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abcooke 18-09-07 08:31 AM

Pigment pastes or dry pigments?
When researching the techniques used in egg tempera, I find most sources discuss making pigment pastes to mix with the medium. Sometimes I come across artists that just add the egg tempera medium directly to dry pigment. I guess if you are adding water to thin the paint anyway, it might not make much difference? I have been making pigment pastes. I am wondering if anyone has opinions about these two slightly different methods of making paint?

DLH 18-09-07 10:09 AM

I think it is a matter of taste and the characteristics of the particular pigments used. I just mix my pigments dry into 50/50, yolk/water then add additional water as required, but then I paint in black and white. The titanium white seems to simply melt into the yolk. A quick stir and it’s done. The bone black seems fluffy and mixes less easily, but still makes a smooth paint. Other painters here have said that some pigments remain gritty even with thorough mixing and need to be ground into a paste to break up clumps of pigment before mixing into yolk.

paintrman 18-09-07 06:55 PM

I don't know about you but the reason I made the pastes is for health reasons. The woman I studied with didn't. She uses the powders and mixes everything on the spot. However, this shouldn't be done without wearing a respirator. Even breathing in small amounts of cadmium is bad. The brilliant artist Koo Schadler mentions in her book that she developed a lung infection from breathing in non-toxic pigments.

You might mix most with water and save the ones that don't mix well or that get hard when made into a paste for mixing on the day. I haven't had too much trouble with any of them getting too hard to use after being mixed with water. My problem is with mold! Gross!!

Good luck!

Dennis H 18-09-07 08:06 PM

I once mixed up a bunch of colors in paste form and stored them in jars with a layer of distilled water on top. Even using sanitized jars and lids, mold formed in several jars. I decided it wasn't worth the trouble, for me, and I returned to my usual method of mixing dry pigment into paste as I temper it. I'm careful handling the powder and I only need small amounts of any color at a time. Very few of the pigments I use require extensive "grinding" to disperse clumped particles. In such small volumes I can essentially mull stubborn pigments with a small metal palette knife. Many of my pigments almost melt in water.

jeff 19-09-07 01:02 PM

An alternative is to just use small containers (I use plastic film canisters because they are free and seal extremely well so that topping up is unecessary) and a small amount of pigment wetted down in those. I use distilled water as well and have not seen any mold forming. I have noticed that the dust that comes off the dry pigment in a bright light is very light and moves a bit like cigarette smoke in the air. The only pigments I keep dry are the known safe ones that are probably no worse than driving along a dusty road - such as iron oxides.

paintrman 19-09-07 05:30 PM

I must add that some of my pigments are extremely difficult to store as a paste. The irgazine red floats no matter what I add to the water. I have tried denatured alcohol and ethyl alcohol. I have used a drop of soap. The problem with this pigment and with mold is that the top layer dries out because it floats and then the mold goes crazy. I think I am just going to let the moisture evaporate out of these jars (I have split the pigment into several jars in my experiment to try to save it from the mold) and only wet a little at a I need it.

Be careful with any of the dry pigments. The cigarette smoke analogy is fitting. It doesn't matter how safe the pigment is, the particles can inflame the lungs and cause an infection. Every single jar of pigment comes with a warning about not inhaling them in any amount. So, be careful.

abcooke 20-09-07 04:20 AM

thanks everyone
Thanks everyone for all of the thoughtful replies. I know I need to wear a mask, and I admit I am guilty of going in and out of doing that! But I am painting tonight and I am reformed!

mona 19-10-07 12:07 AM

Pigment pastes or dry pigments?
There are valid reasons to use both methods.

Pastes are partly a health consideration, as previously mentioned. The health consideration
applies not only to toxic pigments, but also to non-toxic pigments. Since the particles are so light and fine, inhalation is an overall hazard. I use a half-face respirator mask when mixing my pastes.

The alternative of grinding pigments directly into drops of egg medium applies to pigments
which are stubborn to grind smooth, and also, optionally, to titanium white, which needs more egg.

In icon painting, floating techniques are used which require the artist to mix out 3 varying strengths of one color across a cup-style palette, and for that you would not be able to use
a paste either.

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