Art Machines: Sunlight

When you get the opportunity to go behind the scenes with paint-makers and manufacturers–you take it! Explore Winsor & Newton’s “Art Machines,” which pull back the curtain to reveal the company’s unique investment in craftsmanship, research and development of premium paints.

Let There Be Light

You’ve created some great work, but will it last? Paint can start to fade over time, leaving colours less vivid, and a finish that doesn’t seem quite so bright.

That’s why Winsor & Newton leave nothing to chance when it comes to a timeless finish. They’ve developed the latest machine testing in order to ensure the paint doesn’t fade. Using precision technology based on extreme exposure to light, their experts ensure the look stays the way you want. You can watch their newly released video, above, showing exactly how they keep their paints in the Professional Acrylic range shining bright.

In the last post, we saw how Winsor & Newton check for ingredient balance. For this post, it’s an opportunity to view the ways they ensure the light fastness of each batch. This “light fastness” is a measure of the chemical stability of the paint pigments when exposed to light. Hence the sunlight machine test is a way of assessing the paint that’s used by artists to ensure their composition won’t fade over time. In fact, the test was initially used by the textiles industry before being adopted by paint and printing manufacturers.

To begin with, swatches of colour are painted on archival paper. These swatches are imprinted twice so a comparison can be made. This makes it easy to check for any changes over each side of the dividing line. Next, the swatches are placed on draws and slotted into a machine called the Q Sun tester. One side is exposed to light; the other is covered up and protected.

A Xenon lamp is switched on, emitting artificial wavelengths over the colour swatches. These light waves closely mimic light that comes from the sun, and can last in this testing stage for up to three months. The level of humidity and UV exposure are strictly controlled at this point. Finally, the swatches are removed and the amount of fading is examined at either side of the line–the part that was covered versus the part that wasn’t covered is compared. This fading is measured on a scale of 1 to 8, whereby 8 is very low fading and 1 means the paint has low resistance to UV–and has faded significantly.

Pigment with low resistance can fade in as little as three hours–but Winsor & Newton look for colours that stay light fast for between 50 and 100 years under normal gallery display conditions.

It’s an intensive process that is carried out in the laboratory under highly controlled conditions by a group of experts, often referred to as “colour men,” based at the Winsor & Newton London headquarters.

These colour men work with an in-house artist to develop new colours and paints. An example of this collaborative approach is Winsor & Newton’s acrylic co-polymer binder. This binder gives an extended working time due to it taking longer for the paint to form a skin on the top. Unlike some other binders, it is also clear, so there is no colour shift when the paint dries.

Winsor & Newton are at the forefront of research and innovation in the development of paints, and the testing, as well as the binder, is an example of how they maintain the highest standards for all products.

This is just one of the ways Winsor & Newton guarantee exceptional quality in their Professional Acrylic range. Check out their other test videos and discover more about their pursuit of perfection.

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