View Full Version : "Lake" colors

02-25-2001, 09:22 PM
Quick (probably dumb) question. What does "Lake" mean in a color name? such as scarlet lake, cobalt yellow lake, etc. Anyone know where the term came from?


02-25-2001, 10:22 PM
Lakes are paints made with dyes. They are not permanent and should be avoided for work you want to last. It's a bit more complicated than that, but that's the simple answer.


02-26-2001, 12:33 AM
Thank you!

02-26-2001, 02:03 AM
Hi rebob,
It is true that a ' lake' is traditionally a dye, but not all dyes are imperminent , and not all lakes nowadays are dyes. Alizarin Crimson is a dye pigment, and the good quality ones are as permanent as you could wish for...
I think the confusion comes from manufacturers habits of calling new colors by thier traditional names, even when the new pigment used is not the same as the old . Fer instance, a Gamboge yellow from the 1800's was made from an imperminent resin, but a Gamboge lake of today might be cobalt yellow or some mix of the very stable synthetic organic pigments like Arylide Yellow ( Hansa Yellow ) . In the same way an old Madder lake was made from madder root , while a new one would be made from anthroquinone red , or quinacridone . Carmine red was originally a deep red made from squished up beetles - now a paint by that name would almost certainly be alizarin or quinacridone or something equally permanent .
To further confuse the issue, a lot of paint makers arbitrarily use the term Lake for any transparent pigment, dye based or not .
My 2 cents ? Dont buy cheap paint if you are really, really worried about permanence, but even there the only manufacture i can think of that still uses aniline dyes and other obviously impermenent pigments is Shiva, and im not even sure they are in business anymore . Rowney Georgian is a very decent cheap paint and they are all ( as far as remember ) absolutely lightfast .
Actually, the only reason not to use cheap paint is higher pigment loading in the more expensive brands . That, and getting a single pigment in a color ( like cadmiums ) rather than a mix of 3 + white like in a ' Cadmium Hue' . That way you dont get shi_grey so quickly in your mixes...

oh - Ralph says ' lake' comes from 'lac' as in shellac ( bug poop ! )

Time wounds all heels

[This message has been edited by colinbarclay (edited February 26, 2001).]

02-26-2001, 07:35 AM
Hello Rebob,

Concerning the linguistic/etymologicol aspect of your question: in dutch we know the word 'lak' and that means varnish.
So as you would varnish your new table I would 'lak' it.
That is common usage of the word.
More specialist usage of the word is that of painters who speak of a blue, green or what have you 'lak', meaning a very transparent paint of course.
If you happen to have Old Holland colours you will see on the alizarin crimson tube that the dutch word is 'kraplak' which is the most wellknown 'lak'. 'Krap' or 'meerkrap' is the plant that used to provide the pigment, but was very fugitive.
How the word 'lak' which is akin to 'lacquer'
ever came to be 'lake' in english, I don't know; perhaps an old english word that isn't used anymore?
And in 'schellak' the latter part simply is and means 'lak', allright.

Just took a peek in a dictionary and there is more to tell about the word then I could possibly do here, but I hope my explanation answers your question.



03-03-2001, 11:12 PM
Again, thanks to everyone. What a wealth of knowledge