General Comments

List of Yellow Pigments

Cadmium Yellow — PY35, PY65

Chrome Yellow — PY34

Lead-Tin Yellow — no PY?

Mars Yellow — PY 42

Genuine Naples Yellow — PY41

Naples Yellow — PY53

Cadmium Yellow — PY35

Virgil’s assessment:

On his palette: Rublev’s Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Yellow Light.

Cadmium yellows today vary in their long-term performance, if my 16-years-in-the-window sun test is any indication. Some held up very well, some crumbled, some cracked, and some stayed sticky for ten years, collecting dirt the whole time. None of them changed color, though. In Van Gogh’s time, methods of improving the pigment had not yet been developed. I can tell you that Winsor & Newton’s cadmium yellows (which are available in Quito) fared better than most of the others in my test. The one that stayed sticky for ten years was Mussini, and one of the ones that crumbled was Old Holland.

Cadmium yellow is a good substitute for chrome yellow.

Technical Link: The Color of Art Pigment Database, Yellow Pigments

Opacity Rating: Opaque
Lightfastness Rating: I, Excellent
Oil-to-Pigment Ratios: Relatively Lean
Toxicity (Possible Hazard)
Drying Rates: Very Slow

Chrome Yellow — PY34

Virgil’s assessment: [Included in his portrait palette.]

Technical Link: The Color of Art Pigment Database, Yellow Pigments

Lead Tin Yellow — No PY

Virgil’s assessment: [Included in his portrait palette.]

Lead-tin yellow is lead stannate or lead ortho stannate, which ceased to be available on the pigment market long ago, and only recently was reintroduced by small companies like Robert Doak and Natural pigments. Before that, I was buying lead stannate powder from a chemical supply company and mulling it into paint myself, as the only living artist using lead-tin yellow at that time (1980s and ’90s). It hasn’t been assigned a pigment number because it’s not being marketed as a pigment except by the small companies I mentioned, which are below the radar of the pigment industry.

Lead tin yellows vary from pale yellow inclining slightly toward green to somewhat darker inclining toward orange, depending primarily on how much heat the pigment is subjected to. Heat makes it darker and redder. Its chroma is lower than cadmium or chrome yellows.

Dries fast.

Technical Link: The Color of Art Pigment Database, Yellow Pigments   Click here

Opacity Rating: Opaque
Lightfastness Rating: I, Excellent
Oil-to-Pigment Ratios: Moderately Lean
Toxicity (Low Hazard)
Drying Rates: Average

Mars Yellow — PY42

Virgil’s assessment:

Mars Yellow is made from synthetic iron oxide (PY 42).

Virgil uses Mars Yellow as an alternative to Yellow Ochre.  He includes it in his portrait palette.

“Michael Harding’s Yellow Ochre is actually Mars yellow, by the way. I think Williamsburg, Vasari, Gamblin, Rembrandt, and Langridge all have Mars yellow oil paints, if I’m not mistaken. Rublev has a transparent version of yellow iron oxide, recently added to their line.”

The problem with Yellow Ochre? “The only issue is its clay content, which subjects it to expansion and contraction in reaction to changes in relative humidity. This is a factor in the cracking of oil paintings on stretched canvas, but not so much on rigid panels or canvas glued to panel. Mars yellow is a good substitute for yellow ochre if one can handle its higher tinting strength. Both are of the utmost lightfastness.”

“Umbers and ochres contain clay, which is hygroscopic and undergoes shrinking and swelling due to changes in relative humidity. Synthetic iron oxide (Mars) pigments are more stable in that regard, are lightfast and high in tinting strength. That being said, natural earth pigments have a long record of good performance, and are as lightfast as the Mars colors, which is to say, more lightfast than anything else.”

More about synthetic iron oxides pigments: they are like natural earth pigments, but “are manufactured rather than mined from the ground, so there is no clay in them. They are the same range of colors, but their tinting strength is much higher than the natural earth colors. They are as lightfast as the natural earth colors, which is to say they are more lightfast than any other colors, as are the ochres, siennas and umbers, which never fade.”

Technical Link: The Color of Art Pigment Database: Yellow Pigments: PY42

Note: color, transparency and oil absorption can vary widely between brands, due to manufacturing variables, iron oxide (red) to hydrated iron oxide (yellow) ratios, particle size, impurities, additives, and fillers.

Opacity Rating: Opaque
Lightfastness Rating: I, Excellent
Oil-to-Pigment Ratios: Moderately Lean
Toxicity (Low Hazard)
Drying Rates: Average

Genuine Naples Yellow — PY41

Virgil’s assessment: [Included in his portrait palette.]

Technical Link: The Color of Art Pigment Database, Yellow Pigments

Opacity Rating: Opaque
Lightfastness Rating: I, Excellent
Oil-to-Pigment Ratios: Moderately Lean
Toxicity (Low Hazard)
Drying Rates: Average

Naples Yellow — PY53

Virgil’s assessment: [Included in his portrait palette.]

Technical Link: The Color of Art Pigment Database, Yellow Pigments

Opacity Rating: Opaque
Lightfastness Rating: I, Excellent
Oil-to-Pigment Ratios: Moderately Lean
Toxicity (Low Hazard)
Drying Rates: Average