Pigments and Painting

In many styles and periods of painting, the functions of colour are primarily decorative and descriptive, often serving merely to reinforce the expression of an idea or subject communicated essentially in terms of line and tone. In much of modern painting, however, the full-spectrum range of pigments available has allowed colour to be the primary expressive element.

Different colored pigments
Different colored pigments

image source: http://www.boredpanda.com/pigment-store-paint-brush-tokyo-japan/

how was paint discovered?

From prehistoric times, humans have left an imprint on their environment in the form of painted images, which both beautified their world and expressed their thoughts and feelings. It may be that primitive man scratched trees or rocks with stones as a way of identifying a track, indicating a source of food or water, or even marking territory. At some stage, however, humans discovered that pigments worked more effectively when mixed with a medium such as water or saliva, and painting was born.

Source: http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/intro/history.html


how pigments are made?


Raw umber (left) and synthetic ultramarine (right) pigments in powder form
Raw umber (left) and synthetic ultramarine (right) pigments in powder form

image source: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/palette/palette_anatomy_of_paint.html#.WAZh-1zcKHe

Pigments are the basis of all paints, and have been used for millennia. They are ground colored material. Early pigments were simply as ground earth or clay, and were made into paint with spit or fat. Modern pigments are often sophisticated masterpieces of chemical engineering.

Pigment is the actual coloring substance of paint. Pigment has body in contradistinction to purely visual color. It is usually of mineral or organic origin although some, like the all important lead white, were and still are artificially produced. Pigments vary considerably in weight, transparency and physical structure.
After being first separated from gross impurities, the raw pigment must be thoroughly cleansed and carefully ground to the proper coarseness. Some pigments must be finely ground while other lose their color if they are over ground.

The great part of artist’s paints were once made with earth pigments, or natural inorganic pigments – simply put, colored clumps of earth each with a different color. An example for a natural mineral pigment is the popular yellow ochre, which is made from extracted earth. An example of a modern manufactured mineral pigment is cobalt blue, which is made from oxidized cobalt compounds.

Earth pigments were the first pigments used by mankind and include such colors as the siennas, the umbers, green earth and a wide range of ochres. These pigments are usually heavy in weight and lightfast. They have good wetting properties and produce opaque, solid colors. Another great advantage of earth pigments is that they are entirely stable in all painting media and do not interact chemically with the sensitive pigments making them suitable for mixing with almost every pigment available to the artist. Ochres are the most opaque of the earth pigments.

Artificial inorganic pigments, on the other hand, are colors that are manufactured rather than found. Many of these pigments were made and discovered by the alchemists of antiquity. Verdigris, Naples yellow and the all-important lead white fall into this category.

Natural organic pigments have sources that are either vegetable or animal, rather than earth or mineral. Organic pigments can be natural, derived from plants, or manufactured, made from complex hydrocarbons. Examples of ancient organic pigments are indigo and red madder, Indian Yellow (urine from Indian cows fed only on mango leaves), sap green, and bone black (calcinated bones). Modern manufactured organic pigments, having been originally derived from coal-tar based dyes, now include almost any shade of color imaginable. Almost all the pigments used in modern artists’ paints are man-made chemicals, developed in many cases as substitutes for rare, expensive, or unstable natural colorants of plant, animal, or mineral origin.

The binder, commonly called the vehicle, is the film-forming component of paint. A pigment should not dissolve in the binding medium nor be affected by it. Many colors, such as lead white or umber, accelerate the drying of the oil; others, such as the lakes and vermilion, retard this process. In general the dense, heavy pigments dry well and quickly, since they require little oil.

Source: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/palette/palette_anatomy_of_paint.html#.WAY1FlzcKHd

How pigment turns into color?

Artist’s paint consists primarily of two components: pigment and binder. In order to produce paint, pigment and binder are ground into a stiff paste which must have three requirements:

  1.   must be brushable
  2.   must adhere permanently to the support’s surface
  3.   must not alter significantly in time.

Source: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/palette/palette_anatomy_of_paint.html#.WAY1FlzcKHd

Paintings are made of paint applied to a surface, commonly canvas, wood, or plaster. In most paintings, the pigments are suspended in the paint media. Common media include oil and egg yolk. Both substances undergo chemical change in the air, and convert into a plastic-like film. Although called “dying,” what is really happening is a chemical change (so called “polymerization”), which makes the media hard.

The painting process for all forms of artist paints is similar in many ways. Generally speaking, first a surface is prepared, next a sketch is often drawn. Through countless hours spent grinding pigments with a muller against a slab, Medieval and Renaissance painters learned invaluable information about their materials which aided them in creating masterpieces of their time. Although the knowledge gained through direct experience has been largely lost it is still possible to make suitable paints in the studio without excessive difficulty provided one comprehends the fundamental requirements of fine arts paint.

Source: http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/intro/index.html


The Birth of Venus (ca.1485),painting in tempera on linen canvas by Alessandro Botticelli
The Birth of Venus (ca.1485),painting in tempera on linen canvas by Alessandro Botticelli

image source: http://www.temperaworkshop.com/artists/botticelli.htm


How the colors are generated?

The principal dimensions of colour in painting are the variables or attributes of hue, tone, and intensity. Red, yellow, and blue are the basic hues from which all others on the chromatic scale can be made by mixtures. These three opaque hues are the subtractive pigment primaries and should not be confused with the behaviour of the additive triads and mixtures of transparent, coloured light. Mixtures of primary pairs produce the secondary hues of orange, violet, and green. By increasing the amount of one primary in each of these mixtures, the tertiary colours of yellow-orange, orange-red, red-violet, violet-blue, blue-green, and green-yellow, respectively, are made. The primary colours, with their basic secondary and tertiary mixtures, can be usefully notated as the 12 segments of a circle. The secondary and tertiary colour segments between a pair of parent primaries can then be seen to share a harmonious family relationship with one another—the yellow-orange, orange, and orange-red hues that lie between yellow and red, for example.

Source: https://www.britannica.com/art/painting


Chromatic scale
Chromatic scale

image source: http://www.innerdesign.com/blog/Master%20Design%20Management%20Sole24Ore/WEB-COLOUR-TOOLS

the main different painting techniques?

There are several different types of paint that artists can use, each with its own unique ingredients that differ from the ingredients found in the other types of media. Each media therefore has its own unique set of characteristics and techniques.

  • Oil Paint

Oil paints have long been used by master painters, both historical and contemporary, to create paintings imbued with a stunning lifelike quality as well as a sense of depth.

  • Pastel

Pastel paintings are graced with an immediate sense of texture and a richness of color that can equally convey a soft delicacy while maintaining a strong presence.

  • Acrylic

Acrylic paint is a modern invention that allows artists to create bold paintings with strong colors, while also mimicking the qualities of other media.

  • Watercolor

Watercolor paints are renowned for their ability to capture the fleeting essence of light as it fluctuates throughout the day, earmarking the passage of time.

  • Tempera

Tempera is a fast-drying paint whose colors never changing, making it particularly well-suited to depicting nature, from humans to animals to plants.

Source: http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/intro/making.html

Oil Painting Techniques
Oil Painting Techniques

image source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0LH1uU6mGw


info sources: https://www.britannica.com/art/painting