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What are Pigments?

Pigments are finely ground colorants that change the color of reflected or transmitted light by absorbing certain spectrum wavelengths. Pigments differ from dyes in that they are insoluble in the medium in which they are mixed. They are used in paints and coatings as coloring agents. Pigments are also used to color food, personal care products, inks, and plastics.

How are pigments made?

Pigments can be natural or synthetic. Pigments are also organic or inorganic, meaning they are derived from organic chemicals such as petroleum or minerals, such as iron ore. Most historical pigments were derived from natural sources, such as rocks, plants, and insects. Modern pigments are made from mineral sources or petroleum. They also vary in toxicity—most are considered safe, while some are toxic. 

How do you make paint?

You combine pigments with a binder to create colors in paint. Binders suspend the pigments and give paint adhesion to a substrate. Binders consist of resins, gums, or oils. Acrylic resins make acrylic paints. Acacia gum (gum arabic) is the binder in watercolor paints. The binder in oil paints is drying vegetable oils, such as linseed, walnut, and poppy oil.


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