View Full Version : Group of seven palette...

01-10-2002, 10:28 AM
In a book about the Group Of Seven, there is a reference to a limited palette for the novice painter suggested by A.Y. Jackson|:

Flake White
Rose Madder
a darker madder for darker reds
Chrome Orange
Chrome Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Viridian Green
Permenant Blue
Cerulean Blue
Lamp black

A few of these have stumped me at the art supply store...I suspect they are old pigments that have been replaced due to health concerns or simply renamed ....

Any help on the following (equivilants or mixes to achieve them):

Chrome orange
Chrome yellow
Permanent Blue


01-10-2002, 03:32 PM
Chrome Yellow and Chrome Orange contain lead chromate pigment. They have been mostly discontinued because (1) they contain poisonous lead; and (2) they are not lightfast (their color fades with age). While Chrome Yellow is still sold, Chrome Orange is completely obsolete.

Cadmiums have replaced Lead Chromates. Cadmiums come in a wide variety of yellows and reds, and they are very opaque, provide bright color, and are lightfast. (You may have heard about Cadmiums also being toxic, but they are a lot safer than Lead.)

Permanent Blue is the old name for Ultramarine Blue. Ultramarine Blue was originally made from lapis lazulis so is quite expensive. French Ultramarine contains the same chemical but is man made. It gets its name because the first factory where the pigment was manufactured was located in France.

01-10-2002, 07:14 PM
Thanks Michael, this is just the info I was looking for.

01-12-2002, 05:17 AM
In addition to Michael's comments I wanted to add a few things.

Flake White is a good pigment in oils with admirable drying and handling properties but it's worth mentioning that Titanium White is much whiter and generally more opaque so might work out better depending on your taste.
Vermilion: not considered reliable as it can darken on exposure to light and is also highly toxic (it's made from mercury). There are lots of decent orange-reds to choose from today, the cadmium reds being the most common, and some of the redder oranges are close matches to some vermilions.
Rose Madder is not lightfast and since a number of good alternatives of roughly the same hue with superior colour attributes are now available why compromise? Names to look for include Quinacridone Rose, Carmine, Magenta and Violet, Anthraquinoid Red and Thioindigoid Violet.
Chrome Orange: there are numerous better oranges available today including Cadmium Orange, Perinone Orange and a couple of the benzimidazolone oranges if you would prefer to have this hue instead of mixing it yourself.
Chrome Yellows darken and dull as they age: this is responsible for the dull yellow passages in Van Gogh's work. Cadmium Yellows are a much better choice and are the most opaque yellows available.
Yellow Ochre is an important pigment for many artists for a variety of applications as it mixes easy low-key greens and is the basis for many flesh mixes.
Viridian is a fine pigment but Phthalocyanine Green BS is cleaner-hued and therefore more versatile, but you might prefer Viridian's slightly more subdued mixes.
Permanent Blue = French Ultramarine, named because of a competition sponsored by the French government to replace the costly genuine pigment, won by a Frenchman. A superb pigment and the best violet-blue available to artists.
Cerulean Blue is another top-notch pigment used by many artists and valued for skies and flesh mixes to give two examples.
Lamp black is one of the best black in terms of opacity and colour.

Ignoring the obsolete pigments and looking at it purely in terms of colour, overall this palette is fairly good - it features two yellows, an orange, a warm/cool red pair, one violet and green and a warm/cool blue pair along with black and white. More versatility could be had by choosing a brighter second pigment for the yellow position - a green-yellow to go along with Cadmium Yellow's orange-yellow - but there are worse palettes.

BTW in case you don't know you click on 'search' near the top of the page to look for mentions of any of these pigment names in previous posts, where you will find a number including recent discussions on Cerulean Blue and modern synthetic pigments including the quinacridones.

Hope this helps,

01-12-2002, 11:43 AM
A lot of appreciated info!
On a side note, I'm getting back into playing with oils... got out my old 200ML tubes of WN oil paint from over 10 yrs ago (!) (price tags $5-6 each) they seem fine, except for a few plastic caps that snapped off instead of twisting off...
After browsing these forums for just a day or two I've come to the realization that I bought some "hues" back then and not the real pigments! It never crossed my mind that "cerelean blue" and "Cerelean blue hue" were not the same thing...wow! The things one can learn...

01-12-2002, 11:47 AM
"cerulean" I meant!

01-12-2002, 10:40 PM
I think I will further add that Flake White is also called Lead White, and is not used much today because of the dangers of lead poisoning, and because Titanium White, a relatively modern pigment, is more opaque then Lead White, and I've also read that Lead White is "stringy"... don't know what that means. It's said to be warmer than Titanium White which has a very very slight bluish cast. I've never tried using Lead White.

Madders are dyes made from roots of madder plants that have been converted into pigments, and they aren't lightfast, but then maybe it's silly worrying about what your paintings will look like in 100 years anyway. Alizarin Crimson is the most common madder used today (and this is what "a dark madder for darker reds" refers to). Even though it's not lightfast, Alizarin is widely used.

Quinacridones, modern organic pigments, come in wonderfully bright reds and violets, and can replace the madders. I really love Quinacridone Violet. But it's a hard pigment to work with, because it's much more powerful than the non-organic pigments.

The history of pigments has always been that artists were searching for better ones. Now we are in pigment nirvanna. Modern science has created beautiful bright colors like pthalocyanine which comes in very bright blues and greens, and the quinacridones, and others I haven't even tried. But a lot of realist artists look down at the new pigments, and elevate the older ones.

My first art class, the instructor said we needed the following pigments: Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red light, Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine, Viridian, and Burnt Umber.

This is a pretty standard pallette endorsed by art teachers. I think they use Cadmium Red Light for the express purpose of proving that you can't paint an apple without adding Alizarin to it. Peronsonally, I think that Cadmium Red Medium is a nicer color. I also like Quinacridone Violet better than Alizarin Crimson.

Earth tones are controversial. Some think they are great. Some say you should mix all of your earth tones from primary colors. I like earth colors, not only are they easy to mix, but they are also inexpensive. Indian Red seems like a much more economical color to use than Camidum Red when you don't need a bright red. Burnt Sienna is orange, and Yellow Ochre is... yes it's yellow.

Black is even more controversial. Some say beginning artists shouldn't ever use it. I think that I've heard this so much that I'm afraid to use it when I SHOULD be using it. Ivory Black and Lamp Black are very similar. Carbon is the bigment in both of them... Ivory Black comes from charred animal bones, which produces a less strong carbon than the more powerful Lamp Black (not sure where the carbon in Lamb Black comes from). Ivory Black is a very weak pigment, you can safely mix it into another color, and it doesn't make the other color turn black... unless you use a lot of it.

I must be a great artist to know so much, huh? Unfortunately not. One can learn a lot about pigments by reading, and by experimenting with them (it's hard to resist the temptation to leave an art supply store without a new color of paint). But alas, there is more to being a great artist than just knowing the difference between Quinacridone and Alizarin.

01-13-2002, 07:00 PM
Just letting you all know how much I am enjoying visiting this forum.:clap:

01-13-2002, 07:50 PM
Some good points there Michael. When Flake White is described as "stringy" it means this literally, the paint can be made to easily form strings when the brush is lifted which some people value for impasto work.

It is a sad fact that many modern artists look down their noses at modern pigments, some seeming to say simply "if it's new it must be bad" and forgetting they use machine-made canvas, modern brushes and other things foreign to painters of yore. While it is certainly true that we are in the proverbial sweet-shop with regard to colour choice today this does make the selection of the cream of the crop slightly harder, especially with some ranges stretching to nearly 200 colours!

I think Cadmium Red Light is the better choice between the light and medium, although I have both. It is easy to mix the medium and dark shades with a violet-red or a red-violet, not so easy to do the reverse trick.

Good points about the earths, why mix Red Oxide from a very expensive pigment when you can just buy a really cheap one!

The widespread dislike of black is an unfortunate holdover from the Impressionists, and ignores centuries of previous use, with no guilt I would wager!

Originally posted by Michael
...it's hard to resist the temptation to leave an art supply store without a new color of paint...
Oh how true!


01-14-2002, 11:12 PM
Originally posted by Einion
The widespread dislike of black is an unfortunate holdover from the Impressionists, and ignores centuries of previous use, with no guilt I would wager!

A lot of old paintings were mostly black. Part of this is because the pigment in question, charred animal bones, was the cheapest of all to produce. Before the industrial revolution, pigments were hard to come by. Artists had to conserve the expensive colors.

01-22-2002, 08:26 PM
Michael, (or anyone), could you suggest some good books to read on the subject of pigments?
I've enjoyed reading all of this so far, thanks :)

01-23-2002, 06:20 AM
Great thread!!

I am So disappointed to hear about the mercury in Vermillion-one of my Favorite colors. I'll have to take it to the art store with me next time and match up a safer substitute. I just don't think cad. red light has the same great look as vermillion.

Can anyone talk about another favorite of mine- Chromium Oxide Green? I hope it made the safe list.


01-23-2002, 05:24 PM
Amorphis, there are many books but a good starter volume of common pigments in current use is Michael Wilcox’s The Artist's Guide to Selecting Colors.

Renee, if the tube you have lists it, check for the CIN, if it's the genuine article it will be PR106. If it's not this then you're already using a substitute so you can worry not, if it is the real stuff then a direct substitute might be difficult to find if you're attached to its particular characteristics.

If you are using the real thing and need to find a replacement, some of the darker-valued red-oranges reportedly make good substitutes for the scarlet varieties, one or two reds for the darker types. Gamblin's Napthol Scarlet (Napthol AS-OL, PR9), Rembrandt's and Blockx's vermilion substitutes (both Pyrrole Orange, PO73) might be worth a look in addition to other vermilion hues, but you would have to try them for yourself to see if they match what you value most about the colour. If you find a likely candidate in a store near you, you might like to, achem, borrow a tiny blob to take home to compare to yours.

Chromium pigments are in fact classed by some as toxic but more realistically I think, like cadmiums, they should be classed as harmful as they are less of a problem if ingested than lead, arsenic or mercury pigments in real terms so I would not worry about it. As someone said previously, treat all paints and artists' materials as though they were toxic and you can't go far wrong.


Bruce Newman
01-23-2002, 06:11 PM
Originally posted by Amorphis
Michael, (or anyone), could you suggest some good books to read on the subject of pigments?
I've enjoyed reading all of this so far, thanks :)

Amorphis, I don't know how it is regarded in the big scheme of things, but I am currently reading _Color Choices_ by Stephen Quiller and I am really enjoying it. This was published in 1989 and he put out another book in 1999 called _Painter's Guide to Color_ which I also have and will read next.

Lots of info on the color wheel, pure and neutralized colors, monochromatic and complimentary color schemes, analogous and split-complimentary color schemes and triadic color schemes, as well as help on setting up a palette.

These two books appear quite similar, but I wanted to read them both anyway in order to bang the stuff into my head a little better. It could be that his most recent book would be enough for me, but I can't tell yet.


cobalt fingers
01-23-2002, 07:10 PM
:clap: Man you guys know lots about pigment!:clap:

some publisher is going to come along and steal all this knowledge and do a book!

Briefly, I think you can find a much better palette. I see no advantages to something old and out moded.

01-23-2002, 10:21 PM
Originally posted by Einion
Chromium pigments are in fact classed by some as toxic but more realistically I think, like cadmiums, they should be classed as harmful as they are less of a problem if ingested than lead, arsenic or mercury pigments in real terms so I would not worry about it.

My tube of cadmium says that it's non-toxic. How's that? That cadmium compounds used in paints are not water soluble, therefore they cannot be digested or enter the bloodstream. Theoretically you could eat the cadmium paint and nothing would happen to you (although I don't intend to try it). Cadmium pigments used in paints are only considered harmful if breathed in.

01-24-2002, 09:52 AM
Thanks Einion and grrromit :)

Wayne Gaudon
04-10-2002, 02:00 AM
Briefly, I think you can find a much better palette. I see no advantages to something old and out moded

:D I don't think the Group of Seven had any complaints with their coloring .. :D

Interesting thread ...

Scott Methvin
04-10-2002, 11:55 AM
This is a subject that is dear to my heart.

There are so many oil paints available today that are labeled and sold as an older/outdated pigment name.

To the people that sell paint, color is king and handling properties and other characteristics are limited to the uniformity of the line.

When I first started painting I really loved using the naples yellow. Later I discovered this paint color was a blend to match an older authentic pigment. After getting some of the real stuff and using it in my work, I noticed a profound differences between the original and the pretender.

Real naples is heavy. It contains lead. It is different than the heaviest lead white that I use. Very opaque and quick drying. The handling qualities and coloration are unique from any other pigment I have used. Great for impastos. I add lead white to diffuse the yellow. The coloration is suble in nature.

Vermillion, or cinnibar is another pigment that is extremely opaque. A thinned stroke will easily cover black, for example. Try that with the fake vermillion. It's coloration is very subtle. Must have something to do with particle size. Makes a perfect pink. Far easier to work with than a cadmium red. It isn't quite the same color-being on the orangish side, but adding a bit of quinacridone red or magenta will allow you to match the best cadmium. It is poisonous, but so is clorox bleach.

Ivory black was made from the burned ivory of elephants. Today they just use burned bones and call it ivory black. I like this black because it is transparent and not overwhelming. Kremer sells a genuine ivory, but I have not tried it.

Particle size in a pigment makes a huge difference to the artist. Two of my favorites are good examples. Thalo blue and quinacridone red. If you just mix paint with white or black, then the subtleties of a pigment won't be important. If you do lots of mixing, both on and off the canvas, these subtleties become part of your arsenal.

Someone mentioned that impressionism has affected how they sell paint today. I agree completely. It also profoundly affected the quality of paint brushes.

If your aim is make a painting in 3 hours, you need a paint that gets the job done in a hurry. Patches of color are also best applied with stiff brushes and mini trowels/knives. This is the type of painting that most of today's manufacturers aim for.

If you glaze, scumble or build your images in oils, the older original pigments are hard to beat. Even a 3 hour landscape can benefit from lead white, naples yellow and cinnibar. I have seen these paints used in older california impressionism, from the turn of the century. It's amazing how much better overall they look, than most of the pasty modern examples I have seen (and own.)
The lead really adds character.

Sorry for being so long winded. My point in all this is simple. Try the real pigments. You'll really be pleased and surprised.