Acrylic Paints: Opaque vs. Translucent/Transparent

I’ve been asked what the difference is between transparant and opaque paints and how you apply them to the canvas to get a variety of effects. It is also challenging to tell if a paint is opaque or if it is transparent (translucent) by just looking at the paint on your palette.

I have used Titanium White vs. Zinc White to illustrate the difference in opaque and translucent Acrylic Paints in the picture above. Titanium white is an opaque paint and zinc white is a translucent paint. A good way to think of this is opaque paint is not see through and translucent/transparent paint is see through. In the photo you can see the blue paint peeking through underneath the zinc white, but the titanium white hides all of the blue paint underneath it.

I also painted in with gesso to show how it is in between transparent and opaque. This is why I always paint two to three coats of gesso when preparing a painting surface.

Definitions of the two pigments or paints:

Translucent/Transparent Paint: When an object is dyed to be translucent, it allows more light to pass through, reflecting off the objects behind the surface and allowing them to reflect their own color wavelengths, increasing their visibility. When applying translucent paint over the top of another color of paint, it allows the lower color to show through creating an “mixed” color of the two different colors.

Opaque Paint: A paint color is said to be opaque when it hides what’s underneath it. When you can’t see any or very little of what’s painted beneath the color, it is an opaque paint. If you can see a color that is underneath, then that paint is just the opposite of opaque, it is transparent.

Semi Transparent and Semi Opaque Paints: And just to confuse all of us, there are also may paints that are in between. They are classified as semi transparent (more transparent than opaque) and semi opaque (more opaque than transparent.)

I made a list of the transparent and opaque paints I use regularly as a reference sheet in my studio. I have shared it below. These are my personal favorite colors I use the most, there are many other colors created by paint manufacturers. I use Grumbacher, Golden and Liquitex acrylics.

Transluscent/Transparent Paints (includes semi transparant)

Zinc white, alizarin crimson, dioxazine blue, ultramarine, pthalo blue, Prussian blue, viridian green, terre verte, sap green, burnt sienna, raw sienna, raw umber. Even though raw unber is on this list, I think it covers really well.

Opaque Paints (includes semi opaque)

the cadmium’s: yellow, red, orange. Lemon yellow, yellow ochre, burnt umber, Vandyke brown, Paynes grey, ivory black, cerulean blue, cobalt blue, chromium green, Indian red, and titanium white.

I have found that using semi opaque or semi transparent paints in my painting process is the best way to get familiar with how transparent/opaque they appear.

Color Mixing

Mixing a transparent paint with an opaque paint can make it more opaque. As an example, I mix sap green which is semi-transparent with a tiny bit of cadmium yellow and it covers more like an opaque paint.

Some brands of paint have begun using a chart from 1 to 8 to determine the opaqueness of each paint. Most paints have a transparancy/opaque reference on the tube, but if you don’t see it, refer to their website for that and more information about each type of paint.

Water Based Mediums

There are also all types of water based add ins and Mediums that can change the density of your acrylic paints, too. But that’s a huge topic for later!

Let me know if you find this helpful!

Have a wonderful, creative, day filled with joy! -Janell

P.S. Yes, I am back to blogging after taking a couple of years off. I so enjoy talking about art and painting and sharing my processes and experiments that I decided to get back to blogging. 😊


Another New Chapter in My Art Life – Update 2022


My website is All of my shops will be accessed from this website under shops. You can purchase products with my artwork on them for different print on demand sites, the links to them are under the Shops heading. I update artwork and new POD sites regularly, so check back often if you are interested in products with new artworks. I fyou are interested in original art, please contact me.

Thanks, Janell

2021 update

I have also decided to focus all my writing, teachings, and art news information into my newsletters, so I no longer blog. I will occassionally write a news announcement and post it here. If you are interested in continuing to follow my art journey, please subscribe to my Enewsletter.

I have enjoyed this journey and getting to know everyone in the WordPress and blogging community! Thank you all for your encouragement, advice and friendship over these past ten years!

I wish you all a wonderful, creative, day, filled with JOY! -Janell

Janell Mithani with her recent paintings, April, 2021

A New Painting of Tall Trees

painting of tall trees by Janell Mithani

“Growing Tall” Acrylic on canvas, 12″ x 36″

This painting of trees growing in the forest is inspired by the trees I have seen on my trips driving through California and Oregon to visit my family.  I used a narrow, tall canvas on this piece to emphasize the height of the trees.

I am busy working on three new paintings. Yes, I am working on them all at the same time. 🙂  I do this sometimes as one painting will need some drying time, so I switch to another one.   I also think I create more pieces when I work this way.

Do you ever work on more that one project at a time?

I hope you have a wonderful, creative, day, Janell

Le Lapin, (Bunny) Painting

I finished this painting a few months ago and just realized I hadn’t shared it on my blog.  The title is “Le Lapin, Bunny” and it is acrylic on canvas, 20″  x 24.”

Le Lapin Bunny painting by Janell Mithani

My dearest girlfriend, Carolyn, was visiting me in the studio just after I had finished the painting, and she titled the piece for me.  Hence the French… I don’t speak French, but I love the title!  Thank you, Carolyn!!


This is the youngest “Wildish Spirit” I’ve painted. It’s interesting how they sometimes change a bit or look older from sketch to paint.  i suppose, it is just part of my creative process and the difference in mediums that I used.  Here is the original sketch that I created last summer.

Manga Girl Sketch by Janell Mithani

I hung the painting at the end of our hallway so I can look at it while I walk down the hall. 🙂

It is my favorite place in our home to hang a painting as I walk by it a hundred times a day.  It is also the place where I swap pieces out the most.  Throughout the year, I change the paintings depending on my mood, seasons and what I have created in the studio.  Since we have such mild weather year-round, I often hang a painting that reminds me of the current season. 

I hope you are having a wonderful end to your summer and wish you a wonderful, creative, day, Janell

Happy New Year from Bella!

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.  We had our daughter home from school which was a gift in itself and had some wonderful visits with family and friends.  As usual, time certainly flew by and now it’s 2017!

A few weeks before the holidays, I created this painting “Bella.”

painting of dog Bella by artist Janell Mithani

Bella is my sister’s dog and the painting was her Christmas present.  I visited my sister last February and got to know Bella.  We went for a few walks and she kept me company while my sister was at work.

When I began the painting, I had a few concerns about painting a “white” dog.  But I was in luck, as my painting process worked great for this type of painting.

I work from dark to light, starting with a dark under-painting and then getting lighter as the painting progresses.  I also work back to front, laying in the background and then moving forward getting lighter and more detailed, thinking of my painting in “parallel planes” or chunks of parallel space that stack up as I move forward towards what is closest to me.

For this painting, I started with a deep gray background to compliment the grayish undertones in her fur.  I then blocked in a slightly smaller shape of the dog with grayish white.  Then I added hair and details, with each layer getting lighter and lighter, and I refined the shape of the dog with each layer.  For her features, I did the same process dark to light, adding details to the nose and eyes. The final steps were adding highlights to the eyes and her whiskers. It was hard to not paint the whiskers in earlier as I really wanted to paint them! 🙂

I do enjoy painting animals, the hair and fur are especially fun to paint.  But of course, my favorite part was painting the eyes! (I know, those of you who are familiar with my art are not surprised.)

A few more animals are sure to make it to my easel this year.  Along with more “Wildish Spirits” and a new series of feminine vintage memories that I began working on over the holidays.

I look forward to hearing what all of you have planned for the new year and wish you a wonderful, creative, year, Janell


Wings and a Different Style of Painting

I have been working with a limited palette lately.  This painting is more abstract than my usual paintings. I have been studying birds and wings in particular, lately.  So as a result, I have a lot of wing sketches.  I really felt compelled to paint this with a limited palette.

wings painting by Janell Mithani

Heart Wings, Acrylic on Canvas, 11″ x 14″

I just used three paint colors:  titanium white, burnt umber and paynes grey.  I worked on it for three different days, finishing it within a week.  Much faster than my more detailed Fae paintings.  I would love to hear what you think about it and the different painting style.

Have a wonderful, creative, day, Janell

Painting in Cambria

While we were in Cambria over the holidays, I got a chance to paint the view from the deck from the house we were renting.  I just about finished the painting on site, now it is sitting on my easel … patiently waiting for a few finishing touches.  I just loved the beautiful view we had and the peaceful sound of the ocean as I painted.

painting of Cambria by Janell Mithani

Oh, and here is a visitor that showed up to watch me paint. 🙂

photograph of deer by Janell Mithani

Have a wonderful creative day, Janell

A Caribou Painting – Because I love Reindeer!

Painting Gentle Reindeer by Janell Mithani

November and December are busy months.  We have eight family members that have birthdays between November 1st and Christmas.  I always say I am going to get ready for Christmas early, but by the time I get done with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and all our birthdays, it is the middle of December.  And when it comes to sending out Holiday cards… well, I always have great intentions, but usually get about five sent out.

But I LOVE getting holiday cards!  I look forward to hearing from friends and family so I want to send out cards and keep in touch.  I am just like my grandmother, I count all the cards I receive every year and I hang them up and display them as soon as they come in the mail.

Well, this year I have a plan.  I decided to take a break from creating my regular body of work and create a painting just for me.  I have always loved Caribou (I fondly think of them as gentle reindeer) and I really miss the snow from my childhood now that I live in Southern California.  So I painted “Gentle Reindeer” to hang in our home during the holidays.  It reminds me of the wonderful snow filled days I spent as a child.  I grew up in a small  town of about 80 families.  The sledding hill was right next to our house and my mom made the best hot chocolate for all of the kids in the neighborhood.  My sister and I would stay out all day sledding and playing in the snow.

Once I finished the painting I realized I could photograph it, add some text, and make it into our Christmas card.  (And I could even share it here with all my blogger friends.)

Yippee!  I have the painting and the layout for the card finished and now, all I have to do is get the cards printed.  Which I am doing today, right now, this very moment…

Reindeer Christmas Card by Janell MIthani

I wish you a wonderful holiday season and a spectacular new year.  Thank you again for taking the time to stop by my blog during this busy time of year.  I so appreciate it.  Have a wonderful, creative day  — Janell

A New Painting – Sisters

A few months ago I posted about how I was thinking of adding these two little girls to a painting. I had created a sketch from a picture of my sister and I when we were children.  Well, before I got a chance to start working on adding us in, I received a couple of inquiries about the painting.  So, I decided to create a new painting with the two girls and give it to my sister for her birthday.  SistersforBlog

While I was painting, I had a lot of time reminiscing about all the fun walks my sister and I shared while we were looking for wild flowers.  We were fortunate to grow up in a small mill town called Hilt, located in Northern California.  We spent a good amount of time roaming around the countryside.  We had the best swimming hole! I was a total rock hound (still am) and loved going rock hunting.

Have a wonderful creative day, Janell