that is not plain chalk comes from the Italian artist Cennino Cennini in the 13th century. He used the term Bianco di San Giovanni to describe a white lime pigment. 


Prehistoric Petroglyphs – Rock Art – Akakus (Acacus) Mountains, Sahara, Libya



Another way to make a white was to use lead.


It just happens that Lead White was the only white used in European paintings until the 19th century. At this point it’s poisonous lead content restricted manufacture. However, all along, there was a non-toxic alternative in the form of Zinc Oxide. 

Taking into consideration the toxicity of lead, it is shocking just how much it was used in art paintings and face paints. In ancient Greece people slathered white lead all over their faces. People were willing to die for white skin and it all down to status in society. Field-workers, peasants, labourers and slaves were all likely to have darkened skin from working outdoors in the sun. Whereas white skin indicated that you were a person of leisure, wealth and status.

Winsor & Newton watercolours via


It took until 1780 for artists to seriously look for alternatives to Lead White including Zinc Oxide;  although it was very slowly adapted by artists for oil painting. However it did become popular in watercolour, in 1834 it was marketed by Winsor & Newton as Chinese White, even though it is neither Chinese nor of Chinese origin. By the height of French Impression, Chinese White oil paint was quite popular, although in many applications it was mixed with Lead White.

The most popular period for the use of Chinese White as oil paint was between about 1890 and the 1920’s, when it was replaced by Titanium White


 “Paris Street in Rainy Weather” (1877) by Gustav Caillebotte via

George Morland’s atmospheric Fishermen Pushing a Boat into the Water scene (1793) appears to be one of the first oil paintings to have used Chinese White via.

Another early example of the use of Chinese White. Johann Georg von Dillis’ Triva Castle (1797) via.

Vincent van Gogh, Plain near Auvers (1890) via. Vincent van Gogh used Chinese White in several of his paintings.


Be inspired by Chinese White and the latest color trends on @italianbark.




Be inspired by past White Color Trends


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