Stack Flake White (Dutch Method) Pigment

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The most important of all the white pigments—basic lead carbonate. Our white lead or flake white is made in small quantities according to the 16th century Dutch method. The pigment is available as chunks that easily disperse in oil or water. LIMIT 3 PER CUSTOMER. Learn More.

Rublev Colours Stack Process Flake White is made in small amounts according to the sixteenth-century Dutch method, differing little from the "stack" process of history. It is the basic carbonate of lead and usually contains about 70% of lead carbonate and 30% of lead hydroxide. This grade of white lead is composed of the actual flakes that fall off the corroded lead sheets and the white lead that is mechanically removed. It is washed and ground-ready for use by the artist.

Stack process white lead is ground to about the same granularity typically found in old masters' paintings. This pigment is available as a powder but in chunks. The small chunks are easily broken and ground in the paint vehicle or in water. We recommend first crushing the chunks in a mortar with a pestle, adding a small amount of vehicle to reduce dust, and then scrape the mixture onto a flat surface to grind further with a muller.

For more information on how Natural Pigments makes stack process flake white, how it was made throughout history, and how it differs from modern lead white, please read Stack Process White Lead: Historical Method of Manufacture. Another article, Notes About Stack Process Lead White, discusses differences between modern lead white and our production of stack process flake white pigment. A third article, Variations of Stack Flake White, examines the properties of larger particle size stack process flake white have in oil paint.

Are you confused about the difference between flake white and Cremnitz white? The article Flake White and Cremnitz White explains the origins of these names and resolves the confusion.

For a complete description of white pigments used in artists' paints, please read the article titled White Pigments.

Pigment Names
Common Names:English: lead white (white lead)
French: blanc de plomb
German: Bleiweiss
Italian: bianco (biacca) di plombo
Spanish: plomo blanca
Synonyms:Basic white lead, Berlin white, bis[carbonato (2-)] dihydroxytrilead, Bleiweiss, cerrussa, cerusa, ceruse, cerussa, Cremnitz white, Crems white, dibasic lead carbonate, flake lead, flake white, Kremnitz white, Krems white, lead carbonate, lead carbonate hydroxide, lead subcarbonate, Nottingham white, pigment white, silver white, slate white, Vienna white, white lead

Origin and History

Lead white is the most important of all lead pigments. Not overlooking special uses of lime white in wall painting, it is safe to say that, historically, it is the most important of all white pigments. It was the only white pigment used in European easel painting until the nineteenth century. It has been produced since early historical times. Theophrastus, Pliny, and Vitruvius all described its preparation from metallic lead and vinegar. It is one of the oldest synthetically produced pigments.

It is the most opaque white pigment known (possibly with the exception of lithopone) when considered volumetrically, and, if we take into consideration the thickness of the paint film, it is equal in hiding power to most other white pigments, by weight.


There are numerous methods for making lead white. Our lead white is made in relatively small amounts according to the sixteenth-century Dutch method, differing little to the "stack" process of history. The method for the "stack" process is: Metallic lead in the form of strips is exposed for about three months in earthenware pots, which have a separate compartment in the bottom containing a weak solution of acetic acid (vinegar). The pots are stacked in tiers over a layer of horse manure in a shed. After the shed is closed, the combined action of the acetic acid vapors, heat, and carbon dioxide from the fermenting manure, carbon dioxide in the air, and water vapor slowly transforms the lead to basic lead carbonate. Our lead white is made according to this manner in a carefully controlled environment to duplicate the method used by the Dutch and ensure the purity of the pigment. It is thoroughly washed to remove impurities and ground. Rublev Colours Stack Process Flake White is a warm white of crystalline particles that vary greatly in size than the finely-divided modern lead white available today.

Permanence and Compatibility

Despite lead white being a carbonate, and hence sensitive to acids, it has an excellent record for permanence. It is unaffected by light. When applied in the watercolor technique, however, traces of hydrogen sulfide in the air may cause it to turn black. Although lead white is theoretically incompatible with sulfide pigments and should form black lead sulfide in contact with them, no examples are readily known. There might be some doubt, however, about mixing orpiment and realgar with lead white, although some identified cases show no discoloration.

Lead white is soluble in some acids and alkalies as carbonate and hydroxide. It is practically insoluble in alcohol, water, ammonia, alkali carbonate solutions, oils, turpentine, etc.

Oil Absorption and Grinding

A special feature of lead white is its low oil absorption rate. According to some, it requires only 8 to 15 grams of oil to make a workable paste with 100 grams of lead white. Dutch stack lead white requires even less oil to make a stiff paste than modern lead whites. It can be used with aqueous media, such as egg tempera, gum arabic (watercolor), and animal collagen glue. It can also be used in the encaustic (wax) technique but does not appear to perform well in true (buon) fresco technique.

Note: Please be aware that the mass (grams) of pigments do not directly correlate to the volume (milliliters) of oil paint made with the pigment in oil. The density of the pigment determines the volume amount made when mixing with linseed oil.

The specific gravity of lead white (basic lead carbonate) ranges from 6.320 to 6.755; modern lead white being the lowest specific gravity, and stack process or “Dutch method” the highest. The average specific gravity or density of lead white is about 6.471, consequently, a liter of compacted pigment will weigh 647.1 kilograms, or a cubic foot of compacted material, considered as a solid, will weigh 403.65 pounds (approximately 403.5 lbs.).

Lead white can be ground in as little as 8 percent of linseed oil, a standard formula being 11.6125 kilograms of dry pigment to one liter (0.929 kilograms) of raw linseed oil, or 92.25 lbs. of dry pigment to a gallon (7.75 lbs.) of raw linseed oil.

The thickness or density of the paste, as well as the volume or bulk, will depend upon the kind of lead white; modern lead white producing a thicker and more bulky paste than the higher density “Dutch Method” lead white. The “bulk” or “volume” of any pigment in water or oil, is obtained by multiplying the specific gravity of the pigment by the weight per liter of water (1 kilogram). or raw linseed oil (0.929 kilograms). Measured in the U.S. customary system, it is multiplied by the weight per gallon of water (8.337 lbs.) or raw linseed oil (7.75 lb.).

Average Bulking ValuePounds Per GallonGallons Per Pound
Lead white (basic lead carbonate)55.640.0177

If a mixture of 92.25 lbs. of dry pigment is made with lead white having a specific gravity of 6.471, the bulk volume in oil would be 60.15 lbs. per gallon, and the following statement shows the method of calculating the bulk and weight per gallon of paint produced with such a mixture:

  92.25 lbs. Dry Lead White (6.471 sp. gr.)Bulks to1.84 gallons
    7.75 lbs. (1 gallon) Raw Linseed Oil (0.930 sp. gr.)Bulks to1.00 gallons
100.00 lbs. PasteTotal Bulk or Volume2.84 gallons


Lead white is toxic if inhaled as dust or if ingested. Grinding and making the pigment into paint is hazardous and the sale of lead compounds in several countries has been prohibited. Painters may suffer from "painters' colic" or "plumbism" if they are careless in using it. Extreme care should be used in handling the dry powder pigment so as not to inhale the dust. Do not smoke, eat or drink while using the pigment in any form, including in a paint binder.

Rublev Colours Pigment: Stack Process Lead White (Old Dutch Method)

Pigment Information
Colour Index:Pigment White 1
Chemical Name:Basic Lead Carbonate
Chemical Formula:2PbCO3 Pb(OH)2
CAS No.1319-46-6
Molecular Weight:775.60
ASTM Lightfastness Rating
Watercolor:Not Rated
Specific Gravity:6.320–6.755
Refractive Index:nα=1.803 nβ=2.074 nγ=2.076

Health Label

DANGER! CONTAINS LEAD. HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED. Avoid ingestion and skin contact. Wear protective clothing and gloves to prevent contact with skin. Never use near children or pets. Conforms to ASTM D 4236.

Must be used exclusively as material for the purposes of arts, crafts or hobbies, not for use by children. Utiliser uniquement aux fins suivantes comme matériaux pour les besoins d'art, d'artisanat ou passe-temps, pas pour une utilisation par les enfants.

More Information
BrandRublev Colours
VendorNatural Pigments
Processing TimeUsually ships the next business day.
Pigment TypeHistorical, Synthetic

California Proposition 65: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Hazard Pictograms

Exclamation MarkHealth HazardEnvironment
GHS07: Exclamation MarkGHS08: Health HazardGHS09: Environment

Signal Word: Danger

Hazard Designation

H302 Harmful if swallowed.

H332 Harmful if inhaled.

H360 May damage fertility or the unborn child.

H373 May cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure.

H410 Very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects.

Safety Designation

P260 Do not breathe dust/fume/gas/mist/vapours/spray.

P261 Avoid breathing dust/ fume/ gas/ mist/ vapors/ spray.

P280 Wear protective gloves/ clothing/ eye/ face protection.

P281 Use personal protective equipment as required.

P405 Store locked up.

P501 Dispose of contents/ container according to regional, national and international regulations.

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Stack Flake White (Dutch Method) Pigment
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