Historic pigments Obsolete colors
While a few obsolete pigments get a mention in the main lists because
they were so important or remain famous, there are many others not so
well known but which might be found in accounts of painting techniques.
Some of these colors are found in modern color ranges with modern
pigment formulations, but most have been forgotten. The more important
historic pigments can be purchased from specialist pigment suppliers.
Historic color list Gone
but not forgotten
Another name for Egyptian Blue Frit (see below).
Alizarin Crimson is the synthetic version of the coloring agent in
natural Madder and from its adoption in the latter part of the 19th
century artist's hailed its many virtues. It was stronger than Madder
and the deep red color was perfect for mixing. it was also believed to
be more permanent than Madder because the manufacturer said so. It was
not discovered until independent testing was carried out in the late
20th century that Alizarin Crimson was significantly less light fast
than its natural parent. With more than one permanent alternative
waiting in the wings to take over Alizarin has seen a dramatic
reduction in usage.
Spanish name for an impermanent yellow lake made from Weld, also called Arzica (see below.)
See Antimony Vermilion below.
A light fast pigment bright in color that suffered on introduction in
the mid 19th century because it reacts with lead pigments and goes
black. Now that lead pigments are rarely used it won't make a come back
as the Cadmium's are excellent pigments in their own right and firmly
entrenched in this color range.
Prussian Blue with 75% extender. Never was a reliable pigment.
Bitumen, used because of a belief that the color gave an 'old master'
look to pictures. What it actually did was make pictures crack and dry
poorly. It persisted as a pigment until the end of the 19th century.
Sometimes the name was applied to Mummy (see below).
A non-toxic substitute for the poisonous Orpiment (see below). It was
impermanent and was a semi opaque yellow lake made from Weld (see
Effectively meant the color of ink, mostly black but also red, green,
and violet which were the colors used in classical times. These inks
were of various sources and came under the heading Atramentum
Librarium. There was another sort called Artramentum Sutorium which was
used for dyeing leather black and a third kind called Atramentum
Pictorium (also tectorium) which was used by artist's. Various pigments
were used under this name including Sepia (see below). There was also
Ink Stone which was basically tannic acid that has reacted with iron
salts. Ink in ancient times tended to be much thicker than today and
was complained about because of that (which is why we know). Most ink
colors from ancient times were more light fast than modern non
The finest grade of Yellow Earth available to
the Greco-Roman world. As the name implies, it came from Attica in
Another name for Kings Yellow (see below).
Another name for Mosaic Gold (see below).
Another name for a variety of Smalt (see below).
Green shades of Smalt and Egyptian Blue (see both below)
A beautiful blue pigment used from Ancient times. Occurs naturally
alongside the chemically similar Malachite but is more permanent. Was
eventually synthesized and marketed as Bremen Blue (see below). Both
were made obsolete by the synthesisation of Ultramarine and the
development of Cobalt Blue. it is the characteristic sky blue color
that is seen in Renaissance paintings, although it worked best as a
water based color and was often used as Tempera under an oil glaze.
Barium Chromate. Also called Lemon Yellow. Available until quite
recently. It is significantly paler than the other chromate's, almost a
whitish yellow in some cases it is the most opaque of the chromate's
was considered permanent in in all media but seemed to be more popular
See Bremen Blue below.
Introduced in the early 19th century it was quickly replaced by Zinc
White when that arrived a few years later. It was used as it was not
poisonous, but had the problem of being prone to darkening when mixed
with pigments containing sulfur.
An unreliable brown pigment produced by burning Beech wood.
Another name for Asphaltum (see above).
Was believed in the early days to be a type of lead and had small use.
It is the natural form of Graphite.
See Bremen Blue below.
A type of natural red iron oxide. The name is much used in early
writings. The nearest modern equivalent we would call Light Red.
An impermanent bright red lake extracted from the Brazilwood tree of
South America and a major source of trade that gave its name to the
country. So far as I know this is the only country named after a color
although three colors are named after countries. (Turquoise/Turkey,
Verdigris/Green from Greece, and
Gamboge/Cambodia) Brazilwood was known by many names such as Verzino,
Rose pink, and of course Red Lake. It has been found in a substantial
portion of the paintings of Van Gogh.
A synthetic copper blue similar to, but not so permanent as Azurite. It
was made in numerous shades and had many common names. Survived until
the early 20th century due to the attractiveness of its color.
A green variant of Bremen Blue (see above) that resembled Malachite but
tended to be more blue.
A variety of Alizarin Crimson very transparent but not permanent.
See Dutch Pink below.
A common name for the color that was sold to artist's more commonly as
Prussian Green (see below).
A fugitive dark red version of Carmine (see below) but even less
permanent than its parent pigment. After roasting it was often mixed
with Van Dyke Brown to get the richest shades.
The berries of this plant were extensively used to produce various
green and yellow lakes such as Sap Green (see below). Impermanent.
Copper Sulfate normally used as an ink or as a textile and hair dye.
The pentahydrate form is a very bright blue.
A crimson red lake pigment that came into use in the decades following
Columbus. A variety of Kermes (see below) it was made from
Cochineal, an insect of Central America. It was in common use until
recently and the name has been applied to many other pigments since the
decline in use of the genuine pigment.
A variant of Carmine (see above).
A common name for Safflower (see below).
See Van Dyke Brown below.
A variety of Green Earth that contains celadonite which gave it a
particular grayish pale green color. Sadly most of the deposits of
these many different Green Earths were mined out over time and are no
longer easily available.
The best Vermilion was Chinese Vermilion. See Vermilion below.
Not a mixture
as such, but a process where Prussian Blue is made in a tank that
contains Chrome Yellow, the yellow becoming chemically bound to
blue. It has all the disadvantages of both pigments with no real
virtues except that it was made in a multitude of versions each just as
impermanent as the rest.
Chemically similar to Chrome Yellow and sharing its problems (see
Chemically similar to Chrome Yellow and sharing its problems (see
Introduced in 1797 the Chrome Yellows and the red and orange versions
became popular due to their opacity, their bright colors and because
they were inexpensive. Unfortunately they are also impermanent and tend
to darken and react with other pigments. They survived until quite
recently, but have shared the fate of other lead pigments in recent
A natural green copper pigment used in Ancient Egypt in the earliest
times alongside Malachite. Although Malachite continued to be used it
seems Chrysocolla became obsolete when Egyptian Green was developed.
Natural mercuric sulfide Used by both the Ancient Chinese and Ancient
Egyptians. It was not as bright a red as the synthetic Vermilion that
would eventually replace it, but it was still much brighter than the
Red Earths. In Europe it occurred naturally in Spain where it was
exposed high on cliffs and it is said that arrows were used to dislodge
pieces of the ore.
A type of Cobalt Blue developed by Gahn that is inferior to Thenard's
An insect secretion from Central America that is the source of the
color Carmine and various Crimson and red lakes of the Renaissance and
later. See Lac below.
See Van Dyke Brown below
Another name for White Lead (see below).
Thought in ancient times in Europe to be the congealed blood of Dragons
and Elephants blood mixed together as they fight to the death. It was
known to fade rapidly. To quote Cennini "...leave it alone and do not
have much respect for it..." It actually is a red gum from a
South East Asian tree.
A red pigment made from Brazilwood (see above).
A fugitive color made from Buckthorn berries.
It was a yellowish color despite the name. The same color was also sold
as Still-de-grain, English Pink, Italian Pink, and Brown Pink.
Egyptian Blue Frit
Probably the first synthetic pigment it addressed the lack of a natural
dark blue of any permanence. It did this indirectly as glass makers had
discovered a way of making dark blue glass. This was ground into a
pigment and had great beauty even though it was relatively weak and
rather coarse. It was the only deep permanent blue until Ultramarine
was developed 4,000 years later. In the 17th century an improvement to
the original formula was developed and called Smalt (see below) Also
called Alexandria Blue this color persisted until the synthesisation of
Ultramarine in the 19th century.
Another name for Mummy (see below).
A variant of Egyptian Blue (see above) that was developed in the later
part of Ancient Egyptian times. It has similar properties to Egyptian
One of the most beautiful green pigments but also the most poisonous.
It is so poisonous it was sold under the trade name Paris Green as an
insecticide. It is copper aceto-arsenite. Sadly it wasn't even
permanent as a color. It could both fade in sunlight and darken as it
tended to react chemically with other colors.
See Dutch Pink above.
Another name for White Lead (see below)
A deep violet, blue, or red color made from Turnsole (see below) or
Woad (see below) and was fugitive. It was a general color name applying
to the use of these colors by book illuminators. The name deriving from
folia the latin name for pages in a book.
Another name for White Lead (see below).
A yellow lake that was supposed to be made from ox gall but was more
likely to be Quercitron Lake.
A yellow gum from South East Asia. Its name is a corruption of
Cambodia. One of the most light fast of the natural colored gums but
poor compared to the best of modern organics and toxic as well.
A fugitive lake based on Eosine that was popular during the late 19th
century and well into the 20th. Van Gogh is known to have used it and
that it has faded.
A lead yellow described by Cennini as 'lasting forever' and that it
originates in the vicinity of volcanos. Many authorities suggest that
it is Massicot as Cennini does not list this color with his yellows and
it was known to be widely used at the time. However there is another
passage in Cennini that suggests that this is not the case as in his
description of Ochre he describes it as 'not so light as Giallorino'.
This indicates (along with the volcano connection) that the color
must have been a common name for Naples Yellow. Cennini mentions
volcanos but says Giallorino is artificially made. This fits with
Naples yellow as it was in Roman times collected as natural deposits
from Mount Vesuvius, but by the time of Cennini it had been
synthesised. As Cennini suggests it is very permanent (unlike Massicot)
and will 'last forever' Another possibility is that the name is used
also for Lead-Tin Yellow (see below). This is another lead yellow that
is known to be used, yet seems not to be mentioned a lot if at all. It
is entirely possible that the name Giallorino was used for both colors,
and being all lead based they may have been regarded as different
shades of a similar pigment, and in which case the origins could
possibly have been confused. Lead-Tin Yellow is as permanent as Naples
Yellow and is of a light lemon yellow hue. Another possibility is that
in an age before even the idea of standardization had occured that
different authorities in different towns could use the same name for
different colors and that some would mean Massicot and others mean
Another lake made from unripe Buckthorn berries especially if mixed
with a blue. If made for Watercolors it could mean the darker green we
now call Hooker's Green.
Another name for Bremen Green (see above).
Natural Calcium Sulfate it is very white and works well in water based
mediums. it was the favored white pigment used in Ancient Egypt. It
does not work well in oils and is never seen as an artist's pigment now
although it continues to be used in paper making and in the textile
industry. Also called Terra Alba.
see Antwerp Blue above.
A white pigment prepared by carefully calcining deer antlers. It was
used for mixing tints with pigments that were problematic when mixed
with White Lead such as Massicot.
An impermanent red-violet lake made from turnsole (see below).
Another name for Lac (see below).
A bright yellow pigment of fair permanence that was made by force
feeding cattle on Mango leaves and then concentrating the urine. Was
banned in 1908 as being cruel to the animals. All colors since then
with the name are other pigments.
A deep blue color made from a plant native to India. It was always a
textile dye with small use as an artist's pigment from Ancient Egyptian
times. The characteristic pinkish skies in English watercolors of the
18th and early 19th centuries is actually Indigo which has faded to
leave the Ochre component of the original mixture used by the
watercolorist. Those skies would have been grayish blues when first
done. Indigo was replaced in the 19th century by a synthetic color.
These days the name is used for various mixtures but the real pigment
is never used due to its rapid fading.
A fugitive lake made from Iris flowers. Before it disappeared the name
was being applied to Sap Green (see below).
A common name for Dutch Pink when it was sold for artist's use.
Impermanent no matter which name it had.
A red produced by an insect that lives on the scarlet oak of Europe. It
produces a blood red color that was highly valued. See Red Lake below.
A very poisonous opaque yellow pigment. It is the synthetic version of
the natural mineral Orpiment which is basically arsenic trisulfide,
although it appears the natural orpiment is less poisonous than Kings
Yellow, although both are not permanent. Was made obsolete by Cadmium
Yellow. Realgar is an orange colored variation that is actually arsenic
Any of several transparent red glazing colors used in the Renaissance
but principally at first Lac a product from India and a colored version
of Shellac. As brighter blue-reds became available, especially
Kermes(see above) and Cochineal
(see above) these were made by precipitating the dye onto a base to
make a color that imitated Lac and so the name 'Lake' originated
meaning any transparent dye based color precipitated on an inert
base and useful for glazing. Other paints often used as ' Red Lake'
include Dragons Blood (see above), Madder (see below), Logwood (see
below), and Brazilwood
(see above). Now only Madder and Cochineal are still used and then only
small quantities. Madder is the most light fast of them but none match
the permanency of modern synthetic lakes. Lac was the third most
expensive pigment during the Renaissance behind gold and Ultramarine,
but was considered worth it
A pigment made from the precious stone Lapis Lazuli found in Central
Asia. It was used since ancient times as a simple ground up mineral but
until the Persians developed a means of extraction of the coloring
agent it was a poor weak color of limited use called either ground
Lapis Lazuli or Lazuline Blue. The mines in Afghanistan have been
continually worked for as much as 7,000 years. Ancient artworks in
Mesopotamia show the use of Lazuline Blue. The Persian extraction
process turned a weak mineral pigment into a major art material that is
associated with the Renaissance. It is made by pulverizing
and then extracting the coloring mineral
from the native stone in a process using lye. Cennini gives the recipe
in his book but for many years its origins and manufacture were a
matter of mystery. It arrived in Venice on Arab Dhows and it was simply
known as the pigment from
overseas ('ultra marine') It was literally worth it's weight in gold
was a similar price to pigment made from gold itself. Artist's
could not afford to just use it at whim as only princes and large
wealthy churches could afford it and it's use would be written into
contracts. More than one artist was caught after being paid a premium
for using Ultramarine and then substituting alternative and cheaper
pigments. Slightly less fraudulent was for an artist to paint a blue
area with Azurite then glaze a thin layer of Ultramarine over that.
Synthetic Ultramarine is chemically identical, although
usually a more more reddish shade. The genuine pigment supply was
disrupted by the wars in Afghanistan over recent years but the color is
available as both pigment and paint by special order. At the darkest
hours of war a tiny tube cost around $500. Prices have fallen since
then and new supplies have come on stream from Chile and near Lake
Baikal in Russia. For the first time in many years it is becoming easy
to purchase genuine Ultramarine in tubes. One American company even
offers it as an Acrylic Paint. Most obsolete pigments disappeared
because they are
either poisonous or impermanent, but Lapis Lazuli is an absolutely
permanent and non-toxic pigment that was replaced due to cost alone,
and it is interesting that whenever the cost of Lapis Lazuli falls a
little its usage increases, although with synthetic Ultramarine being
one of the cheapest pigments, genuine Lapis will never regain its
previous position at the pinnacle of pigments.
Another name for Lapis Lazuli (see above).
Another name for Lead-Tin Yellow. Some authorities (probably
erroneously) associate this with Massicot. See Lead-Tin Yellow below.
This very stable bright opaque Yellow was used from the 13th century
until the middle of the 17th when it mysteriously stopped being used.
it is speculated that only one family was making it by that time,
guarding the secret and the pigment died with the last family member.
It has been shown that this yellow is under glazing colors in many
Renaissance paintings. It is believed to have many of the good
qualities of our modern Cadmium Yellow, but it is not a well known
pigment. For many years historians assumed that the bright yellow in
Renaissance paintings was simply Massicot and it wasn't until the
1940's at the Doerner institute that it was discovered not to be the
case. Since then analysis has shown the stannous form of lead to be
common in many paintings. Cennini does not mention it, unless his term
'Giallorino' can be associated with it. The name Lead-Tin Yellow is
modern in origin and it is not known what it was called in Cennini's
time. It is possible that it was seen as a variety of Naples Yellow.
Naples Yellow is Lead-Antimony and as such may possibly have been
manufactured in association with the Lead-Tin color. There are also
suggestions that it was produced in association with White Lead.
Another name for White Lead (see below).
Chrome Green. Impermanent and deservedly obsolete. The color name is
still used but for other mixed colors bearing no relationship with this
Lead monoxide that is used as a drier. It is the base of the 'Black
Oil' which is postulated by some authorities as one of the 'secrets of
the old masters, and condemned by others as a source of long term
darkening and other faults in oil paintings. As a pigment it is no less
problematic. It is closely related to Massicot (see below) but has a
brighter yellow hue, although this was likely to change with time in
the artwork. Poisonous.
A blackish dye from a South ָAmerican tree it was claimed to be
discovered by the Conquistadors, but more likely the Indians were
already using it as a colorant. It became a political hot potato in the
struggle between England and Spain. The English banned it to protect
the local Woad (see below) industry. Sea battles were fought over the
trade. In 1661 the ban was lifted and eventually the logwood
importation was far larger than that of Indigo. The tree produces a
wide range of colors depending on alkalinity at time of extraction from
blues and black, to reds and even violet. As an artist's colorant it
was used mostly as an ink and to color paper, although the brownish and
reddish shades would sometimes be employed as Lakes. It was even more
fugitive than Indigo. It was still being used to color paper well into
the 20th century.
Used from Ancient times for dying textiles. It had less artistic use
than people suppose because it was weak in tinting power. It wasn't
until the beginning of the 19th century that a process was developed
that produced a stronger version that became very popular. Later in the
century Alizarin Crimson (see above) was developed and it was thought
that the natural madder would disappear as being less light fast. It
wasn't until a hundred years later that it became common knowledge that
the natural product was actually the more light fast of the two. Both
however could not compete with more light fast modern synthetic organic
pigments of similar hue and by the year 2000 both were in serious decline and
no longer recommended for permanent artwork. Also called Rose Madder.
A natural carbonate of copper and probably the best of the natural ores
used for green pigments in ancient times. It occurs in association with
the blue form called Azurite, although the use of Malachite seems to be
earlier. Malachite seems not to have been as permanent as Azurite. A
synthetic form was eventually introduced and sold as Bremen Green.
A yellow lead color in various shades none of which were permanent. It
is closely related to Litharge but has a redder color. The two were
commonly described under the Massicot name.
Another name for Malachite (see above)
Another name for Turner's Yellow (see below).
Red Lead. The Romans had used the name for various natural reds but
gradually it was restricted to the lead pigment only. It is a dull red
that tends to darken and so has been obsolete in artist's colors for
many decades, although some industrial paints still use it. The use of
Red Lead in book illustration and calligraphy in the Middle Ages lead
to the name being applied to small pictures in the form 'miniature'.
An imitation gold color used throughout the Renaissance It was Stannous
Sulfide and not terribly reliable. Also known as Aurium Musicum and
Purpurinus. Mostly for book illumination.
This is really ground up Egyptian mummies. It was eventually banned not
because artist's had trouble with the idea of painting with dug up
human bodies but because of prejudices that lead people to blame
diseases on the foreign sourced pigment.
Virtually all paint ranges that use this name today are providing
mixtures of Ochre,
red and white. It is now some time since this pigment was commonly
used. it was always a permanent color well liked by Oil Painters, but
fears for the use of lead pigments has made this excellent pigment
obsolete sadly. More information under Giallorino above.
Natural arsenic trisulfide. See Kings Yellow above.
See Emerald Green above.
Another name for Turner's Yellow (see below).
A lemon yellow color of great expense prepared from platinum. It became
obsolete upon the introduction of the chromate's - Strontium Yellow
below), Barium Yellow (see above), and Zinc Yellow (see below).
Egyptian Blue Frit.
An Earth color that had the quality of setting very hard and was
popular at one time for Fresco. These days the name is sometimes
applied to an English Red like version of Red Oxide PR 101.
A type of Chrome Green which is made with a high proportion of
extenders that was known in industry as Brunswick Green. It was known
to be unreliable.
Another name for Mosaic Gold (see above).
The Black Oak of North America produces a yellow dye that competed with
Weld and Buckthorn berries as an important source of yellow lakes.
Orange arsenic disulfide. Not permanent. See Kings Yellow above.
A common name for Realgar (see above)
See Rose Pink below.
A transparent pink lake popular in the Renaissance in which Brazilwood
(see above) and Alum was precipitated onto chalk.
A common name for one of the better shades of Smalt (see above).
A fugitive red lake made from the flowers of the Safflower plant and
commonly called Carthame.
A fugitive yellow dye made from the flowers of an Indian plant used
from Roman times until the 19th century. Still used by traditional
crafts people in India and other parts of South Asia.
A name used in the Greco-Roman world to describe various lead and
arsenic yellows, Cinnabar and apparently even red earths.
Originally a color made by calcining Ultramarine Ashes (see below) the
name being a corruption in English of the French name for the
color: Cendres Bleues. In English the name was eventually further
corrupted to Saunder's Blue. This color being expensive it was soon
imitated with a copper carbonate substitute similar to Azurite (see
above) and was then produced in a green variant. This cheaper Sanders
or Saunder's Blue remained popular into the 19th Century.
A green variant of the copper carbonate version of Sanders Blue (see
Another name for Dragon's Blood (see above).
Another name for Sanders Blue (see above)
A lake made from green Buckthorn berries that was always fugitive yet
sold well. Now replaced by various mixtures of other pigments of
The most common name for Red Lead in the centuries following the
Renaissance, but during the Middle Ages it was called Minium. See
above for more info.
Another name for Smalt (see below). Smalt was first made in Saxony.
A copper green invented in 1778 that was very poisonous.
Ink from the cuttlefish is a black-brown, quite strong but fades.
Originally used just as an ink, the name has gradually infiltrated
other media, although now days as a mixture of Burnt Umber and black.
Another name for White Lead (see below).
A type of natural red iron oxide used for the red outlines in Fresco.
Often mentioned in old writings.
A variety of Egyptian Blue Frit in which the Copper is replaced by
Cobalt. It is a North European development of the 17th century and was
popular until the development of artificial Ultramarine. It was coarse
and weak in tinting power but was seen as a significant improvement on
the original Blue Frit. Also sold as Royal Smalt. Still made in small
quantities and available from specialist artist's pigment suppliers but
the last large commercial production of the color ceased in 1952.
An impermanent violet red, one of the first coal tar dyes and while a
beautiful color, it helped give the new aniline dyes a bad name.
See Dutch Pink above.
Strontium Yellow (PY
Strontium Chromate. Sometimes called Lemon Yellow A pale bright
yellow introduced in 1836
An old name for Gypsum, see above.
A fugitive Yellow lake made from Saffron.
A green copper color used in Medieval times.
Named after the inventor, not the artist, this lead pigment was
impermanent but cheap and therefore popular. Several versions
from bright yellow to orange. It had a reputation for going black. The
name is now used for various mixtures
that are more reliable but superfluous.
It gets its name from its great ability to turn to face the sun. The
plant is also called Heliotropum which means the same thing and is the
source of the color name Heliotrope which is the principal color
derived from this Mediterranean plant. When used as an artists color it
made various red and violet lakes. It was often confused with Woad
because both are capable of producing similar colors and both were used
for book illumination under the general name Folium (see above).
A dark violet red color obtained from shell fish by the Phoenicians and
made famous as the color worn by Roman Ceasars. Also used by artist's
of the day as a glazing color. Not permanent.
The common name for Lapis Lazuli pigment (see above).
The second grade product left when the the best quality Ultramarine
Blue has been removed from the Lapis Lazuli stone. As such it is just
the stone ground with traces only of the genuine Ultramarine. It is
permanent but a weak gray blue color.
A weak bluish green of low tinting strength this variant on the
manufacture of Ultramarine Blue has the same permanence as the Blue
color. It was made between about 1840 and 1960 but some pigment
specialist's such as Kremer still have some stocks left.
A bright light yellow with green efflorescence was an uncommon but
sometimes used pigment before the Second World War. Public and media
hysteria over radioactivity stopped its use as a pigment, but it is in
fact a perfectly safe color to use. It has a similar level of
radioactivity to the human body (all physical objects emit some small
level of radioactivity).
Van Dyke Brown
A peaty bituminous earth a rich dark brown had two main defects.
Firstly the organic component would fade and secondly the bitumen would
cause cracking in oil paint. Also called Cassel Earth or Cologne Earth.
A greenish neutral color that was made from mixing together the left
over paint in the studio and was used for working up a
drawing to the painting stage in Renaissance times, and would often be
the underpainting color seen under flesh colors in Medieval art (that
or Green Earth). The name Verdaccio has come to mean the name of the underpainting technique as well as the color itself. Cennini says that Verdaccio is a local name for the color in Florence and says that it is known as Bazzčo in Sienna. He never refers to the technique by the name Verdaccio, only the color, and he never mentions how to make it. He appears to presume that this is common knowledge unnecessary to repeat. He advises using Verdaccio where the deeper shadows are and in areas with more mid tones such as the chin he advises using Green Earth instead. He advises using Verdaccio in the early stages of painting water as well as flesh. It is possible to find tubes of paint called Verdaccio these days. Often this is Chromium Green Oxide, but can also be various other greens, sometimes in mixture. Chromium Green Oxide works well in the role of underpainting but is more saturated than the Verdaccio-like colors of earlier times and requires neutralizing and darkening. It is not Verdaccio as Cennini would have understood it.
A common synthetic green (Copper Acetate) that was used from Roman
times until the 19th century. Very unreliable as it tends to react
chemically with other pigments or with air. The name is a corruption of
words that mean 'Green from Greece'.
Mercuric Sulfide. A synthetic version of the natural ore Cinnabar. The
Chinese early developed a means of making it that remained the best
method for 1,500 years. it was a bright orange red permanent in oils
(although poor grades could turn black). It suffered from its very
hazardous poisonous nature. It was said that the more it was ground the
redder it became. According to Cennini if you ground it every day for
20 years it would still show improvement. its use declined rapidly at
the end of the 20th century.
Another name for Brazilwood (see above).
A version of Carmine (cochineal) that was even less permanent than
carmine itself (see above).
A common Yellow Lake of plant origin, one of the most popular
organic yellows before the introduction of the modern synthetic
organics and sold under various names including Yellow Lake. Quercitron
and Buckthorn berries are better known but were not necessarily more
commonly used than Weld. Weld tended to be suitable for making
more opaque yellows than its competitors and was used as an Orpiment
(see below) substitute. It's competitors were used for more delicate
colors. Weld is still grown for dyeing silk.
Lead Carbonate. Developed in Ancient Greek times this white was the
perfect pigment except that it was very poisonous. Permanent, fast
drying, making flexible oil films, and with a pleasing soft whiteness
that artist's liked it wasn't until after World War 2 that it started
lose significant ground to Titanium Dioxide. Health concerns from the
1970's saw it's use decline sharply and from the 1990's few
manufacturers were offering the color. The best grades were made by the
Dutch process. Cremnitz White was a variant of the Dutch process in
which the raw material was Litharge instead of lead metal sheets. Flake
White, Cremnitz White, Silver White and Lead White are alternative
The dark blue face paint worn by Braveheart in the movie. The Saxons called it Waad
which is the origin of the name. This was the British
equivalent of Indigo which it competed with. It was often mixed with
Indigo which was thought to improve both colors. The plant actually
throughout Europe and beyond but was less popular in areas outside Britain
because the Indigo plant produces a stronger dye. The last large scale
commercial harvest of Woad occurred in 1932 although there has been a
resurgence of interest in recent years and smaller scale Woad
production is again occurring although not for artist's use.
Could be Dutch Pink (see above) or could also be Weld (see above).
Impermanent either way.
Zinc Yellow (PY 36)
Inorganic synthetic Zinc Chromate, Commonly available from 1847 into
the 1990's it was said variously to be excellent in light fastness or
impermanent. A pale greenish semi opaque yellow more suitable for oil
paint than water based media. Considered poisonous.
Another name for Vermilion, paradoxically also applied to various green
mixtures with no connection to Vermilion at all.
Go to pigment main page
Go to White pigments
Go to Yellow pigments
Go to Brown pigments
Go to Green pigments
Go to Blue
Go to Violet pigments
Go to Black pigments
Go to Red pigments
Go to Inert pigments
Go to Iridescent and Metallic
Alberti, L B, On Painting 1435
Cellini, B, The Life Of Benvenuto
Cellini, finished 1562 but not published until 1730
Cennini, C d'A, The Craftsman's
Handbook. 1437 (Dover)
Doerner, M, The Materials Of The Artist And Their Use
In Painting, 1921 (Harcourt Brace)
Eastlake, Sir C L, Materials For A History Of Oil
Painting, 1847 (Dover)
Feller, R L, Artists Pigments 1986
(National Gallery Of Art / Cambridge University)
Gettens, R J, and Stout, G L, Painting
Materials: A Short Encyclopedia, 1942
Gottsegen, M D, A Manual Of Painting Materials And
Techniques, 1987 (Harper & Row)
Maire, F, Colors: What They Are And What To Expect Of
Them, 1910 (Drake)
Mayer, R, The Artists Handbook Of Materials And
Techniques, fifth edition 1991 (Faber
Merrifield, Mrs. M P, Medieval And Renaissance Treatises
The Arts Of Painting 1849 (Dover)
Muther, R, The History Of Painting From The Fourth
Century To The Early Nineteenth Century, 1907 (Putnam)
Parkhurst, D B, The Painter In Oil 1898
(Lothrop, Lee & Shepard)
Patton, T C, Pigment Handbook, 1973
Porter, N Webster's Revised Unabridged
Dictionary, 1913 (Merriam)
Pliny, The Elder (Gaius Plinius), Natural
History, 77 AD (Penguin Classics)
Roy, A Artist's Pigments: A Handbook Of
Their History And Characteristics, 1994
(Oxford University Press)
Taubs, F, A Guide To Traditional And Modern Painting
Methods, 1963 (Thames & Hudson)
Theophilus, On Divers Arts, 1125 (Dover)
Various, Encyclopedia Britannica,
fifteenth edition 1981 (Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc)
Various, Paint And Painting, 1982,
(Winsor & Newton / The Tate Gallery)
Various, The Artist's Colormen's
Story, 1984 (Winsor & Newton)
Vasari, G, The Lives Of The Most Excellent Painters,
Sculptors And Architects, 1568 (Penguin Classics)
Internet Resources | Contact |
Frequently Asked Questions