Luberon Raw Umber Aqueous Dispersion

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Luberon Raw Umber aqueous pigment dispersion is from the last remaining European company operating the ocher deposits in the French quarries of Gargas and Rustrel nestled in a 12 mile long enclave in the heart of the Luberon Massif, the ocher country.

Luberon Raw Umber is a natural blend of minerals from southern France that is a yellowish-brown pigment for use in tempera, fresco, and watercolor mediums, obtained from natural earth colored by the oxides of iron and manganese. This raw umber is from the last remaining European companies operating the ocher deposits in the French quarries of Gargas and Rustrel, nestled in a 12-mile-long enclave in the heart of the Luberon Mountains.

Rublev Colours Aqueous Pigment Dispersions are pigments dispersed in water ready to be mixed with water-based mediums. These dispersions are specially made for use with traditional painting mediums, such as egg, casein, fresco, watercolors, and distemper (glue tempera). They are also ideally suited for use with gesso for making toned grounds for drawing and painting.

Pigment dispersions from Rublev Colours contain only naturally-derived ingredients, in addition to pigment and water, making them ideally suited for traditional and natural mediums. Unlike other pigment dispersions typically made for acrylic medium, Rublev Colours Aqueous Dispersions do not contain coalescent solvents, artificial dispersing resins, and other additives that interfere with natural mediums.

Rublev Colours Aqueous Dispersions make preparing traditional mediums easy; you do not have to hassle with powders, grinding pigments with expensive tools, and calculating pigment-binder ratios to make water-based paint. They make adding the right amount of paint binder simple and easy. For example, preparing egg tempera has never been easier because the dispersion makes measuring the right amount of pigment manageable—you add egg and stir—there’s no guessing how much egg to add to the pigment.

Watch this pigment in mixtures in oil paint, and how to make paint with the dry powder pigment.

Pigment Names
Common Names:English: umber
French: terre d'ombre
German: Umbererde
Italian: terra d'ombra
Russian: умбра
Spanish: tierra de sombra
Alternate Names:English: raw umber, natural umber, unburnt umber
French: ombre naturelle
Common namePrimary mineralSource
UmberGoethiteVarious Locations, France


Origin and History

Brown earth has been known since prehistoric times and was mentioned in the earliest painting treatises. However, the name umber did not appear until the 16th century. Sixteenth-century Italian painting treatises used the term terra d’ombra, translated as umber for a type of brown earth. The name is likely derived from ombra, Italian for “shadow,” because the pigment was useful for dark or shadow areas. Writers of the 17th century mentioned calcining umber before use, and the term burnt umber entered literature around this time. Raw umber was not commonly used in English treatises before the 19th century. The name umber was frequently used for organic brown pigments in the 18th and 19th centuries, while brown iron oxides were referred to as brown ocher. Today, the name is most often associated with brown earth composed primarily of iron and manganese oxides. In the 17th century, Turquet de Mayerne made the first association of umber with manganese containing iron oxide pigments by describing umber’s drying properties and the fact that the color became brown-red by burning.

Historically, European sources of brown earth (goethite) were mined throughout many regions of Europe. The dark brown umbers, containing 45% to 70% iron oxide and 5% to 20% manganese dioxide, were originally extracted from northern Italy but are now mined primarily in Cyprus. Other sources of umber were found in England, France, Germany, and later in the United States.


Iron oxide earth pigments are an important group of inorganic pigments derived from natural minerals. Iron oxide pigments are yellow, red, and brown, but artists know them as ocher, sienna, red oxide, and umber. Unlike manufactured pigments, the color of natural iron oxide pigments varies with the composition of the particular segment of earth from which they come. The color of these pigments is derived from three constituents: the principal coloring ingredient, secondary coloring ingredients, and a base. The combination of these ingredients produces the particular color of the earth. The innumerable forms and variations these ingredients can combine result in a wide range of possible yellows, reds, and browns.

Principal Coloring Ingredient

Iron oxide is the principal color-producing ingredient in the earth. The properties of the particular iron oxide in the earth determine its color. The nature of the iron oxide found in the deposit, rather than its percentage, is critical to the resulting earth’s color. Most rock contains some iron oxide. Those bearing the least amounts are limestone. White clay and colorless kaolin. Those containing the highest amounts are the rocks from which metallic iron is extracted.

Secondary Coloring Ingredients

Calcite (calcium carbonate), pyrolusite (manganese oxide), and quartz (silica) are some common accessory minerals that affect the specific color of natural iron oxides. Manganese oxide, for example, enriches the brown in numbers.


Nearly all iron oxides have a clay base. Clay is the weathered product of silicate rocks and is extremely varied in composition. As a result, it has numerous effects on the earth’s color.

Umber is a yellowish-brown to greenish-brown pigment used in tempera, oil, and watercolor, obtained from natural earth-colored by iron and manganese oxides. Just as with sienna, the chemical composition of umber is closely related to its iron oxide content. What makes umber different is the increased content of manganese. Other substances naturally occurring in umber, including clay, talc, and calcium carbonate, do not affect its color significantly. Umbers with the highest tinting strength are those with the highest iron and manganese content. Some of the finest umber comes from Cyprus and may contain up to 16% manganese oxide. German umber typically contains 1 to 2% manganese, English umber 7%, and umber from Russia and Ukraine about 4% manganese.

Our French raw umber is a mixture of different natural pigments from the last remaining European company operating the ocher deposits in the French quarries of Gargas and Rustrel, nestled in a 12-mile-long enclave in the heart of the Luberon Massif, the ocher country of France.

Tinting Strength

As demonstrated in experiments conducted by K.I. Tolstikhinoy, the chromaticity of natural iron oxide and clay pigments are closely related to the iron oxide content and, from a mineralogical point of view—the content of goethite. Thus, with the content of iron oxide less than 23%, luminosities of the tone of pigment compose 40 to 50%, and the purity of tone 60 to 70%. With the content of iron oxide from 22 to 74%, luminosities of tone vary in intervals of 25 to 40%, the purity of tone from 70 to 85%, and with the content of iron oxide more than 75%, luminosity is located at intervals of 18 to 25%, the purity of tone 83 to 90%.

Pigment Characteristics

A characteristic of pigments containing goethite is their ability to change color when heated. Heating umber causes the hydrated iron oxide to give up water and, with the resulting dehydration, darkens in shade while its tone intensifies. At temperatures exceeding 300° C, yellow and brown pigments acquire red-brown tones. The most intensive red tones are obtained due to calcining goethite at a temperature between 500–600° C. The color change is directly related to the dehydration of goethite and its transformation into hematite. Prolonged heating at high temperatures causes another change into a mineral of dark gray color—magnetite. Roasting umber gives a pigment black-brown color known as burnt umber.

Permanence and Compatibility

Umber does not react with other pigments and is effectively used in fresco, oil, tempera, and watercolors. It is considered permanent with medium to excellent tinting strength and high opacity. It does not react with solvents, is indifferent to alkalis, and is partially soluble in acids.

Oil Absorption and Grinding

Umber moderately absorbs oil when dispersing it in this medium. The oil absorption ratio is 25 to 35 parts by weight of linseed oil to 100 parts by weight of pigment. If the measurement were grams, umber would require 25 to 35 grams of linseed oil to grind 100 grams of pigment to form a stiff paste. Due to its manganese content, umber hastens the drying time of oil and forms a good, flexible film.


Umber is considered non-toxic; however, manganese, a constituent of umber, is considered moderately toxic, so care should be exercised when handling the pigment so as not to ingest it.

Aqueous Pigment Dispersion: Luberon Raw Umber

Powder Pigment: Luberon Raw Umber

Pigment Information
Colour Index:Pigment Brown 7 (77491) (77492) (77499)
Chemical Name:Iron oxide-hydroxide and manganese oxide
Chemical Formula:α-FeOOH·MnO2
ASTM Lightfastness Rating
Refractive Index:nα=2.260 nβ=2.393 nγ=2.398
More Information
BrandRublev Colours
VendorRublev Colours
Processing TimeUsually ships the next business day.
Pigment TypeInorganic, Earth, Natural

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