Rublev Colours® natural mineral, organic and historical powder pigments are especially made by Natural Pigments for artists. They are the same pigments used by ancient, medieval and Renaissance painters. Each pigment can be used for different painting techniques. Whether you are a novice or an experienced painter, you’ll find Rublev Colours pigments well suited for use in aqueous mediums, such as egg and casein tempera, gum arabic (watercolor), hide glue (distemper) and acrylic dispersions. They perform equally well in oil and alkyd paint. Most are suitable for fresco and other painting techniques, such as encaustic.
Rublev Colours pigments are made directly from mineral and organic sources. Our geologist, who has many years experience selecting minerals for pigments, travels to distant locations, and hand selects mineral ores for use in our pigments. We process the minerals by pulverizing, grinding and levigating for use as fine artists’ pigments.
We travel worldwide to observe the growing and processing conditions of the natural materials used in our organic pigments. We inspect cochineal gathering at cactus plantations in Mexico, madder root in Turkey, indigo vats in India, and logwood trees growing in Honduras.
At Natural Pigments, we remove the mystery of pigments by disclosing their source and known composition. We want you to gain the same intimate knowledge that the old masters had when they made their own paint with pigments.
Synthetic pigments today are made to serve the paint industry, in which producing paints for artists plays a minor role. To achieve maximum desirability in paint today, pigments are made homogenous in shape, size and composition. For example, to increase the covering power of pigments, particle sizes are made as small as possible. The smaller the particles, the more the color nuances of the pigment are reduced to its basic hue, as in inks that have no texture. Particles that are homogenous in shape and size also tend not to settle quickly and separate from the binder during storage. This increases the shelf life and thereby the marketability of paint, but reduces its beauty as a color for artists’ use. As Anita Albus wrote in Art of Arts, “The result is not perfection, but sterility.”
Artists’ material manufacturers purchase most of their pigments from companies that mass-produce them for other uses. A few examples include ultramarine, cadmium and phthalo colors. Oddly enough, painters are one of the few artistic groups to succumb to economic pressures and use ready-made materials. Even in the applied arts such as cookery, it is customary to produce their own stocks and sauces, even though commercially-processed alternatives are available.
We make our pigments, on the other hand, to specifications that maintain their best qualities and allow artists to refine them for their own use. You can use them as they come out of the jar or grind and separate into different grades for special visual effects. As you become more aware of these possibilities, you will want to experiment, paying attention to the way the pigments look and behave when mixed with your favorite binder—whether it is oil, acrylic, egg, lime, casein, collagen glue or gum arabic.
Here are some of the most important historical pigments, mostly natural minerals, available as Rublev Colours from Natural Pigments.
Azurite is basic carbonate of copper and is found in many parts of the world in the upper oxidized portions of copper ore deposits along with malachite. Azurite varies in mass tone color from deep blue to pale blue with a greenish undertone. According to some authorities, azurite has been found in paint pigment as early as the 4th Dynasty in Egypt.
Cinnabar, a dense red mineral, is the principal ore of mercury. It is an historical pigment well known to the Romans and widely used in China since the 3rd millennium B.C.E. The natural mineral is said to be more stable than the manufactured pigment known as vermilion. Vermilion was used extensively in easel and miniature painting throughout the Middle Ages until the end of the 19th century. The traditional use of red glazes of madder or cochineal lakes over cinnabar or vermilion underpainting not only increases the intensity of the color, but also reduces the tendency of these lake pigments from fading. Our dry process vermilion is made in China by a recipe handed down through successive generations.
Glauconite is a greenish mineral of hydrated iron potassium silicate, known as green earth, and varying from pale green and bluish-green to olive-green. We obtain green earth from Cyprus, Estonia, Italy and Ukraine. The most famous deposit of green earth is found near Verona, Italy. Restorers have proven that the famous green pigments of past centuries known as terre verte are in essence the mineral glauconite. Hematite is a dark red iron oxide. We obtain hematite from iron ore deposits in England, France, Italy, Russia and U.S. It is a lustrous pigment of considerable tinting strength and opacity. Hematite is the principle-coloring agent in red ocher, such as Pozzuoli red, Venetian red, etc. These pigments contain hematite associated with varying amounts of clay, chalk and silica.
Lazurite is a rare mineral commonly found combined with other minerals, called lapis lazuli. We buy select pieces of lapis from one of the oldest lazurite mines in Badakhshan, Afghanistan, as well as mines near Lake Baikal, Russia and the Cordillera Range of Chile. These pieces are finely ground and washed to obtain the highest purity and deepest blue hue. The raw lapis is crushed, ground and cleaned in a series of different steps, removing impurities, such as calcite, pyrite, diopside, wollastonite, until a concentrate of lazurite crystals is derived —the remaining mineral is mostly wollastonite. In most mediums, our premium quality (70–75% lazurite) gives a dark blue. The particle size is less than 40 microns, which still preserves the reflective quality of its crystals.
The mineral Malachite is basic carbonate of copper, described as a bright greenish blue or sometimes as a pale green. The finer the pigment particle size is the lighter green in color it becomes. Our malachite is obtained from mines in the Ural mountain range in Russia. Available in fine and coarse grades.
Orpiment is yellow arsenic sulfide, a rare mineral usually described as a lemon or canary yellow or sometimes as a golden or brownish yellow. Our orpiment is from Kadamdzhaï in Kyrgyzstan. The modern name comes from the Latin auripigmentum, or golden pigment. It is an historical pigment having been identified on ancient Egyptian objects and paintings from the 31st Dynasty to the 6th century B.C.E. It is mentioned in Greek and Roman literary sources. The Leyden papyrus described its use in late Egyptian painting, as does the Mappae Clavicula in early medieval painting. The pigment has been described in various other manuscripts dating from the 12th to the 15th centuries.