Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Pigments are used for coloring paint, ink, plastic, cosmetics, fabric, food, and others.  Most pigments used in manufacturing and the visual arts are dry colorants, usually ground into a fine powder.

According to, pigment is defined as a dry insoluble substance, usually pulverized, which when suspended in a liquid vehicle becomes a paint, ink, etc. It is a coloring matter or substance.

Lascaux Cave Paintings, ca 15,000 BC

At the same time as the Egyptians, the Chinese were also used pigments. Vermillion was developed before the Romans actually began to use it. "Vermillion was made by heating mercury and sulphur, producing an extremely opaque, strong red pigment which had almost entirely replaced Cinnabar by the 18th century. By the end of the 20th century, Vermilion was replaced by Cadmiums which provide greater permanence." 
Additionally, the Greeks added to the color palette. They manufactured the first opaque white. They also created red lead which was used up until lead was banned in the 1990s. 
The Romans used colors that they adopted from the Egyptians and Greeks. One of their most important colors was the Tyrian Purple with its high price and value. "The color is prepared from a small color producing cyst within a whelk. Huge quantities of whelks were required and spoil heaps of the shells can still be seen on the sites of ancient dye works around the Mediterranean. In 1908, P. Friedlander collected just 1.4 grams of pure dye from 12,000 mollusks. Due to its price, Tyrian Purple was used to dye the togas of Roman Emperors."

Christ Mosaic in Ravenna, 6th Century
It was not until the 18th century that we begin to see the use of modern scientific chemistry. "In 1704, a German color maker named Diesbach was manufacturing red lake pigments, which required the use of potash as an alkali. He ran out of his supply and used some which was contaminated with animal oil. Instead of getting red he got purple and then blue, the first chemically synthesized color, Prussian Blue, had been made! Prussian Blue remains a popular color to this day and is also known for its novel ability to fade in daylight yet recover in darkness!"

When looking back, pigments have quite a history that go back to more than 15,000 years ago. Cavemen are the first that we are aware of who used color to decorate cave walls. They used earth pigments as well as soot from burning animal fats.

Later by 4,000 BC, the Egyptians were using pigments. They began to purify and mix colors from minerals. This allowed them to expand the color choices from the earth tones. One of the most famous color is Egyptian Blue which was a "blue glass made from sand and copper which was then ground into a powder. The Egyptians also utilized Malachite, Azurite and Cinnabar by crushing and washing each mineral. Cinnabar was prized as the first known bright red. Vegetable dyes were also developed by the Egyptians, who found a way of ‘fixing' the dye onto a transparent white powder to produce a pigment. This process is called lake making and is still used today to produce Rose Madder Genuine."

Throughout the Renaissance, there was a rebirth for artists in the 14th century. The Italians developed a range of earth pigments "by roasting siennas and umbers to make the deep rich red of Burnt Sienna and the rich brown of Burnt Umber. Earth colors featured heavily in their painting technique, Terre Verte (Green Earth) being the principle underpainting color for flesh tones. The Italians improved the lake making processes of the Egyptians and developed Naples Yellow, another opaque lead based pigment, but it was the development and use of Genuine Ultramarine which perhaps personifies Renaissance paintings in our minds. Lapis Lazuli was first used as a pigment by simply grinding it, but even the best stone can have up to 90% impurities and it was the discovery of how to extract the blue which enlightened the Renaissance palette. The bright, deep blue produced had excellent lightfastness and was the most expensive pigment known to man. This high value was the reasoning behind the Madonna being graced in blue."

"The Industrial Revolution at the beginning of the century produced both new processing possibilities and new opportunities for trade in every quarter of life including artists' pigments. Scientists were driven by the demand for new more permanent colors and were able to utilize new minerals and chemistry to invent many of the colors which we think of today as ‘traditional'."
I love that you can really transform any color with simply adding pigments in their true form. You must remember though that since that our pigments are pure, that a little goes a long way. Our pigments come from France. They are natural and not synthetic which is a less expensive comparison many times. The higher quality natural pigment makes for a more beautiful finish. Amy Howard At Home Pigments & Powders can be mixed with Amy Howard At Home Toscana Paint to create varying shades of colors. Another way to use the pigments is to add them to the Amy Howard At Home waxes and Venetian plaster. The options are endless!
Natural pigment with wax
Mixing the pigment and wax
Mica Powder and wax
Mixing the Mica powder and wax
So many possibilities!
Process Photos:
My clear wax and pigment
Mixing wax and pigment
I like using a flat putty knife.
I cleaned my Bauhaus Buff finished sample piece, before adding any of my pigmented wax.
Dry brushing mixed pigmented wax.
Applying pigmented waxes on furniture
Light Application: I literally dry brush the pigmented wax all over my piece
 After my pigmented wax is dry to touch (approximately 10 minutes), 
I will add my Dust of Ages and burnish well with a brush. 
Then I will lightly burnish with a rag.
Buffing the pigmented wax with the Dust of Ages already applied.
Beautiful and subtle finished look

All of the Amy Howard At Home Pigments are available here

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