List of Red Pigments

Alizarin Crimson — PR83

Permanent Alizarin Crimson — PR177

Cadmium Red (Light, Medium)
Cadmium Vermillion (Vasari Cadmium Vermilion Red LIght)
Mars Red (Williamsburg Mars Red)
Pyrrol Red

Scarlet Red
Transparent Oxide Red (Michael Harding)
Venetian Red

Cadmium Vermilion — PR113

Virgil’s Assessment: 

Virgil uses Vasari brand “Vasari Cadmium Vermilion Red Light”, which he describes as “somewhere between the hues of Dutch vermilion and Chinese vermilion; more red than orange. ”

It is superior to genuine vermilion because it doesn’t seem to darken or change color in any way.

“I can only tell you what I’ve observed in my own tests. The real vermilions I tested began to show color change after a year or two in my south-facing window in California, and at four years they were noticeably darker and more grey-brown than red. At ten years, almost black. In normal indoor lighting, I’m reasonably sure it would take longer, but how much longer would vary depending on the light exposure.”

I’d expect real vermilion to behave the same way in egg tempera as it does in oils. Light exposure seems to be the cause, or a critical part of it, so whether or how long it would take for the color change to become noticeable would probably vary according to the amount of light it’s exposed to. It must be considered a gamble, as I see it, and an unnecessary one where another, more stable pigment is available.

I don’t recommend trying to grind vermilion. It’s a mercury compound and toxic, besides which it’s subject to changing its color from red to brown, then to a dark grey, then ultimately to black. There are better alternatives that do not do this.

Technical Links:  The Color of Art Pigment Database: Red Pigments

Cadmium Red — PR108

Virgil’s Assessment: 

Virgil’s Rublev palette includes:  Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Red Medium.

Re: Toxicity: If your objection to cadmium reds is based on the belief that they’re toxic, it might interest you to know that the cadmium compounds in these oil paints are not sufficiently bioavailable to present a significant health hazard. This was the upshot of ASTM’s argument in convincing US Congress not to ban cadmium paints back around 1990. It was demonstrated that they are not water-soluble, so cannot poison groundwater, and they aren’t a health hazard because our bodies can’t absorb them. They aren’t pure cadmium. It’s still prudent to not be sloppy or careless in handling oil paints, of course.

Technical Links:

Mars Red — PR113

Virgil’s Assessment: 

Technical Links:

Pyrrol Red — PR113

Virgil’s Assessment: 

— Pyroll reds are good substitutes for cadmium

Technical Links:

Transparent Oxide Red — PR113

Virgil’s Assessment: 

Technical Links:

Venetian Red — PR113

Virgil’s Assessment: 

Technical Links:

Rose Madder — NR 9

Virgil’s Assessment: 

aka Rose Madder Lake.

Ironically, genuine rose madder lake (NR 9) faded less than PR 177, and much less than PR 83 in my 6-year sun test.

Rublev Madder Lake is NR 9, and is just as transparent as alizarin crimson PR 83, and essentially the same hue, value and chroma.

My understanding is that W&N moved their production facilities to China after a big corporate conglomerate bought the company. The madder-producing factory remained in England, but was recently shut down. So when their old stock of the Rose Madder Genuine runs out, there will be no more of it from Winsor & Newton; however, Rublev has NR 9 Rose Madder Lake, and so does Michael Harding.

Technical Links:

Alizarin Crimson — PR83

Virgil’s Assessment: 

not lightfast
— slow drying
— originally developed as a synthetic substitute for Rose Madder.

Technical Links:

Permanent Alizarin Crimson — PR177

Virgil’s Assessment: 

Another synthetic substitute for Rose Madder made with Anthraquinone Red

In his tests, PR 177 faded almost as badly as alizarin crimson PR 83, so he has no confidence in it.  In a mixture with white, PR 177 faded quite a bit, and thus should not have the word, “permanent” in its name.  (Virgil tested with Winsor & Newton’s Permanent Alizarin).

As a substitute for alizarin crimson, Virgil uses Archival Oils Permanent Alizarine, which is formulated with PR 122 and PR 175. It has performed well in his longevity tests.

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