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Yellow The warm and happy attention seeking color
Yellow is the lightest spectral color, directly opposite violet on the color wheel. Yellow is associated with the sun, and was one of the first 3 pigments used by humankind. Its name derives from an ancient word ghelwo meaning 'gold' It is the only color which is brightest when at full strength. It is a common color in nature from the ochre's of the earth to the bright yellows of fish and frogs to butterflies and spring flowers. In the Orient it is an auspicious color, the color of the Chinese Imperial family for centuries past, and of Saffron robed monks. It is the easiest color to see as the majority of the cones in the eye are sensitive to it, logically so, since many of the things in nature that are yellow are dangerous such as natural arsenic sulfides, poisonous snakes, and large cats. We take advantage of that in the human environment by using yellow for large dangerous machinery and road signs.


Mars Yellow / Yellow Oxide PY 42   ASTM   l
Also called Iron Yellow or even Yellow Ochre
Chemical type and description

Inorganic synthetic iron oxide. Produced in a wide range of shades but always a more pure yellow than the natural ochre Strong, average drier, makes a strong and flexible oil paint film. Its consistency of quality has meant it has gradually replaced the natural ochre in most purposes. Even paints that are named 'ochre' are often the synthetic product. A transparent version that has extra fine particles is available although this is less useful than the transparent version of Mars Red. One of the easiest pigments to make into a paint. Suitable for all purposes.
Toxicity
Not considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic, Fresco, Pastels, Chalk.


Yellow Ochre PY 43   ASTM   l
Some varieties called Brown Ochre
Chemical type and description

Inorganic natural iron oxide. Used since the dawn of time. Like many natural products it shows variation in quality from batch to batch which can provide difficulties for manufacturers. Duller and browner than Mars Yellow it is never the less still popular with artists. I personally use both pigments, Mars Yellow for making general yellows and oranges, but like the natural Yellow Ochre for making flesh tones. Duller and browner shades are sold under the Brown Ochre name but still with the PY 43 color index name.
Toxicity
Not generally considered toxic, however it is possible that some varieties may contain manganese which is toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic, Fresco, Pastels, Chalk.


Cadmium Yellow PY 37   ASTM   l
Chemical type and description
Inorganic synthetic Cadmium. Discovered in 1817, the rarity of the metal kept the color scarce until after mid century. It has been found to be present in the paintings of Monet. Pure Cadmium Sulfide comes in a variety of shades depending on the degree of calcination. The lighter shades may contain Zinc and the deepest yellows may have traces of Selenium. An absolutely permanent yellow except in the presence of lead pigments (unless well bound in oil) or in the presence of moisture over a long period. Average to slow drying, it makes a fairly flexible oil paint film. It is the best yellow available to the artist by a significant margin. Chemically pure varieties are available at a premium and although industry accepts up to 15% Barium and/or Lithopone as normal, the Chemically pure Cadmium Sulfide has a cleaner color and is noticeably stronger in tinting strength. The description 99.9% Cadmium Sulfide or the initials CP seen on the label of a few of the best grades of artist's paint refers to the Chemically Pure Cadmium's. Not suitable for use in dry media such as Pastels, and not recommended for Fresco.
Toxicity
Cadmium is considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic.


Cadmium Yellow Light PY 35   ASTM   l
Also known as Primrose Yellow and Lemon Yellow
Chemical type and description

Inorganic synthetic Cadmium and Zinc. Cadmium Zinc Sulfide produces the lightest Cadmium Yellows possible, with the higher the portion of Zinc, the lighter the color. There are some concerns that the Zinc may not be not as stable as the Cadmium component and so the palest lemons are not regarded as light fast as the less light versions. The color is close to being the perfect mixing yellow as it is very close to 'primary yellow'. Chemically Pure pigment is recommended (see comments under Cadmium Yellow above). Average to slow drying, it makes a fairly flexible oil paint film. Not suitable for dry media or Fresco. Highly recommended.
Toxicity
Cadmium's considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic.


Aureolin PY 40   ASTM   l l
Also known as Cobalt Yellow
Chemical type and description

Inorganic synthetic. Introduced in the 1850's it was seen as a permanent replacement for Gamboge. It has a leathery top tone but a sensationally beautiful golden yellow undertone that makes it useful for oil glazing and for watercolor. In oil it is fast drying but makes an erratic oil paint film. Not suitable for Acrylic, Fresco, or dry media. It is the only Cobalt color for artist's use that is less than absolutely light fast.
Toxicity
Cobalt is considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd,  Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic.

Nickel Titanate PY 53   ASTM   l
Also called Nickel Yellow or Nickel Titanium Yellow
Chemical type and description

Inorganic synthetic mixed metal oxide. An excellent  new pigment developed in the 1960's, absolutely permanent, suitable for all media, it is average to slow drying and makes a hard and fairly flexible oil paint film. Recommended.
Toxicity
Nickel is considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic, Fresco, Pastels, Chalk.


Arylide / Azo / Hansa Etc Closely related organics
Chemical type and description
Organic synthetic Monoazo or Diazo.
The monoazo and diazo pigments are ubiquitous in industry and art materials. They were the first of the modern organic pigments introduced under the name Hansa Yellow's in the early 20th century as 'permanent' replacements for various transparent gums and lakes that preceded them. Manufacturers loved their tinting strength, and bright clean colors but their sensitivity to light soon became apparent and they would always be poor cousins to the respected Cadmium's. Industries like printing were not too concerned about these limitations as they were economical and suited short term use perfectly. They have improved dramatically over the years, the earliest versions were ASTM l l, the newer ones ASTM l. It should always be understood that ASTM l represents a wide range of lightfastnesses, and most of these pigments are at the bare minimum that could be accepted as the most permanent class. Most of them can fade in tints with white. Most are considered non toxic are average drying, and make hard and fairly flexible oil paint films. I arrange them here for the first time grouped in ASTM classes. I also include all that are commonly offered for artist's use that are actually part of this family as there are pigments that are commonly called azo or arylide and there are others that actually are, but have other common names and artist's don't realize they are still part of this group. The comments above are general comments that apply to most of these pigments. Where there is a variation I note it under that pigment's description. Please note that many of these pigments share the same common names. it is important to refer to the color index name. Also note that variations of light fastness within an ASTM class are indicated by the specific terms excellent, very good, good, fair and poor, the last 2 never used within ASTM l, in other words good would refer to the poorest performing pigments in this class. I personally avoid most of the monoazo and diazo pigments as being insufficiently light fast, but many artists find their clean color combined with affordability compared to many alternatives to be irresistible. The choice is yours.

ASTM  l
Arylide Yellow (PY 65) Also known as Arylide Yellow RN, Hansa Yellow, Monoazo, and Azo Yellow. bright reddish yellow with excellent light fastness in masstone but only 'good' in tints. Susceptible to bleeding.
Arylide Yellow GX (PY 73) Also known as Hansa Yellow, Monoazo, Azo. Bright reddish Yellow with excellent light fastness. It's use in artist's paints is increasing. Appears to be a little more light fast than the more popular PY 74. Can bleed.
Arylide Yellow 5GX (PY 74) Also known as Brilliant Yellow, Hansa Yellow, Monoazo, Becoming increasingly popular in artists colors. It is a favorite of the printing industry. It comes in more than one variety, make certain that you select the one labeled 'LF' (stands for light fast) Despite this optimistic title, even the LF version fades in tints but in masstone is rated very good. Can bleed.
Diarylide Yellow HR70 (PY 83) Also known as Diazo Yellow. Very good light fastness, fades in tints. Reddish yellow, good tinting strength.
Arylide Yellow FGL (PY 97) Also known as Permanent Yellow. Good light fastness, fades in tints, not suitable for Fresco.
Nickel Azo Yellow (PY 150) A very greenish yellow of excellent light fastness but is not suitable for water based media. Nickel can sensitize the skin and may be considered toxic
Benzimidazolone Yellow H4G (PY 151) Greenish yellow of excellent light fastness, but has dull tints and is not suitable for Acrylics or Fresco.
Nickel Dioxine Yellow (PY 153) A bright yellow, dull tints, not suitable for Fresco. Nickel can sensitize the skin and may be considered toxic.
Benzimidazolone Yellow H3G (PY 154) Excellent light fastness, dull tints
Benzimidazolone Yellow HLR (PY 156) Transparent, dull tints. Excellent light fastness.
Benzimidazolone Yellow H6G (PY 175) Excellent light fastness, dull tints.

ASTM  l l
Hansa Yellow Medium (PY 1) Also known as Arylide Yellow G, Azo Yellow. One of the first Azo yellows introduced in 1909 Bright yellow with very good light fastness. Fades in tints. PY 73 is virtually the same color but has better light resistance. PY 1 is being used less and less as an artist's color. Can bleed.
Hansa Yellow Light (PY 3) Transparent greenish yellow introduced in 1911 Good tinting strength. very good light fastness, fades in tints.
Arylide Yellow 10GX. (PY 98) Bright greenish yellow similar in color to PY 3 but is stronger. Not suitable for Fresco.
Toxicity
Not considered toxic with the exception of PY 150 and PY 153 (see above). Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic, Fresco, Pastels, Chalk. Exceptions noted above PY 97, PY 98, PY 151, PY 153.


Other yellows Numerous choices & historic interest
Anthraquinone
Anthrapyrimidine Yellow (PY 108)
A transparent bright yellow of excellent light fastness in masstone, good light fastness in tints. ASTM l. Average drying and makes a hard and fairly flexible oil paint film. Suitable for all media. Not toxic.
Flavanthrone Yellow (PY 112)
A transparent reddish yellow of excellent light fastness in masstone and good light fastness in tints. ASTM l. Average drying, hard and fairly flexible oil paint film. Not suitable for Fresco but suits all other media. Not toxic.

Chromate's
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.
Strontium Yellow (PY 32)
Strontium Chromate. Sometimes called Lemon Yellow A pale bright yellow introduced in 1836
Barium Yellow.
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 and was considered permanent in in all media but seemed to be more popular in watercolor.
Chrome Yellow (PY 34)
Lead Chromate. Introduced in 1797 and widely used because they were cheap and came in a wide variety of shades from pale primrose to orange. They are opaque and are produce a pleasing result that sadly quickly discolors and goes dark. Poisonous and impermanent Chrome Yellow should always be avoided.

Naples Yellow (PY 41)

Inorganic synthetic Lead Antimoniate. Also called  Antimony Yellow. Originally a natural ore of volcanic origin (said to be harvested from the slopes of Mt Vesuvius in the Roman era, it has been made artificially since the Renaissance. It is still made in small quantities and can be obtained as a pigment from specialist pigment suppliers such as Kremer. Comes in a number of shades from greenish to pinkish pale yellows. Almost never used by the manufacturers of artist's materials (colors called Naples Yellow are usually mixtures of white, ochre, and red. The genuine pigment has excellent pigment qualities including great permanence but like all lead based pigments it is highly poisonous. Treat with extreme caution. It is fast drying and makes a tough and flexible oil paint film.
Lead-Tin Yellow (no color index name)
This very stable bright opaque Yellow was used from the 13th century until the middle of the 17th when it mysteriously ceased to be available. it is speculated that only one family was making it, closely 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.
Isoindolone Yellow R (PY 110)
An exceptional bright reddish yellow with excellent tinting strength. Very good light fastness, ASTM l. Suitable for all media. Not toxic. Average drying and makes a hard and fairly flexible oil paint film.
Kings Yellow (PY 39)
Also called Orpiment. For thousands of years natural Arsenic Trisulphide has been known as Orpiment and used by artist's as the brightest yellow available for most of that time. In the 17th century it was made artificially for the first time and had a name change to King Yellow, It only died out with the introduction of Cadmium Yellow in the mid 19th century, Impermanent and very poisonous. Realgar is the Disulfide form of arsenic a more orange color also ancient in use.
Massicot (PY 46)
An oxide of lead closely related to Litharge, which is lighter, Massicot a little redder, Poisonous and quite impermanent.
Indian Yellow (no color index name)
Banned in 1908 when it was revealed to the public that this golden yellow color that artist's loved was in fact made from the urine of cows that were forcibly fed large quantities of Mango leaves. This was considered cruel treatment and this color exists now only as substitutes carrying the same name.
Gamboge (NY 24)
gamboge is a gum from a tree in Thailand and nearby areas. The name is a corruption of Cambodia where the tree also grows. From its introduction in the 16th century until the development of Aureolin (which quickly replaced it) it was the only reasonably dependable golden glazing yellow. In watercolor it was mixed with Prussian Blue to produce the much loved Hooker's Green. More of a colored resin than a true pigment it was unable to stand up to prolonged exposure to light.
Quercitron Lake (NY 9)
Commonly called Gallstone. A natural dye extracted from the bark of Oak Trees. These sort of colors were used until the early 20th century when better colors came onto the market. gall stone was correctly supposed to be made from oxgall but was most commonly made from the yellow Quercitron Lake.
Saffron (NY 6)
Still widely used throughout Asia Saffron was used in Europe from Roman times although it's poor light fastness limited it's use for artist's. the coloring agent is extracted from the Indian Iris (Crocus Sativa)
Tumeric (NY 3)
Still widely used as a food colorant it found occasional use as an artist's color in former times. It is made from the root of Curcuma Longa.
Bismuth Yellow (PY 184) Also called Vanadium Yellow
A semi opaque bright light lemon yellow similar in color to Cadmium Yellow Light but not so opaque. Excellent light fastness and does not have the toxicity issues of the Cadmium's. Should be an excellent Pastels color although I have not used it as such myself. Also gets called Vanadium Yellow as it is correctly Bismuth-Vanadium Yellow.



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References
Alberti, L B,    On Painting    1435 (Penguin Classics)
Cellini, B,    The Life Of Benvenuto Cellini,    finished 1562 but not published until 1730 (Heron)
Cennini, C d'A,    The Craftsman's Handbook.    1437 (Dover)
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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 (Dover)
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 & Faber)
Merrifield, Mrs. M P,    Medieval And Renaissance Treatises On 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 (Wiley)
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)


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