Pigments

Select a color below to view a list of common pigments.

For each pigment, we offer:  the pros and cons of using that pigment, based on Virgil’s experience and observations; technical links; and a graphical representation of the pigment’s qualities.  Please refer the notes at the bottom of this page for a description of the terminology used.

Terminology:

  • Pigment Name: this could be the official name in the Color Index (third edition 1997), the name given by the original manufactuer, the actual chemical name, or the traditional historic name.
  • Color Index Name Code: The first two letters describe the general pigment color and the number is the individual pigment identifier. For example, PG-17 is the color index name code for Chromium Oxide Green.
  • Opacity — Transparency Rating: a general reference; many pigments exist in both transparent/opaque versions or can be manipulated by paint manufacturers). Values = Opaque, Semi-Opaque, Semi-Transparent, Transparent.
  • Lightfastness Rating (by the ATSM) — Values =  I, Excellent, II, Good, III, Poor, IV, Fugitive/Very Poor.
  • Toxicity: The hazardous properties associated with the pigment based on the literature; it is assumed professional artists will use at least ordinary care when handling all paints or pigments. Possible values: Low hazard, but do not handle carelessly; Possible Hazard if improperly or carelessly handled; Hazardous, use appropriate precautions for handling toxic substances; Extremely Toxic, only attempt working with this pigment (especially the dry form) in laboratory conditions and with proper safety equipment.
  • Drying Rates: Problems can occur when faster-drying paints are applied over slower-drying paints. Possible values: fast-drying, average-drying, slow-drying, very slow-drying.