Definition of Opaque color and 5 Effective ways to use them

opaque color

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Definition of opaque color –

Substances or colors which can not pass light through them or light can not penetrate from them are known as opaque colors.


The material or color which have the ability to block the light is called opaque colors/materials.

What does opaque color mean?

Opaque word is originated from the Latin language. It means dark or Transparent.

Opaque substance generally termed as the substances or fluids which does not pass any light through them or if they applied on the surface then light can not reach up to the underneath surface it reflects from the surface of opaque paint.

What does the opaque color look like?

opaque color

Opaques are solid colors that are non-transparent. They give a flatter look to the painting.

If they have applied on any color they will dominant that color and cover it all. And the underneath color is non-visible for us.

Gouache, Chalks, Pastel colors are always opaque because of the material. They have solid materials in them which is non-transparent. That’s why it gives solid color when applied.

For more understanding of opaque and translucent colors, you can watch the following video.

List and Examples of Opaque colors

Opaque Semi-Opaque
Bismuth Yellow
Chrome Green Deep Hue
Cobalt Turquoise
Cobalt Green Deep
Terra Rosa
Cadmium Green
Cadmium Green Pale
Venetian Red
Cadmium Lemon
Cadmium Orange
Cadmium Red
Cadmium Red Deep
Cadmium Scarlet
Cadmium Yellow
Cadmium Yellow Pale
Cadmium Yellow Deep
Vermilion Hue
Winsor Emerald
Yellow Ochre Pale
Blue Black
Chrome Yellow Hue
Cerulean Blue
Cobalt Green
Ivory Black
Renaissance Gold
Scarlet Lake
Winsor Orange
Winsor Red
This list is according to the ‘Winsor and newton’ color brand, Pigment may vary from brand to brand.

List and examples of Transparent colors

Transparent Semi-Transparent
Alizarin Crimson
Bright Red
Brown Madder
Burnt Sienna
Burnt Umber
French Ultramarine ( Ultramarine Blue )
Indian Yellow
Indanthrene Blue
Manganese Blue Hue
Mauve (Blue Shade)
Olive Green
Winsor Violet (Dioxazine)
Winsor Green (Yellow Shade)
Winsor Green (phthalo)
Winsor Blue (Red Shade)
Winsor Blue (Green Shade)
Vandyke Brown
Ultramarine Violet
Ultramarine Green Shade
Terre Verte
Transparent Gold Ochre
Transparent Yellow
Sap Green
Rose Madder Genuine
Rose Madder Deep
Rose Doré
Purple Madder
Purple Lake
Prussian Blue
Phthalo Turquoise
Phthalo Blue
Permanent Magenta
Permanent Green
Charcoal Grey
Cobalt Blue Deep
Cobalt Violet
Cobalt Blue
Davy’s Grey
Payne’s Grey
Permanent Green Deep
Permanent Green Light
Permanent Mauve
Raw Sienna
Raw Umber
Winsor Lemon
Winsor Red Deep
Winsor Yellow Deep
Winsor Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Yellow Ochre Light
This list is according to the ‘Winsor and newton’ color brand, Pigment may vary from brand to brand.

What is the difference between Transparent and opaque colors?

You can imagine transparent and opaque colors as Watercolor vs Acrylic.

Acrylic colors or Oil colors can react both as Translucent and Opaque depend upon what pigment they have.

Sr.No. Translucent Opaque
1. Translucent colors are thin Opaque paints are thick
2. It gives a three-dimensional effect it gives a flattering effect to the painting
3. Translucent color required more liquid binder. It has less or no liquid binder
4. Watercolors are examples of translucent colors. Acrylics and oils can be translucent according to what color pigment they have. They are generally solid. Like Gouache, Chalks, Pastel colors, crayons, etc.

Mixing of Transparent and Opaque colors –

opaque color and transparent color

  1. If Opaque paint is applied over transparent color then we cant see that transparent color because opaque paint blocks the path of light from penetrating.
  2. If we apply transparent color over Dark opaque paint then the light will penetrate from both layers. And we see the transparent color with less vibrancy and saturation.
  3. If we applied transparent color over Bright or White Opaque paint then we see transparent color with less contrast or with foggy effect.

How to use Opaque colors in paintings

1. Selection of brand –

Brand of color is also matters in the pigments of paint. Some brands may have different pigment than another.

Also in Professional and Student grade paint, there is a difference between the quality of paint. So I would suggest that use good quality paint for better results.

2. Thickness of paint –

The thickness of paint is really matters when you are using opaque colors. Opaque paints can create emphasis in your painting. If you use thick opaque paints on objects that are closer to the viewer then it will emphasize that object. Many great artists used this technique in their famous paintings.

3. Selecting a brush –

The type of brushes and brands can also affect on applying opaque colors in the painting. If you use a cheap quality brush that has rigid or fizzy hair then it will give a scratchy effect to your painting.

And also there are different types of brushes like Fan brush, soft brush, Flat brushes, Pointed brush, Select your type of brush wisely and use them according to condition.

4. Surface –

The surface can also matter the quality of the painting if you are using opaque colors. A porous and rough surface will give a Thick and solid effect and it also required more paint. On the other hand, a Smooth and solid surface-like glass gives a more transparent look to the color.

5. Applying layers –

If you are using Oil or Acrylic colors then you have to work on your painting layerwise.

You can use Fat over Lean technique in your painting. That means you have to apply opaque colors or thick colors first to block the area of painting. and then use transparent colors or use more medium to thin the colors and apply to the second or third layer. It will give three dimensional and realistic look.

If you use the transparent color and then applied thick paint over it. then thick paint will cover the all surface or value of that underneath color. and gives a flattering look.


Opaque word is originated from Latin and it means dark or non-transparent.

Opaque colors are generally termed as the substances or fluids which does not pass any light through them or if they are applied on the surface then light can not reach up to the underneath surface it reflects from the surface of opaque paint.

The opacity of Opaque color can depend upon Brand, Pigment ratio, and quality, Surface to paint, etc.