Some dry pigments from Kremer, Earth Pigments, Guerra Pigments and others


I’ll post these in the hope they might help someone make dry pigment decisions and save some money. They’re not great swatches or scans, but it’s hard to find any dry pigment references on the web.  These are in linseed oil or Genesis heat set oils, which have the same color result as linseed (but tend to hide rheology so none is noted on those swatches).  In practice, I find I only use a moderate selection of these regularly. I bought them when I was studying paint rheology.  It’s fun to have them around though; I feel like I have an alchemist’s lab.


EP = Earth Pigments
Kr = Kremer (a lot of these are from their 25th anniversary set)
NP = Natural Pigments
GP = Guerra Pigments
DS = Daniel Smith, no longer available except on ebay
Gamb = Gamblin
Sch = Schmincke (just py153)
PP = Permanent Pigments (no longer available, these are really old!)

Long refers to ropy, stringy paint rheology
CS is dilatant (cornstarch) rheology

Column 1 – Earth Pigments turquoise green, Earth Pigments French pale green, Earth Pigments Cyprus Umber Dark, Earth Pigments dark yellow ocher, Earth Pigments colonial yellow ocher, Earth Pigments natural sienna, Earth Pigments colonial raw sienna, Earth Pigments amber ocher dunkel.

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Review of Kremer’s 30th anniversary blue pigment assortment in oil paint

There’s an excellent review on the internet of this pigment set in watercolor, but I couldn’t find one about oil paints.

I bought this set to get a chance to try some of the historical pigments like smalt and azurite, and to explore the differences among ultramarine blue variants and cobalt variants without buying a lot of pigments. I got the set on one of Kremer’s fairly rare sales (around Memorial Day and Thanksgiving); get on their mailing list to be notified when that happens.  All in all, it was worth it, and it includes a few awesome expensive bonus pigments.  By the way, if you are starting out with pigments, I’d recommend the 25th anniversary set. It’s a great selection of modern and earth pigments across the color wheel.

My quick summary is:

  • Don’t sweat which of these ultramarine blues you buy — the differences are too subtle to matter much in practice. There are certainly slight differences, but I suspect they will be hard to see in most painting situations.
  • The cobalts and ceruleans on the other hand show distinct differences in color and value that might justify buying several, and also have interesting rheology that is almost never seen in tubes.
  • Hand-mixed cobalt violets are stunning — much better than tubed versions I have, which seem full of fillers.  Cobalt violets are pretty expensive, but not as expensive as buying high quality tubes, which I have seen at $90.
  • For color alone, I think the historical pigments like azurite, lapis lazuli, and smalt have been replaced for good reasons in oil painting. (Watercolor is a different story.)  Their muted masstone and dullness in tints and mixes hardly justify their expense when good alternatives are available. On the other hand, mineral  colors can be quite interesting for  unique optics in glazing and surfaces. My view of these pigments is changing since I have tried making paint all the way from rock and earth.  I reluctantly admit that we may be losing something by not grinding rocks ourselves for certain effects, but I don’t think very many artists want to go there. I think these Kremer pigments may only get you part of the way to the real interest of hand-ground pigments, though. I’m thinking if I buy more, I will look for coarsely ground pigment, and use a mortar and pestle to do the rest.

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Initial review of some Vasari oil paints in earth colors: Make your own paint or buy the best?

Vasari is often described as the Cadillac of oil paints. I’ve held off a long time on buying any since I tend to be too precious with oil paint even when it’s cheap, but some dry pigments that I really like from are now available in oils in the Vasari line, and I was interested to compare my handmade paint to commercial equivalents.  I waited for their earth sale, but still paid $11 to $21 per tube.   The tubes came in a fancy box with faux-suede lining, alongside a tote bag with Vasari logo. This is boutique paint!

I have a lot of dry pigments, and often make my own paints.   I make small batches and use them in one day, which allows me to forego additives needed to stabilize tube paints. I mix the paint very thoroughly, but I often don’t mull it.  It would take half of my painting session to mull several colors and clean up.  Where are those apprentices when you need them?!!  I follow Sinopia’s advice that  you should mull if you plan to tube, but otherwise can just mix.   So my comparisons to Vasari are done with oil paint that is mixed thoroughly, but not mulled.

I had expected  that Vasari would be clearly superior to my own paint, but in some ways, for my purposes (emphasis on that), I didn’t find it so.  That’s not to say these aren’t great paints and beautiful colors, but handmade paints are dramatically less expensive and in some cases even better for what I want.  Where mulling matters for color intensity, Vasari definitely wins, but the color difference is pretty subtle and often lost in mixes, and I could always break out the muller and get close.  Vasari also wins for a very smooth consistency that textures very nicely. But my homemade paint shows some interesting rheology that is missing in Vasari.

The premium paints I’ve tried, Vasari and Blockx and Blue Ridge, manage a very pleasing brushability while holding texture from brushstrokes without slumping. They create organic edges without blobs when a brush is dragged through thicker paint. They don’t resist the brush or pull against it. They have a long character that is much more like handmade paint than most brands. (We are all familiar with short paint, since most tubed paint is short. It breaks off quickly and stops when you lift the brush. Long paint is the opposite, more mobile and tending to continue moving a bit when you lift the brush; some even pulls out into strands.) These three are on they looser end of the scale, allowing them to be used without solvents or mediums if desired, but they are not runny (like Sennelier in some tubes I have). The tactile experience of painting matters to me, and these are really nice!  Of the three, I like Vasari and Blue Ridge best for the way they hold texture and edges, and the way they look when dry (fairly even, satin sheen in the paints I have, without a jarring difference between thick and thin areas). But Blockx has a very appealing silky feel, sensual to move, that probably comes from the poppy oil. In thin paint, I’d probably prefer to paint with it just for the feeling.  (I have a limited number of tubes, so I don’t know if these observations hold through the complete lines.)

Once you try something like Vasari, you may find less expensive tube paints a bit disappointing, but it depends very much on how you paint.  Lower end paints generally compromise with over-use of fillers and additives like aluminum stearate, resulting in paints that may hold brushstrokes but lack sensual brushability and tend to be quite short, even waxy. With a few exceptions, in my experience, handmade paints are the only thing that can really compete with Vasari and Blockx in this area. One of the great advantages of handmade paint is its tendency to be longer than tube paint and brushable, yet adjustable to hold texture when you want it.  Of course, every painter’s process is different, and something one of us finds desirable is the opposite for another. If you like the textures you get with a stiffer, shorter paint, these are probably not for you.  Continue reading

Genesis heat set paints and the world of polymer clay

I did 20 or so paintings with Genesis heat set paints several years ago. They offer some compelling advantages. These really are not gimmicks!

  • Paint stays open indefinitely until heat set.
  • Indirect techniques and multiple glazes are possible without long waiting periods.
  • Mediums dry without yellowing, at least in the years I have had my paintings. As with acrylics, mediums can be used for translucent effects that would have oil painters wallowing in problems with linseed oil yellowing.
  • Brushes can be set aside for days without cleaning. You can really just walk away from your painting and come back to it days later. The biggest problem is that paint mixes last so long that they can gather dust.
  • Genesis can match oil paint for color density, especially compared to paints like Golden Open and Atelier Interactive, which are often portrayed as oil substitutes.

But, Genesis also has distressing disadvantages:

  • A very narrow range of mediums with very limited behavior, and no way to overcome the ever-present thixotropy without weakening the paint.
  • Tendency to thicken dramatically on the palette and canvas over time (that’s thixotropy).
  • A small range of surfaces that the paint is reliably compatible with, unless you gesso it yourself. Many acrylic-pre-primed surfaces are too absorbent and suck the plasticizer out of the paint. I believe the plasticizer can even soften some acrylic gessos, which can border on disastrous. I find Fredrix gesso (and Fredrix pre-primed canvas) the best for a smooth, slick feel, and Golden gesso is useful for more brush drag.  Amaco also recommends Pro Art gesso.
  • Difficulties with heating arrangements, especially with large canvases. Only ovens are really sound, in my opinion; the heat gun is too hard to use long enough and evenly.  I invested a fair amount of money in the Genesis oven, and can still only go to 24 x 24 inches. If you don’t want to buy that, make your own heat box, or use your kitchen oven (I sure wouldn’t do that), you will be limited to small sizes up to 12″ x 12″ that fit in a convection oven.

I eventually set them aside, but I recently pulled them out and did a few more paintings. The  problems remain (even with new thick medium and a few new colors that I bought to see if they have changed anything), but I stumbled upon some intriguing possibilities of combining them with products from the polymer clay world.
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Karin Groen article about Rembrandt’s paint and binder, particle sizes

Karin Groen article: Investigation of the Use of the Binding Medium by Rembrandt :

Big conclusion: For thick impastos, especially in late Rembrandt, a pure white layer was commonly used, composed of a fine grind of lead white in unpolymerized linseed oil, combined almost universally (!) with a protein emulsifier, probably egg. Polymerized oils were used more with slower drying pigments, not with lead white.  Some glazes may have been emulsions employing cherry gum, with signs of encapsulated water droplets. Continue reading

Lukas 1862 oil paint review

I have been experimenting for awhile with oil/water emulsion mixes, a sort of shortcut tempera grassa created by mixing tempera paints or mediums with oil paints.  Gottsegen’s Painter’s Handbook has some information about this technique.  I tested a few tubes of Lukas, and found that they worked surprisingly better in these emulsions than any other brands I have (a few notes on that at the end), so I bought some more. There seem to be very few detailed reviews of them on the web, so here are my thoughts.

Drying Time

This is, first and foremost, heavily engineered to dry extremely quickly, in some colors as fast as an alkyd.   Continue reading

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Review of Cuni water-soluble encaustics after 10 plus paintings

My initial review is here. I’ll go down the list of review items in the same order.  I would really be happy to hear from anyone about this paint, but I’ve had to shut off comments on the blog for the time being. You can reach me at gmail  using  jaymacazbd.

1. Tubes vs. mixing with pigments – I still use Cuni’s medium plus water-media paints or pigment dispersions to make many of my paints. This works quite well. I have used casein and watercolor paints; both work fine, as do the dispersions, and all combine well with Cuni tube paints. More below, but some of the tube paints are less than lightfast, and some are extremely expensive.  Based on my experience, I might recommend a basic set of earths ( raw umber, red earth, yellow ochre are ones I like), white, black, phthalo or ultramarine blue, and phthalo green or the easier-tamed cinnabar (py36, phthalo green yellow shade). I think you could get this for about $80 plus shipping from Custom Encaustics in Tucson. They also carry a 6-tube set, which is a good start for $60. If $80 or $60 seems too high to test the paint out, buy a tin of medium for $18 and mix it with whatever paint you have on hand for the colors. You’ll be able to get a feeling for how it handles with almost anything, but I’d suggest a water medium. Continue reading

Oils with Cuni encaustics, and some water mixable oil review info (Cobra and Artisan)

In my explorations of Cuni encaustics, I have come to the conclusion that it is difficult and time-consuming for me to handle large gradations, such as on a floor or wall in a scene, with much control.  I have too much trouble with lifting while trying to get even paint. (It is possible to get a fascinating translucent texture by rubbing thick Cuni paint, layer after layer, but this is a slow technique for large areas.) On the other hand, the paint excels at detailed textured subjects and highlights. I thought I would try a mixed layered technique: underpainting in oils, glazing the shadows and working flat areas with oils, and painting the light textured areas with Cuni encaustics. (Jorge Cuni tells me it should be quite sound to paint the encaustics over dried oil paint, and vice versa.)  The overall approach worked very well, and I will continue to pursue it, but I tried Cobra water mixable oils and found them a mixed bag for this approach. (I can’t tolerate solvents, making WMOs a good option for some things, which is why I tested them out.)

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Recovering from hacked website

My website was hacked last week, and to prevent problems I completely reinstalled my blog.  While I’m not sure, it looks like the hack probably came through the blog.  It will take some time to rebuild. I will work on getting content about water-soluble encaustics up first, since there has been some interest. At this time, I am going to turn all commenting off, so I don’t have to install plugins that may lead to future problems. I apologize for this and regret it, since there have been some very interesting and useful comments recently. But I don’t have the desire or time to be a system manager. I want to paint, not watch updates like a hawk.

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