Making Pigments
Sometimes, you need to have something that you can't get anywhere.


SAFETY FIRST.

Many pigments are toxic to some degree - either in low doses over a long time or in higher doses in a single instance (cronic and acute poisoning respectively) - so, it is important for your own safety and that of those around you to adopt certain practices that will preclude such events.

To contaminate yourself with pigments (or other painting-related compounds), there are a number of routes into your body. The most obvious of these is your mouth. Others include your lungs, skin, nose, eyes and so on. Avoiding activities that allow things to come into contact with these routes is the most effective way of avoiding contamination. So, when painting or preparing pigments, paint, solvent:

  • Do not smoke. Apart from the obvious fire hazard with organic solvents, you will be putting things in your mouth that you have handled with your fingers;
  • Do not eat or drink for the same reasons;
  • Keep your painting related activities in an area that is away from your normal living area (you will be less vigilant when not painting so more likely to become contaminated);
  • Keep away from pets, partners and children, whether the materials are in current use or not;
  • Pigments are powders that you can breathe in so keep the dust level down by prevention - when mixing pigments, do things slowly and using as little force as possible thereby reducing the energy that can throw powder into the air.
  • Do not paint when intoxicated - you will not be as aware of the potential dangers;
  • Wear protective clothing so that your everyday clothes do not become contaminated - an apron will do, just something that is going to stop whatever it is that you are working with coming into contact with you or your clothes;
  • If you become aware that you might be breathing in more solvent than is healthy, increase the level of ventilation (if you are gilding, don't do it where there are solvents anyway as you cannot have drafts with such an activity.
  • Finally, clean up after you have finished. You don't want pigments mixing together but more importantly, you don't want to pick up any contamination from stuff that has not been cleaned away which you can then ingest by accident.

The above is not an exhaistive list. Feel free to be even safer in areas that are not mentioned above as well as those that are.


Obtaining pigments is usually fairly easy but some are a little more difficult to get hold of than others. Here are three pigments that I have made for different reasons:

I made:

  • Dutch Stack process Lead White simply because:
    • it is difficult to obtain;
    • it is expensive - it really needs to be a reasonable price compared to how much effort needs to be made to get just what you want and I object to paying as much as £1 per gramme for it (although some places sell it for around 10p per gramme) when you can make it for around £3.50 - £4.50 per kilo;
    • you don't know if it is adulterated - zinc white or titanium white is added to a lot of white pigments;
    • you don't know if it is stack lead white - it might just be precipitated lead carbonate or just precipitated lead hydroxide;
    • you don't know if any of it is actually lead - sometimes you get a 'safe' version of a pigment; and,
    • It is synthesising a pigment using a traditional method in a pigment where it does make a difference
    • Go to the Dutch Stack Lead White page.
  • Verdigris because:
    • it is difficult to obtain;
    • it is expensive - at around 50p per gramme to buy when you can make it yourself for around 5p per gramme
    • You know what is in it if you make it yourself
    • It is synthesising a pigment using a modern method in a pigment where it doesn't make a difference
    • Go to the Verdigris page.
  • Malachite because:
    • it is difficult to obtain;
    • it is expensive - at around £1.50 per gramme to buy when you can make it yourself for around 12p per gramme
    • You know what is in it if you make it yourself
    • It is making a pigment from the original rock using a traditional method in a pigment where it does make a difference
    • Go to the Malachite page.

I made them for water and oil colours.

This is divided up into three additional pages - this and one each for the three pigments - to make reading easier. If you want to see the same content as one page, Click Here.


All images and original artwork Copyright ©2017 Paul Alan Grosse.