Colors that are not pigments Mixtures & marketing
There are more color names than pigments. The fashion, house painting,
design, automotive all arbitrarily assign fanciful names to pigments
that bear little or no relation to the actual colors used.
Unfortunately the artist's materials manufacturers too tend to
use confusing names often. Gouaches, Pastels, and Color Pencils all are
rife with fanciful names. Often perfectly good pigments have silly
names and perfectly bad pigments have the names of good colors.
There are also colors that have common names but no pigment associated
with that color for good reason. Primary Yellow for example is a color
that indicates a position in the spectrum rather than a pigment.
There are also the colors that were common in the past but were made of
impermanent colors and rather than let the old name fade away as they
should, the manufacturers reformulate with better pigments.
Then there are the convenience colors, simple mixtures easy to make on
the palette but mixed by the manufacturer for you and packaged with a
fanciful name. Usually these colors lack the vitality of colors mixed
on the palette and should be avoided as being totally unnecessary.
This list contains the more commonly found colors from the above
categories. It makes no attempt to note the purely fanciful or fashion
names that are found in folk art and designer color ranges as there are
hundreds of those and they change with the seasons, but it does give
those colors that do find their way into professional artist's ranges
but are not listed under specific colors elsewhere on this site
Miscellaneous colors A
mixed bag of color names
Originally a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Viridian that is very
permanent, but these days is likely to be any mixture of various
A name commonly used in the 19th century for organic colors. As many of
the early organics were relatively fugitive they had a poor reputation.
A deep maroon red. The color name has existed for a long time without
there being a particular pigment or pigment mix, however in recent
there have been several of the new synthetic organic colors that have
been given this as a supplementary name. I am unaware of an artist's
paint manufacturer putting one of these into a tube labeled Bordeaux
The name of a deep red wine. Several pigments are used for this color.
Mostly they tend not to have great light fastness in tints. Similar
mixed from more permanent pigments may be mixed on the palette.
Coal Tar Dyes
The early synthetic organic colors were made from coal tars, were
impermanent and were considered poor artist's colors, so the names
'Aniline' and 'Coal Tar' were synonymous with fugitive in artist's
eyes. They still sold fairly well even so.
The blue color used by the printing and photographic industries. It is
commonly a version of Pthalocyanine Blue with a lot of extender
added. Also called Primary Blue
Usually a mixture of white, yellow and red. Easily mixed on the
palette. Formerly the French name for Naples Yellow.
A light greenish yellow. Numerous pigments have been used for this
purpose especially the Hansa Yellows.
A mixture of black with violet, red, or blue pigments easily mixed on
Any of various combinations of yellows and greens or blues.
Originally another name for Victoria Green it is now any mixture of
various greens and yellows that are easily mixed from more permanent
alternatives on the palette.
The colors provided in the printing trade where the four color printing
process relies on the use of the 3 primaries plus black. Unfortunately
permanence is not as important to the printing trade as cost, strength,
and handling properties. For artist's use there has been little
research into developing pigments that are exact primaries that are
also absolutely permanent. Pigments offered as primaries therefore
should be examined closely to be certain of their permanency. Having
said that it is possible to find permanent close approximations of all
See comments under Primary blue above.
See comments under Primary blue above.
Originally a real color, the juice of green Buckthorn berries, it was
very fugitive. Now it has become a convenience color as it is a mixture
easily duplicated on the palette.
Usually unpleasant pinkish mixtures that bear little resemblance to any
skin I ever saw. Various mixtures of reds yellows and whites easily
mixed on the palette.
A marketing name for various organic pigments often of very dubious
ability to resist light.
Originally a lead pigment of poor quality named after the inventor
James Turner, not the artist. These days is a mixture of yellows whites
and reds that can easily be mixed on the palette.
Usually a mixture of Pthalo Blue and Pthalo Green, but can be various
combinations of blues and greens, often with white added.
Often an addition of Yellow Oxide and red with Titanium White which is
strange as a brownish version of Titanium White is available and used
by some manufacturers. Mixed easily
on the palette.
A marketing name for Barium Yellow and nothing to do with real
Van Dyke Brown
The original pigment that this applied to was impermanent but now it
can mean anything and should always be avoided.
Variously a form of Green Earth, Emerald Green, Viridian or Chrome
Green in the past these days the name is even more creatively used for
mixtures of all kinds.
Originally a mixture of Viridian, Zinc Yellow and extender. Now any of
Could be either Cobalt Green or a mix of Prussian Blue and Zinc Yellow
reduced with extenders
This is a strange name as Cinnabar is the name of a red and applying it
to a green mixture seems illogical. The mixture is likely to be
anything. This spelling of Cinnabar was used for pure Vermilion as well.
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