PIGMENTS AND ASTM STANDARDS

ASTM Certification of 1947

ASTM Certification of 1947 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am  rather obsessed by the quality of the materials I put into my paintings from the surface, up, for a number of reasons–not the least of which is I want them to be around l-o-o-o-ong after I’m gone. Also, when someone hires me to do a job, I want to make sure it is the best I can give–I feel I owe that to people placing their trust in me.

ASTM stands for the American Society for Testing and Materials and it is the organization that helps to internationally standardize a very large number of materials including paint. The “P” stands for “pigment” and the letter(s) stand for R-red, Y-yellow, B-blue, Br-brown, and so on. The numbers after the letters indicate the specific pigment. This is why you will find that the “PR83” (a very impermanent but much-loved pigment) on your paint tubes means “Pigment Red Alizarin Crimson” in the ASTM standard, no matter what brand of paint.

But you can’t go by the name companies put on the face of their tubes–that is just a label and an oftentimes misleading one.  For example, Utrecht has an oil paint labeled “Titanium White” but in checking the label closely, we find it is NOT just titanium white (PW6), but has zinc white (PW4) in it as well. PW4 has undergone extensive study at the Smithsonian Institute and they have determined it will make your paintings crack over time.  When I learned this, I checked all the tubes in my paintbox and got rid of the ones that had zinc white in them.

Here is what I’ve gathered in my research:

PIGMENT LIST

(* Do Not Use)

 REDS:

Cadmium Red PR 108 ASTM  l (ranges scarlet to maroon, slow drier, hard, flexible, use CP)

Pyrrole Red PR 254 ASTM  l (equal to Cads for permanence. Recommend replacing more poorly performing Napthols, Perylenes, and Anthraquinones with Pyrroles where similar shades exist. Pyrroles are pigments to trust. From auto industry research.)

Pyrrole Alizarin PR 264 ASTM l (BEST replacement for alizarin crimson; gorgeous undertone)

*Alizarin Crimson PR 83 ASTM l l l (brittle, cracks, darkens, too impermanent for enduring art)

*Rose Madder NR 9 ASTM  l l (textile dye, weak color)

Venetian Red PR 101 ASTM  l  aka English Red, Light Red, Red Oxide, Indian Red, Mars Red, Mars Violet, Caput Mortuum (Genuine Venetian Red from the quarry where Titian obtained his supplies is still available from Blockx.)

Quinacridone Magenta PR 122 ASTM l (bright blue-red, transparent, strong, very recommended)

Quinacridone Red, Quinacridone Violet PV 19 ASTM  l (true reds to lipstick pinks, deep rose to red-violets)

Quinacridone Red Y  PR 192  ASTM  l (bright, clean color, high lightfastness & tinting strength)

Quinacridone Scarlet  PR 207  ASTM  l (high performance pigment due to lightfastness)

Napthols fade in tints. Even those classed as ASTM 1 barely scrape in. Noticeably less light fast.  There are other reds that are far superior.

*Napthol Red F4HR  PR 7  aka Napthol AS-TR  ASTM  l  (beautiful bluish-red but fades)

*Napthol Red FG  PR 119  ASTM  l (clean, bright yellowish-red)

*Napthol Red HF3S  PR 188  ASTM  l (very pure yellowish-red)

*Napthol  ITR  PR 5  aka Napthol Carmine FB  ASTM  l l (deep crimson red)

*Napthatol AS-OL PR 9 aka Permanent Red FRLL  ASTM  l l (Poor light fastness esp. in tints)

*Napthol AS-OL  PR 14  aka Napthol Bordeaux FGR  ASTM  l l (very dark red)

*Napthol Red AS-D  PR 112  aka Permanent Red FGR, Permanent Carmine ASTM l l

*Napthol Red F5RK  PR 170  aka Napthol Carbamide  ASTM  l l (bright strong bluish-red)

*Napthol Red AS-D PR 17  aka Napthol Red  ASTM  l l l (too impermanent for serious artwork)

*Napthol Red PR 146 aka Napthol Carmine FBB ASTM  l l l  (notice how fading pigments get labeled “permanent”)

Light Red PR 102  ASTM  l (a beautiful, transparent red earth; Cenini gathered it w/his father)

Transparent Red Oxide PR 101 ASTM  l (Beautiful! transparent, redder than burnt sienna)

*Vermillion PR 106  (Poisonous!)

Perinone Red Deep PR 194 ASTM 1 (high performance deep red, recommended)

*Perylene Vermilion PR 123 ASTM l (bright transparent red; ALL perylenes fade in tints)

*Perylene Red BL PR 149 ASTM l (excellent brightness)

*Perylene Red PR 178 ASTM l (excellent lightfastness)

*Perylene Maroon PR 179 ASTM l (excellent lightfastness but lacks brightness)

*Perylene Scarlet PR 190 ASTM l (very good light fastness)

*Anthraquinoid Red PR 177 ASTM l (very transparent, fades in tints)

*Brominated Anthranthrone PR 168 ASTM l l (dull, low-strength tints)

Benzimidazolone Red HFT, aka Benzimidazolone Maroon PR 175 ASTM l (lacks brightness)

*Ultramarine Red PV 15 ASTM l (too pale and weak to be useful)

Permanent Red, aka Thioindigoid Red. PR 88 ASTM l (excellent lightfastness, recommended)

ORANGES:

Cadmium Orange PO 20  ASTM l (get CP grade, otherwise has 15% Barium Sulfate)

Perinone Orange PO 43  ASTM l (perfect alt. to Cadmium Orange if more transparency needed)

Quinacridone Burnt Orange PO 206 ASTM l (beautiful dark reddish, similar to burnt sienna)

Quinacridone Gold PO 48 ASTM l (lacks brightness in tints but excellent light fastness)

YELLOWS:

Mars Yellow aka Yellow Oxide PY 42 ASTM  l (a more pure yellow than the natural ochre)
Yellow Ochre aka Brown Ochre PY 43  ASTM  l (used since the dawn of time, esp. fleshtones)

Cadmium Yellow PY 37  ASTM  l (Although industry accepts up to 15% Barium and/or Lithopone as normal, the Chemically pure Cadmium Sulfide has a cleaner color and is noticeably stronger in tinting strength. The description 99.9% Cadmium Sulfide or the initials CP seen on the label of a few of the best grades of artist’s paint refers to the Chemically Pure Cadmiums.)

*Cadmium Yellow Light PY 35  ASTM  l (Zinc in cadmium zinc sulfide may not be not as stable as the Cadmium component and so the palest lemons are not regarded as light fast as the less light versions. The color is close to being the perfect mixing yellow as it is very close to “primary yellow.” If you use, Chemically Pure—CP— pigment is recommended.)

*Aureolin PY 40 ASTM  l l
Nickel Titanate aka Nickel Yellow or Nickel Titanium Yellow PY 53 ASTM  l (recommended)
*Arylide Yellow PY 65 ASTM  l

*Arylide Yellow GX PY 73  ASTM  l

*Arylide Yellow 5GX PY 74  ASTM  l

*Diarylide Yellow HR70 PY 83  ASTM  l

*Arylide Yellow FGL PY 97 ASTM  l

Nickel Azo Yellow PY 150 ASTM  l (very greenish yellow, excellent light fastness)

Benzimidazolone Yellow H4G PY 151 ASTM l (green-yellow, excellent lightfastness, dull tints)

Nickel Dioxine Yellow PY 153 ASTM  l (a bright yellow, makes dull tints)

Benzimidazolone Yellow H3G PY 154 ASTM  l (excellent light fastness, makes dull tints)

Benzimidazolone Yellow HLR PY 156 ASTM  l (transparent, excellent light fastness, dull tints)

Benzimidazolone Yellow H6G PY 175 ASTM  l (excellent light fastness, dull tints)

*Hansa Yellow Medium aka Arylide Yellow G, Azo Yellow PY 1 ASTM  l l  (Fades in tints.

PY 73 is virtually same color but has better light resistance. Being used less and less. Can bleed.)

*Hansa Yellow Light PY 3 ASTM  l l (transparent, greenish, fades in tints)

*Arylide Yellow 10GX. PY 98 ASTM  l l (bright, greenish, stronger than PY 3)

Anthrapyrimidine Yellow PY 108 ASTM l (transparent,bright,excellent lightfastness, avr.drying)

Flavanthrone Yellow PY 112 ASTM  l  (transparent, reddish, excellent light fastness, avr.drying)

*Zinc Yellow aka Zinc Chromate PY 36 ASTM  l l (Smithsonian says don’t use—it cracks!)

*Strontium Yellow aka Barium Chromate, Lemon Yellow PY 32 ASTM  l l

*Chrome Yellow PY 34 ASTM  l l (quickly discolors, darkens, poisonous, impermanent, avoid)

Naples Yellow aka Antimony Yellow PY 41 ASTM  l (Can get from Kremers. Greenish to pinkish pale. Tubes are often mixed white,ochre,red.Genuine pigment excellent, permanent;lead)

Isoindolone Yellow R PY 110 ASTM 1 (exceptional bright reddish, excellent tinting strength)

*Kings Yellow aka Orpiment PY 39 ASTM  l l  (Arsenic! Impermanent and poisonous)

*Massicot PY 46 ASTM  l l (poisonous, quite impermanent)

*Gamboge NY 24 ASTM  l l (golden glazing yellow, impermanent, replaced by Aureolin)

*Quercitron Lake NY 9 ASTM  l l

*Saffron NY 6 ASTM  l l (poor lightfastness, used in food prep.)

*Turmeric NY 3 ASTM  l l (poor lightfastness, used in food prep.)

Bismuth Yellow PY 184 aka Vanadium Yellow ASTM  l (like cad yellow but more transparent)

GREENS:

Chromium Green Oxide PG 17 ASTM  l (Dull, opaque, great permanence. Photographs under infra red as living foliage and so is used for military camouflage.)
Viridian aka Guignet’s Green PG 18 ASTM l (bright bluish, wise to pay premium for pure grade)

Cobalt Green PG 19, Light Green Oxide PG 50 (better) ASTM 1 (bright; low tinting strength)

Pthalo Green aka Monastral Green PG 7 (bluer), PG 36 (yellower) ASTM l (displacing Viridian)

Green Earth aka Terre Verte, Bohemian Earth, Burnt Green Earth PG 23 ASTM l (weak pigment; manufacturers usually use permanent, stronger mix of Sienna and Pthalo Green instead)

Hooker’s Green PG8 ASTM 111 (Avoid! Mix your own with Cad Yellow and Pthalo Blue)

Cadmium Green PG 14 ASTM l (Hard to find. Mix your own with Cad Yellow and Cobalt Blue)

BLUES:

Ultramarine PB 29 ASTM l (chemically identical to Lapis Lazuli) (30 different shades; brittle)

Cobalt Blue PB 28 ASTM l (Miners believed there were spirits in the mines called ‘Kobalds’ in the local tongue. Cobalt is named after these spirits that inhabited the mines. Fairly flexible.)

Pthalo Blue PB 15, 16 ASTM l (replaces Prussian Blue; especially good for mixing green-blues)
Cerulean Blue PB 35 ASTM l (one of the most opaque colors on the palette; fairly flexible)

Cobalt Chromate PB36 ASTM 1 (Beautiful turquoise–don’t confuse with Cerulean)

*Prussian Blue PB 27, also called Antwerp Blue, Paris Blue, Milori Blue, Iron Blue

*Azurite aka Bremen Blue PB 30 (doesn’t mix well in oils)

Indanthrone PB 22 ASTM 1 (clear deep blue, not as overpowering as Pthalo Blue)

Egyptian Blue aka Blue Frit PB 31 (largely disappeared in the 18th century)

Smalt (direct descendant of Egyptian Blue; weak but very permanent; popular until Ultramarine)

Zirconium Cerulean Blue PB 71 (A beautiful semi-opaque light blue, available from Kremer)

PURPLES:

Cobalt Violet PV 14 ASTM l (absolutely permanent, makes a hard, fairly flexible oil paint film)
Manganese Violet PV 16 ASTM l (reddish or blue shade, low tint strength, fast drying, flexible)

Quinacridone Violet PV 19 (red to red-violet) PR 122 (magenta) ASTM l (There are no inorganic pigments with this brilliance and purity;transparent, hard, fairly flexible, average drier)

*Dioxazine Violet PV 23  ASTM  l l (not nearly as permanent or lightfast as other violets)

Mars Violet aka Caput Mortuum PR 101 ASTM l (Confusingly indexed as a red. Superb! Use for tree trunks/old wood/summer landscapes. Used far less than it deserves. Means “head of the dead” and is the color of dried blood.)

Ultramarine Violet PV 15 ASTM 1 (great permanence; too weak to be of much use in oil paint)

Isoviolanthrone Violet PV 31 ASTM 1 (an excellent pigment of high light fastness)

BROWNS:

Raw Umber PBr 7 ASTM  l (Many color variants. Best pigment is from Cyprus, Turkey)

Burnt Umber aka Turkey Brown PBr 7 ASTM  l (many color variants, best from Cyprus)

Raw Sienna aka Italian Earth PBr 7 ASTM  l (browner than Yellow Ochre, wide color variety)

Burnt Sienna PBr 7 ASTM  l (“Half burnt” light browns to fiery oranges beloved by artists. Worth top dollar for best colors and hunting down color variants–some are extraordinary.)

Mars Brown  PBr 6 ASTM  l (Usually a blend of PY 42, PR101, PBk 11. Smoky brown, harder to find in natural earths. Lacks beautiful transparency loved in the Siennas and Umbers.)

*Van Dyke Brown also known as Cassel Earth or Cologne Earth (disastrous—always avoid)

*Asphaltum, aka Mummy, Asphaltum, Egyptian Brown (Avoid at all costs)

WHITES:

Titanium White aka Titanium Dioxide  PW 6  ASTM  l  (best all round white, very opaque)

*Zinc White PW 4 ASTM  l (28-year study: Smithsonian says take it off  palette—it cracks!)

Lead White, aka Flake, Cremnitz, Underpainting White, and Silver White PW 1 ASTM 1

BLACKS:

Mars Black aka Iron Black, Black Iron Oxide PBk 11 ASTM  l (fast drier)

Ivory Black aka Bone Black PBk 9 ASTM  l (slow drier—never use in underpainting)

*Lamp Black aka Carbon Black, Vegetable Black, Furnace Black PBk 6 ASTM  l

*Vine Black also called Drop Black, Frankfort Black, Peach Black, Spanish Black, Blue Black.

MISC:

*Metals PM 1, PM 2, PM 3, etc.  ASTM – Not tested. All except gold are poor.

Gold  PM 3 ASTM  l

*Mica PW 20 ASTM – Not Tested

Mica Titanate ASTM – Not Tested (New, micronized mica in wide range of metallic colors—appear to be highly light fast and useable in all media.)

MORE PIGMENT INFORMATION FROM:

RGH Paints, Pigment Identification Chart,  http://www.rghartistoilpaints.com/index.html

Explanation of Pigment Identification Chart:

(P Value) Permanence as rated by the ASTMD in Artists’ Oil and Artists’ Acrylic Emulsion Paints, as follows:

1. Excellent     2. Very Good     3. Good     4. Fair     5. Poor

(T Value) Transparency/Opacity as follows:

1, Least Transparent (Most Opaque), to 8, Most Transparent (Least Opaque)

Index Name

Pigments throughout the world are given a Color Index Name. This is an international code.

Remember that the science of paint continues to evolve, bringing us ever-more exciting options to use; so do some research on your own and learn more about it.  I’ll be posting more information on this next time.

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