Paint derives its color from powdered pigments, each with its unique set of attributes. Whether using paint made from scratch or bought premixed in a tube, any artist can benefit from a greater knowledge of pigments.
Keeping pace with all the books coming out on color and powdered pigments is a challenge, but here’s a small selection of some of my favorites:
- Artist’s Color Manual, Simon Jennings (Chronicle Books, 2003)
Comprehensive resource on mixing and creating colors, with lots of illustrations.
- The Artist’s Handbook, by Seymour Pip (Arcturus Publishing LTD, 2003)
An excellent resource, with descriptions of many of the colors supplied by the pigment stores Kremar and Sinopia (contact information is listed below). This book is no longer available from Arcturus Publishing, but may be purchased from Lee Press in London (www.southlondonartsupplies.com) or through the Kremer store in New York.
- The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques (fifth edition), by Ralph Mayer (Viking Press, 1991)
Systematically lists all pigments and their major characteristics.
- Bright Earth, The Invention of Colour, Philip Ball (Viking, 2001)
History of colors that’s comprehensive, dense and—for a pigment-enthusiast—very interesting!
- The Material and Techniques of Medieval Painting, by Daniel V. Thompson (Dover Publications, originally published 1956)
Thompson’s affection and respect for the medieval craftsmen shines through in this charming little book.
- Sinopia and Kremer pigments reference catalogs
Even if you never order a single powdered pigment in your artistic career, perusing a good catalog from an important supplier such as Sinopia or Kremer is a good way to learn about pigment. (Sinopia and Kremer contact information is listed below.)
Many art stores and mail-order companies carry powdered pigments. Here are a few that I recommend:
- Natural Pigments
This supplier is noted for its historical pigments.
Both Sinopia and Kremer specialize in the field of powdered pigments. You can test the waters with Sinopia’s anniversary set—a teaspoon amount of 25 pigments. Both companies sell hand-painted pigment charts featuring various color families: iron oxides, historical hues, organic synthetics, earth, cadmiums, whites and blacks, blues, greens, yellows, reds, pearl lusters, fluorescents and more. These charts are a good way to see what hundreds of pigments look like without actually buying them.
- Robert Doak & Associates
Possessing encyclopedic knowledge of pigments, Rober Doak is a great resource for hard-to-find specialty pigments.
- Daniel Smith Artists Materials
Along with their regular line of pigments, this company offers an introductory set of eight colors in two-ounce jars.
- Zecchi Belle Arti-Restauro
Via delo Studio 19/r, 50122 Florence, Italy
If you’re ever in Florence, look up this wonderful, old art store. The Zecchi brothers are helpful and Massimo speaks English. The store carries a wide range of pigments, beautifully displayed in glass jars— including some historic and rare hues.
A board member of the Society of Tempera Painters, Koo Schadler conducts workshops for egg tempera and old master painting. She’s a master painter of the Copley Society of Art in Boston and author of the book Egg Tempera Painting. For more on her book and her work, visit www.kooschadler.com.