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The Early Colour Pigments

Note on making oil colours: Every pigment requires a different volume of oil to bring it to the desired consistency. This varies enormously, so a pigment like Alizarin, for instance, requires almost twice as much oil by volume as White Lead. In practice, it is advisable to avoid fast-drying colours that require a large amount of oil, such as Umbers, Siennas and Cobalt Blues, in underpainting, unless they are applied thinly or in tints reduced with white.

Toxicity Ratings:
The Classifications used are based on those intended for guidance of artists’ colour manufacturers where large quantities might be involved along with sustained, frequent use. We recommend that necessary safety precautions should be followed for best studio practice. Wear a dust mask and work in a well-ventilated space to avoid breathing in the dust. Do not eat, drink or touch your eyes while handling these products, and make sure that your work area is easy to clean at the end of the day. 

Code:

A - Non-hazardous.

B - Relatively harmless.

C - Very low toxic hazard – some precaution necessary.

D - Defined physiological hazard – appropriate precautions necessary.

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  1. Orpiment Pigment

    Orpiment Pigment

    Starting at: £12.75

    PY39

    Orpiment, also called King's Yellow, is a mineral pigment containing naturally occurring sulphide of arsenic. Its high toxicity, and the prevalence of cadmium pigments, means that it is largely obsolete outside the field of restoration. It works best bound in oil or egg tempera, but it is not reliably permanent.

    Larger quantities are available by request.

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  2. Stil de Grain

    Stil de Grain

    Starting at: £12.20

    NY13:75640 Stil de Grain is a natural yellow pigment derived from unripe buckthorn berries, which were also once used to produce sap green pigment before the introduction of synthetic alternatives. Stil de Grain may also be known as brown lake, yellow lake, Persian lake, buckthorn lake, Dutch pink, yellow carmine and Italian pink. It has a weak tinting strength, and is very transparent, especially in oil. When mixed with oil, the pigment becomes saturated, darkening considerably in colour and drying very slowly, whereas in a water-based paint it is appears as a warm yellow. It is very fugitive to light, and compatible with all media, except lime. Larger quantities are available by request. Learn More
  3. Gamboge Powder

    Gamboge Powder

    Starting at: £5.20

    Call to Order

    Gamboge is a natural tree resin, available as a powder and in the solid "pipe" form. It is highly transparent, fugitive to light, with a weak tinting strength. The powder can be dissolved in alcohol to colour resin-based varnishes. In its solid form, Pipe Gamboge does not require a binding agent to be used as a paint. Instead, colour can be lifted with a wet brush, as from a watercolour pan.

    Larger quantities are available by request.

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  4. Gamboge Pipe Pieces

    Gamboge Pipe Pieces

    Starting at: £22.00

    Gamboge is a natural tree resin, available as a powder and in the solid "pipe" form. One of the unique features of Pipe Gamboge is that it does not require a binding agent to be used as a paint. Instead, colour can be lifted with a wet brush, as from a watercolour pan. It is highly transparent, fugitive to light, with a weak tinting strength. The powder can be dissolved in alcohol to colour resin-based varnishes.

    Pipe Gamboge is available while stocks last. Larger quantities are available by request.

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  5. Litharge Pigment

    Litharge Pigment

    Starting at: £8.00

    PY46

    Litharge is lead monoxide, also known as Massicot. It is an opaque pigment, with a weak tinting strength. Its toxicity and fugitive nature means that it is rarely used as a pigment. Instead, its fast drying time means that it has been used as a siccative in oil mediums. The colour tends to darken in all media, and it is also unstable in its dry form, as the powder can lighten when exposed to air. 

    Larger quantities are available by request.

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  6. Madder Root Pieces

    Madder Root Pieces

    Starting at: £27.80

    NR9

    The madder plant was once widely cultivated for the red dye extracted from its roots. Its earliest known use is in ancient Egypt, and there is evidence of its widespread adoption in Europe from the medieval period. Madder Lake, the pigment that is derived from the root, has now largely been replaced by synthetic alizarin pigments, but it is still used as an ingredient in some commercial paints. It provides a very transparent pigment, with a weak tinting strength, which can be used in all lime-free media, although it is very slow-drying in oil. It is fugitive to sunlight, so paintings containing Madder should be stored appropriately, but it remains one of the most lightfast plant-based pigments. 

    Larger quantities are available by request.

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  7. Carmine Red Genuine Pigment

    Carmine Red Genuine Pigment

    Starting at: £9.90

    NR4

    Carmine has been used as a dye and pigment since antiquity. Originally derived from the kermes insect, it was replaced by cochineal following the discovery of the Americas. It has a good tinting strength and is very transparent, although it is fugitive to light.

    Larger quantities are available by request.

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  8. Madder Lake Genuine Pigment

    Madder Lake Genuine Pigment

    Starting at: £10.20

    NR9

    Madder Lake pigment is derived from dye that has been extracted from the root of the madder plant, and attached to alum as a base. It has largely been replaced by synthetic alizarin pigments, but it is still used as an ingredient in some commercially-available paints. It provides a very transparent pigment, with a weak tinting strength, which can be used in all lime-free media, although it is very slow-drying in oil. It is fugitive to sunlight, so paintings containing Madder should be stored appropriately, but it remains one of the most lightfast plant-based pigments. It requires a wetting agent to aid dispersion.

    Larger quantities are available by request

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  9. Cinnabar Pigment

    Cinnabar Pigment

    Starting at: £16.00

    PR106

    Cinnabar, composed of mercuric sulphide, is a mineral pigment found in crusts or veins in sites of volcanic activity. It has good tinting strength and opacity but, like many red pigments, it dries very slowly in oil media. Due to its high toxicity, it is no longer an ingredient in commercial paints, but is a prominent colour in historical palettes.

    Generally, Cinnabar refers to the natural mineral, while Vermilion refers to the synthetic pigment. Cinnabar has been mined since at least the tenth millennium BC, and used as a painting material, gemstone, and ritual object by many cultures around the globe. 

    Larger sizes available on request.

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  10. Rose Madder Genuine Pigment

    Rose Madder Genuine Pigment

    Starting at: £15.80

    NR9 Rose Madder is an alizarin lake pigment made by precipitating dye extracted from madder root onto an inert base. It has largely been replaced by synthetic alizarin pigments, but it is still used as an ingredient in some commercially-available paints. It provides a very transparent pigment, with a weak tinting strength, which can be used in all lime-free media, although it is very slow-drying in oil. It is fugitive to sunlight, so paintings containing Madder should be stored appropriately, but it remains one of the most lightfast plant-based pigments. It requires a wetting agent to aid dispersion. Larger quantities are available by request Learn More
  11. Vermilion Genuine Pigment

    Vermilion Genuine Pigment

    Starting at: £15.90

    PR106 Vermilion is an artificial pigment based on mercuric sulphide, which occurs naturally as Cinnabar. The synthetic form contains fewer impurities than Cinnabar, and was in use in China as early as the fourth century. It was present in Europe from the ninth century, and was the most widely used red pigment until the introduction of Cadmium Red in the early twentieth century. It has good tinting strength and opacity but, like many red pigments, it dries very slowly in oil media. Larger sizes available on request. Learn More
  12. Azurite Pigment

    Azurite Pigment

    Starting at: £11.80

    PB30

    Azurite is a naturally occuring copper carbonate, with a long history within European and Asian painting. It was mined in northern Europe, so was a less expensive source of blue than Lapis Lazuli, which was imported from Afghanistan. Medieval artists would often use Azurite in underpaintings, before applying layers of Lapis Lazuli during later stages of production.

    It is best used in aqueous media, as the acidity of oils can cause it to darken in colour, although this can be somewhat counteracted by protecting the pigment particles with a protein such as egg yolk. It has a very low tinting strength, and the particle size tends to be quite large, to give a darker colour. It is sensitive to damp conditions, and is slightly transparent.

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  13. Genuine Malachite Pigment

    Genuine Malachite Pigment

    Starting at: £14.90

    Malachite is a naturally occurring copper carbonate, closely related to Azurite. It has a weak tinting strength, is quite opaque, and works best in aqueous media. Larger sizes available on request. Learn More
  14. Synthetic Malachite Pigment

    Synthetic Malachite Pigment

    Starting at: £4.20

    Synthetic Malachite is an artificial mineral pigment, copper carbonate, chemically based on Malachite. It has a medium tinting strength and good opacity. Larger sizes available on request Learn More
  15. Lead Tin Yellow Light Pigment

    Lead Tin Yellow Light Pigment

    Starting at: £4.80

    Bright yellow first used in the Middle Ages as a replacement for Orpiment. Suitable for oil based media. Larger sizes available. Please ask for quotation. Learn More
  16. Lead Tin Yellow Dark Pigment

    Lead Tin Yellow Dark Pigment

    Starting at: £4.80

    Lead Tin Yellow Dark Pigment. Larger sizes available. Please ask for quotation. Learn More
  17. Realgar Pigment

    Realgar Pigment

    Starting at: £12.75

    Realgar, like Orpiment, is sulphide of arsenic, and these two substances are often found in close proximity to each other in nature. Realgar exists in small deposits throughout the world and has been used for its colour since ancient times, although its extreme toxicity means that it has been superseded by cadmiums in modern painting. It is an opaque pigment with poor tinting strength.

    Larger quantities are available by request.

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  18. Blue Verditer Pigment

    Blue Verditer Pigment

    Starting at: £4.90

    Blue Verditer, sometimes referred to as Bremen Blue, is a synthetic form of Azurite, or copper-calcium carbonate. It has a weak tinting strength and is sligtly transparent. It works best in water-based binders, as the acidity of linseed oil can cause discolouration. 


    Larger sizes available on request

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  19. Egyptian Blue Pigment

    Egyptian Blue Pigment

    Starting at: £5.90

    Egyptian Blue is stable in all media, highly transparent, with a weak tinting strength. A synthetically produced calcium copper silicate, it is considered to be the earliest artificial pigment, dating from antiquity and widely used in ancient Egypt. Larger sizes available on request Learn More
  20. Verdigris Pigment

    Verdigris Pigment

    Starting at: £4.90

    Verdigris is an artificial pigment that dates from antiquity. Originally, it was produced by exposing copper to vinegar; nowadays acetic acid is used. It is acidic, so can contribute to the deterioration of paper supports. For this reason, it is more suited to oil or tempera painting than it is to watercolour. In tempera painting, it should be bound in animal glue or isinglass glue rather than egg york. When used in oil painting it should be held in a resin oil or balsam such as Venice Turpentine, as it can turn brown when ground directly into linseed oil. It is a fast-drying, transparent pigment, with a visible crystalline structure. 

    Larger quantities are available by request.

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  21. Ivory Black Genuine Pigment

    Ivory Black Genuine Pigment

    Starting at: £38.00

    PBk9

    Genuine Ivory Black is produced by burning reclaimed ivory, such as piano keys, and offers a higher carbon content and greater tinting strength than modern-day equivalents, which are usually derived from animal bones. It is a particularly slow-drying pigment.

    Larger quantities are available by request. While stocks last.

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  22. Smalt Light Pigment

    Smalt Light Pigment

    Starting at: £5.20

    PB32

    Smalt is a kind of cobalt blue glass or frit, and its use as a pigment dates from the 1600s in the glass-making regions of Saxony. We offer two shades, light and dark, which are determined by the particle size of the pigment; the more finely ground the powder, the paler the colour. Before the introduction of Ultramarine Blue, Smalt was available in a wide variety of grades. It is a very transparent pigment, which is easily overwhelmed in mixtures due to its weak tinting strength. It works best in water based media. When ground in oil, it can become almost invisible in dried oil-paint films because its refractive index is so close to that of linseed oil.

    Larger quantities are available by request.

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  23. Smalt Dark Pigment

    Smalt Dark Pigment

    Starting at: £5.30

    PB32

    Smalt is a kind of cobalt blue glass or frit, and its use as a pigment dates from the 1600s in the glass-making regions of Saxony. We offer two shades, light and dark, which are determined by the particle size of the pigment; the more finely ground the powder, the paler the colour. Before the introduction of Ultramarine Blue, Smalt was available in a wide variety of grades. It is a very transparent pigment, which is easily overwhelmed in mixtures due to its weak tinting strength. It works best in water based media. When ground in oil, it can become almost invisible in dried oil-paint films because its refractive index is so close to that of linseed oil.

    Larger quantities are available by request.

    Learn More
  24. Lapis Lazuli Light Pigment

    Lapis Lazuli Light Pigment

    Starting at: £10.20

    PB29

    Lapis Lazuli is a natural mineral pigment, mined in Afghanistan and South America. Different shades of Lapis Lazuli are determined by the intensity of colour of the lazurite vein; we offer the pigment in light and dark. For many centuries it was the most reliable blue pigment available, and became particularly significant during the Medieval and Renaissance periods, when its inclusion in a work of art denoted the wealth and status of the patron, or the holiness of a painting's subject. In commercial paint production it has largely been replaced by the more affordable Ultramarine Blue, although it still has a place on modern palettes due to its unique soft violet tone. It is a transparant pigment, with a low tinting strength.

    Larger quantities are available by request.

    Learn More
  25. Lapis Lazuli Middle Pigment

    Lapis Lazuli Middle Pigment

    Starting at: £10.20

    Lapis Lazuli Middle Pigment. Usage dates from the Middle Ages when it was the only reliable blue pigment. Different intensities of genuine ultramarine are caused by the varying intensities of colour in the original lazurite vein Learn More
  26. Lapis Lazuli Dark Pigment

    Lapis Lazuli Dark Pigment

    Starting at: £12.20

    PB29

    Lapis Lazuli is a natural mineral pigment, mined in Afghanistan and South America. Different shades of Lapis Lazuli are determined by the intensity of colour of the lazurite vein; we offer the pigment in light and dark. For many centuries it was the most reliable blue pigment available, and became particularly significant during the Medieval and Renaissance periods, when its inclusion in a work of art denoted the wealth and status of the patron, or the holiness of a painting's subject. In commercial paint production it has largely been replaced by the more affordable Ultramarine Blue, although it still has a place on modern palettes due to its unique soft violet tone. It is a transparant pigment, with a low tinting strength.

    Larger quantities are available by request.

    Learn More

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