“Slowly but surely, year after year, we have been moving forward. With the growth of science, inexhaustible stories of creativity, will the artist's hope for a perfect palette finally be achieved, step by step? " Georg Field.

With the development of chemistry at the beginning of the XVIII century and especially actively in the second half of the XIX century, a wide variety of new synthetic pigments appeared in the artist's palette. Let us give the most important historical information about the main synthetic pigments, the paints from which significantly influenced watercolour paintings during the era of the industrial development in the XVIII-XIX centuries. These are Berlin blue, cobalt, synthetic ultramarine, yellow and green pigments made of chromium, different in composition emerald greens, mars of different tones and cadmium pigments. To them was added a group of phthalocyanine and quinacridone pigments, which entered the palette of watercolour artists already in the middle of the XX century.


In 1782, the French manufacturer Courtois released the first batch of paint based on this pigment. The paint was deprived of all the shortcomings of lead whitewash, however, it was less opaque and, moreover, four times more expensive, so over the next hundred years, artists rarely used it. Only in 1840 it was possible to obtain a cheap pigment of good quality from zinc oxide.

  • Name of the paint based on the pigment: Zinc white (100).


Prussian blue is the first and one of the main pigments of the new era, which greatly changed the colour of painting, starting from the 20s of the XVIII century.
The extremely clear colloidal soluble pigment has a high colouring ability. One part of it for two hundred parts of whitewash gave a clear blue colour. For comparison: you need to use ten times more ultramarine for painting whitewash to the same extent.
There were varieties of this pigment: mineral blue (bluemineral), or Antwerp blue (bleud 'Anvers) is a pigment complicated by zinc and magnesium salts; Parisian blue (bluede Paris, bleude Turnbull) also looked like Berlin blue, but was slightly different in composition from it.
  • Name of the paint based on the pigment: Prussian blue (518).


Cobalt is an unusually strong and beautiful light blue pigment, it's got its name from the rare and expensive cobalt metal, of which it is derivated.
The first cobalt pigment initially obtained by the French physicist Thenard (a compound of alumina with cobalt phosphate) had a much violet tone than the blue cobalt pigment used now (a compound of alumina with cobalt oxide - cobalt aluminate), it was called sapphire (bluesaphir). Cobalt also had names: royal blue (Königsblau), Leiden blue is the same as cobalt blue. Cobalt blue, called cobalt for short, had different tones from blue to dark blue, which depended on the chemical composition of the pigment. 

There is another well-known cobalt pigment – ceruleum, greenish-blue or light blue.

  • Names of the paints based on the pigment: Ceruleum Blue (503), Cobalt Azure Blue (532), Cobalt Blue (508), Cobalt turquoise (531), Cobalt chrome turquoise (533).


Synthetic ultramarine, like natural, has a saturated blue colour. Natural ultramarine has been long the one of the rarest and most expensive colours in the artists' palette. In the second half of the XIX century, natural ultramarine cost was 6,700 francs per kilogram, while a kilogram of gold cost 3450 francs, that is, natural ultramarine was almost twice more expensive than gold. Only in the 19th century a way to obtain a synthetic dye was found. The chemist from Tübingen (Germany) K. Gmelin discovered the conditions for the preparation of synthetic ultramarine almost simultaneously with the Frenchman J. Guimet, who received a prize for this invention in 1828; both inventions are independent of each other. Synthetic ultramarine has a beautiful saturated blue colour, amazing lightfastness. In addition to blue ultramarine, a delicate shade of violet ultramarine is also produced.

  • Names of the paints based on the pigment: Ultramarine (511), Ultramarine deep (521), Ultramarine violet (613).


Chromium oxide. The most widely used in painting is green pigment chromium greens, an anhydrous form of chromium oxide. There was also a natural compound (rock), in the XVIII century called "Volkonskoite," but it is known that back in the XI century in the icon painting of Ancient Russia this natural mineral pigment was used, M.V. Lomonosov used green chrome in painting glass for mosaics. The pigment got the name of the metal chromium that was discovered in 1797, an oxide of which it is, and coloured chromium oxides were obtained earlier in 1793. The name comes from the ancient Greek word χρῶμα - colour. 

The silver-white metal with a bluish tint was given this name by the French chemist Louis Nicolas Vauquelin, who discovered it, probably because he received chrome by long manipulations with chromium compounds - bright yellow, orange, green.

Green chromium paint began to be used for artistic purposes only from the middle of the XIX century (there are indications of 1862). This pigment was a very stable chemical compound, did not have a bright colour. The cheap pigment of muted grey-green, olive colour was extremely opaque and it was used in all types of painting. After good thermal calcination, it did not dissolve in alkalis or acids, aggressive environmental factors did not have impact on it. It had high lightfastness.

  • Name of the paint based on the pigment: Chromium oxide (704).


Synthetic ochres (mars) are pigments that are obtained by calcination pure aqueous iron oxide with various impurities (alumina, plaster, zinc oxide and chalk). Depending on the composition and methods of preparation, mars can have different shades of orange, red, brown, violet colours (the height of the calcination temperature of the raw ingredient of yellow mars, for example, gives different tones: weak calcination gives orange mars, stronger - red, etc.).
Iron salts were probably obtained already in the XVIII century in laboratories as a by-product of chemical reactions, but the recipe for the preparation of artificial ochre was discovered in Germany at the beginning of the XIX century by a chemist Georg Field. He was the first to receive on the basis of iron oxide a number of synthetic pigments of yellow, orange and violet colours, called mars. Synthetic English, or Indian red, caput mortuum, van dick and other pigments have a similar composition.
These synthetic pigments sometimes surpass natural pigments in all respects. Strong on their own, they are also stable in mixtures with other pigments, so they are applicable in all painting techniques.
  • Names of the paints based on the pigment: English red (321), Mars brown (412), Mars black (800).


Cadmium pigments (from the Greek καδμεία (kadmeia) - zinc ore) - cadmium metal salts acquired this name. The oxide of the new metal cadmium was obtained in 1817 by Friedrich Stromeyer when calcining zinc carbonate, while doing a complete analysis of this substance, and then received the metal itself (pure silver-white substance, soft, heavier than iron, toxic). Cadmium pigments began to be used in the production of art paints since 1871. They have a large range of shades of pure colours: lemon, light, medium or golden yellow, dark or orange-yellow and red. All these pigments have high intensity and sheltering, as well as lightfastness and resistance high temperatures, to atmospheric influences.

  • Names of the paints based on the pigment: Cadmium Lemon (203), Cadmium Yellow Medium (201), Cadmium Orange (304), Cadmium Red Light (302). 

Bright, clean, saturated colours of organic pigments allow you to obtain a wide range of colours that cannot be created using inorganic pigments.
Organic pigments have a very high colouring ability, many of them are transparent. The main obstacle to the widespread use of organic pigments in painting in the past was their insufficient lightfastness. These disadvantages have been overcome by obtaining of new polycyclic compounds.


Phthalocyanine pigments. High-quality and not dangerous to human health blue and green phthalocyanine pigments began to appear rather recently, in the 40s of the last century. Phthalocyanine pigments are synthetic organic dyes based on the compound of phthalocyanine with metals - copper, nickel, cobalt. The most important is copper phthalocyanine - a blue compound. Chlorination of copper phthalocyanine leads to the formation of a green pigment, depending on the number of chlorine atoms, the colour can vary from turquoise to green with a bluish tint. All these pigments have beautiful and clean shades, have excellent glazing qualities, high chemical resistance, light stability, so they have become indispensable in the palette of modern watercolour artist.
  • Names of the paints based on the pigment: Azure blue (519), Bright blue (509), Azure (513), Blue (515), Turquoise Blue (507), Emerald green (713), Green Light (717).

Various polycyclic pigments related to perylene, anthraquinone, quinacridone, dioxazine and thioindigoid compounds have a wide colour range from yellow-green, red to violet. These organic pigments have a very high colouring capacity, low consumption, high lightfastness.


Quinacridone pigments were released firstly in 1958. The colour of quinacridones varies from orange-red to violet depending on the compound. All pigments of this group have a bright saturated colour, very high intensity and durability. Various shades of violet-pink quinacridones have amazing colouring ability, excellent variety, transparency and purity. 

  • Names of the paints based on the pigment: Quinacridone Violet Rose (622), Quinacridone Violet 621), Quinacridone Rose (324), Quinacridone Lilac (609), Neon pink (368), Quinacridone Red (361), Carmine (319).


Dioxazine pigments are known of yellow, blue, red and violet colours. Dioxazine Violet (628) is distinguished by its pure colour, good lightfastness, extremely high colouring ability 8-10 times higher than the colouring ability of many organic pigments.


Anthraquinone pigments are high-quality pigments of various colours: yellow, red, blue. All of them are extremely stable. Especially beautiful is blue, having a unique blue deep tint, the colour based on it is called Indanthrene blue light (537).


Perylenes. The first perylene dyes were discovered in 1912, but turned into pigments only in the 1950s. They are appreciated for their lightfastness, transparency, purity and saturation of colour. Perylene violet (627) has a beautiful, brown-lilac tint, and Venice purple (365) has a saturated noble red-burgundy tint.


Naphthol pigments, Azopigments, Benzimidazolone azopigments, the basis of this extremely extensive class of pigments is azo group. They are distinguished by great brightness of tones and high colouring ability. Benzimidazolone azopigments are azopigments named after the benzimidazolone group. Benzimidazolones were developed and patented in 1960. They were first used as a pigment in the late 1970s. According to the colour obtained, pigments are divided into yellow and red series. Both series together contain about 20 azopigments with a wide colour scheme. Pigments of the yellow series have shades from greenish-yellow to orange, red series - from yellowish-red to bordeaux. Common features of all the pigments of this group are their unusually good lightfastness, which is significantly higher than classical azopigments have. Pigments are safe, resistant to acids, alkalis and solvents, and they are easily dispersible.
  • Names of the paints based on the pigment: Lemon (214), Indian Yellow (228), Aureolin (253), Yellow (211), Irgazin yellow (257), Titian red (226), Golden deep (217), Orange (315), Ruby (323), Madder lake red light (313), Geranium red (364). 

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