View Full Version : Colours to stay away from

02-06-2002, 06:37 PM
I am trying to expand my oil painting colours and I am wondering if there is any colours people would recommend staying away from. If they are too fugitive etc.. I am currently using an Australian brand of oils at the moment called Art Spectrum.

02-06-2002, 07:49 PM
Hi gnomes,
I wouldnt worry about it too much . Hardly any paint makers still use any impermenent pigments . They dont have to ; the newer pigments that replaced the impermanent ones are really cheap .

The exceptions are mostly going to be REALLY expensive - Winsor Newton genuine Rose Madder comes to mind . Sennelier I think still makes a genuine Van Dyke Brown ( Asphaltum ) but its nasty looking anyhow .

Really, you'd have a hard time finding anything that wont last a hundred years at the least . Beyond that, well ... If the thing is good enough , someone will find a way to fix it .


02-06-2002, 09:51 PM
Alizarin crimson.

02-06-2002, 09:55 PM
Also, you probably don't want colors that are not used much. Personally I find raw sienna unnecessary, but thats personal taste.

Scott Methvin
02-06-2002, 09:56 PM
If you ever want to make a giclee copy of your oil paintings someday, stay away from cobalt blue. They can't match it.

02-07-2002, 12:53 AM
Originally posted by Scott Methvin
If you ever want to make a giclee copy of your oil paintings someday, stay away from cobalt blue. They can't match it.

Oh, great. So much for 90% of my paintings. .. I love that color! What do you recommend I use to get close?

02-07-2002, 12:59 AM
Originally posted by Domer
Alizarin crimson.

Yes, not permanent. Supposedly Gamblin makes a artifical version that is permanent. Doaks Pyrol Ruby Redis close and is very permanent. With a little of Thalo added, you have a pretty good match. I can't live without the wonderful qualities of Alizarin Crimson with the exception of course of the light fastness issue. :oL

02-07-2002, 04:23 AM
Eppur si muove!

That's the right form...


Wayne Gaudon
02-07-2002, 10:23 AM
Alizarin crimson .. what is the problem with this color .. I use all the time to make my version of black ie. darkest of darks as I don't use black .. use it in any combination with thalo green, prussian blue, burnt sienna ... depending on if I want a warm or cool grey to result when mixing down the values.

02-07-2002, 10:59 AM
Originally posted by artist
Alizarin crimson .. what is the problem with this color .. I use all the time to make my version of black ie. darkest of darks as I don't use black ..

Pigments are rated on a light fastness scale from 1 through 8. Alizarin Crimson is even rated! It fades over time! I use it in mixing with other pigments, in making black for instance, but not by itself. There are other goodchoices that can give one the same results. :oL

Wayne Gaudon
02-07-2002, 11:32 AM

had the moniter on and never refresed it before I posted the question .. after I posted it and I got refreshed I saw your previous answer .. sorry, but it's one of those days where I actually have to do some work here . LOL

.. Ok, got you .. that's basically all I use it for and I don't even need it for that but it is one of the better colors for that purpose.

Thank you.

02-07-2002, 12:19 PM
Hmm, some colors to stay away from -

I love Prussian Blue now, but when I started with it, it was too strong and everything I mixed with it turned to green.

Actually Alizarin Crimson's fading properties works well for me. It's a pretty strong pigment but leave it for a couple of days and it mellows out really nicely. It's the only red I use in skin tones because it most closely approximates the color of blood - this is what gives our cheeks such a rosy glow.

02-09-2002, 11:58 AM
gnomes, top of my list would always be non-lightfast pigments, headed by Alizarin Crimson, closely followed by convenience mixtures. There are too many possible pigments that don't qualify as truly lightfast by today's standards to list, so it's best to learn the commonly-available, reliable ones and stick to them, helps keep the palette down to a manageable size to boot. As a rough guide ASTM I and II colours are both considered lightfast for artistic use but if you want rock-solid performance you might like to stick to ASTM I colours only, as some people do.

Alizarin Crimson is ASTM III in oils, the most common non-lightfast pigment used in artists' paints. Depending on your attitude to longevity you can either ignore this or look for a replacement, as Richard Schmid did recently (with Gamblin's Alizarin Permanent). Single-pigment colours worth exploring as replacements are Anthraquinone Red, PR177, Pyrrole Rubine, PR264, Quinacridone Carmine, PRn/a, Benzimidazolone Carmine, PR176, Quinacridone Violet, PV19, and last but by no means least, Quinacridone Magenta, PR122.

Other than the lightfastness issue my personal bugbear would be convenience mixtures, exemplified by Payne's Grey, Davy's Grey, Hooker's Green, mixed Naples Yellows, Turquoise, Sepia, Indigo, Flesh Tint, Neutral Tint, Warm Grey, Cool Grey, Magic Mix Number Five etc. etc. etc. Personally I like to mix colour so I have a real problem with paying somebody else to do it!* And don't get me started on the legions of mixed greens and violets on the market...

Anything that doesn't list the pigments used and, if possible, the ASTM rating, should be treated with caution these days and ideally this information should be on the label. The good thing about this is if there is a mixed colour you like you can check the ingredients to see if you already have its components and mix it yourself (see below); and its worth remembering that many hues can be approached from different directions, so even if you don't have what's listed, experience can provide another route to the same colour. FWIW I think any convenience colour with more than four pigments should be looked upon with a healthy dose of scepticism, after all would you have to mix five colours to get a yellow? Didn't think so ;)


*Payne's Grey - what could be simpler than mixing Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna? And you'll usually get a more interesting colour than those offered to boot, which are typically Ultramarine plus black.
Davy's Grey - just mix a black with a white and warm it up with an earth and you'll get a range of very similar colours.
Hooker's Green - how hard is it to mix a dark green?
If you don't want to use (or can't find) genuine Naples Yellow mix it yourself - pick the colours (the white in particular) with care and you can tailor its handling to your taste rather than relying on someone else's. The white is the most important part obviously, so use Titanium White for opacity or Zinc White if you want it for glazing and add or substitute Flake White for handling and drying properties. Then you have any number of opaque or transparent choices for the red and yellow component: Buff Rutile Titanium, Arylide Yellows, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Mars Yellow, Cadmium Red, Mars Red, Naphthol Red, Red Oxide/Indian Red/English Red and Raw Sienna, Benzimidazalone Yellow, Chromium Antimony Titanium Yellow, Nickel Titanate Yellow, Burnt Sienna are all used in commercial offerings - and these are just the lightfast examples!
Turquoise - Phthalo Blue GS plus Phthalo Green BS possibly with some white or a yellow.
Sepia - want it translucent? Use Bone Black, Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna. Want it more opaque? Use Mars Black, Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre.
Indigo - Ultramarine plus Burnt Umber. Wow, that was hard, wasn't it?

02-09-2002, 12:00 PM
Sorry Colin, many of those nice cheap pigments you mention are nice and impermanent to boot. There are still plenty of dodgy pigments used in artists' paints out there, the best example being Alizarin Crimson, plus there are the chrome yellows and oranges, a number of the arylides and naphthols, a couple of benzimidazolones etc. etc. Painting in oils minimises this problem - just about all colours are most reliable with an oil binder - but a fugitive pigment is still that and will fail in time. And since oils typically last a long time in the tube (most of us have a colour or two we only use occasionally don't we?) so it is entirely possible to have paints from any number of makers that they no longer supply and the primary reason for this is lack of reliability. Blockxs, Daler-Rowney, Winsor & Newton, Old Holland and Talens have all revamped their ranges at least once in the last decade.

Dana, I'm no fan of Ali Crimson but unless you're working in watercolour and you leave your paintings under a xenon arc lamp there's no way it could fade in a couple of days - I'm guessing you're referring to a different effect relating to tonal shifts during drying, otherwise there is something seriously wrong with it!


02-09-2002, 01:53 PM
Einion, thanks again for the print worthy posts.:D

02-09-2002, 08:10 PM
Woof ! I stand corrected . I didnt know alizarin was really impermenant . sorry ! Not that I ever use it , but what kinda time are we talking about here ? 10, 20 years in sunlight ?

Einon : I was under the impression that the synthetic organics you mention were very permanent . ( I guess thats what I get for listening to the paint rep.s talk up thier wares ! )
Could you elaborate a bit ?

You are right about old paint hanging around the shelves , though I havent seen a chrome yellow or orange for years .


02-10-2002, 02:17 PM
Thanks Mario!

Originally posted by colinbarclay
hangs head in shame
Hey Colin, and you don't even have to change your tinyhead... hehe. :D

ASTM III is defined as "fair" - may be satisfactory when used full strength or with extra protection from exposure to light, compared with 100 years and more for ASTM II and I). As you can see not ideal for a colour in everday use, especially since people like to use it in flesh tints. If you only use it for darks it really won't matter, but it's not hard to switch in due course and save any worry about how a colour can or can't be used safely. I don't have any quantitative numbers to hand for oils but we're talking a couple of decades, at least, under average domestic lighting conditions. In water media this is very much shorter, even as little as weeks in a sunny window with watercolours.

Synthetic organic pigments are the largest class of colours, on the one hand it includes reliable standbys like the phthalo blues and on the other something like Tartrazine Lake, fine for food colouring but pretty useless for artists' materials! There are families of colours within this: arylides, benzimidazolones, naphthols, quinacridones, phthalocyanines for example. Within each there are variations and even families which tend to reliability, like the benzimidazolones, contain a few poorer members. In the case of the arylides and naphthols it is more than a few, as they contain fewer lightfast colours than the reverse. This is why the actual Colour Index Name, Pigment Yellow 97 for example, is important as if it just says "azo pigment" or "arylide pigment" or "acetoacetyl pigment" (all of which are accurate) it could just as easily refer to a poor example of the family (like PY1) rather than the best.

And you're right about the chrome colours, you don't see them much any more. That's because some are hiding them in convenience mixtures like Hooker's Green and Naples Yellow to use up their stocks, grrrrrrrrrr! Why they don't just use them for student colours where this is less of a concern, instead of foisting them on artists, is beyond me but hey, at least it's not a faulty car part.


02-11-2002, 02:02 PM
Winsor & Newton makes 2 Alizarin Crimsons. One is the regular kind (Series 2) and the other is called "Permanent Alizarin Crimson." (Series 4) It also costs twice as much. But its worth it if you want to use this color.

02-11-2002, 02:56 PM
I was wondering when someone would bring up the Windsor & Newton "Permanent Alizarin Crimson (Series 4)". Does anyone have any feedback on this particular tube of colour???

I surely hope not!!! LOL As I've used this one recently. :confused:

Hey Einion......AND YOU TOO COLIN.......thanks for the great lesson!!!


02-11-2002, 09:15 PM
Originally posted by Einion

unless you're working in watercolour yes and you leave your paintings under a xenon arc lamp no there's no way it could fade in a couple of days respectfully disagree - the tonal shifts you refer to are the results of drying - it doesn't take two days to dry -but my Alizarin Crimson portraits have softened with time. I never use it full strength but always with Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine Blue, and Burnt Umber.

02-13-2002, 07:49 PM
Tina, W&N's Permanent Alizarin Crimson is Anthraquinone Red, PR177. It's not the best replacement purely in terms of colour but it's a ntop-notch pigment so no worries there.

Dana, this is the oil painting thread, you might have mentioned that at the time...
Anyway, this is beside the point, you must be aware that it will largely vanish in due course, changing those passages irreparably. Check the <A HREF=http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/wmap.html>Handprint</A> site if you'd like some good suggestions on a replacement. The section on <A HREF=http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/waterc.html>crimsons</A> is a fascinating read and the swatch showing fading near the top is fairly typical of how PR83 should perform.


02-14-2002, 09:53 AM
Thanks Einion!! That's just what I needed to know.