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Old 08-02-10, 02:57 AM
ms wings ms wings is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Northern Colorado
Posts: 12
Question purchasing pigments and additives

I am new to the Society. In the past I've used watercolor for pigments in my egg tempera. But I want to expand my options. I've put together a palate of colors to order from a supplier, but I'm not certain how much pigment to buy. I'm on a budget so I don't want to overdue. I am purchasing huge amounts of white and black, (500 grams) because I always need more in those colors. But these colors are cheap to buy. Others are very expensive although I'm sticking to ones I can afford. So does a little go a long way, and 100 or 250 grams is enough or do I need to buy more per color, and limit my palate? Also, though I know colors very well, can someone give me a good list they would start with. And where can I find the ceramic palate and jars?

Last edited by RobM; 09-02-10 at 04:28 PM.
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Old 08-02-10, 04:13 AM
antonia acock
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Default colors

begin with the basics, Red, yellow and some kind of blue.
Your idea of buying plenty of white and black is a good one although I find I don't use much black. Surprising isn't it? Anyway the other useful colors depend on what kind of egg tempera you are doing. I couldn't paint without burnt and raw sienna and a couple of ochres.I also am fond of raw umber.
All of the natural pigments can be mixed to create other colors. I like to keep some calcium carbonate on hand for patching or covering when necessary too.
Most whites are made of this. I hope this helps. It would be easier if I knew what kind of painting you wanted to do, photo realistic, pastel, dark tones,
impressionistic, abstract etc.
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Old 08-02-10, 05:26 PM
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RobM RobM is offline
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Nottingham, England
Posts: 352

Hi ms wings,
Yup a little does go a long, long way.
The likes of cadmiums are expensive but you need only buy a small amount.
As antonia acock says, black is not really a pigment that needs to be kept in great quantities. It is useful in some respects but my 'blacks' are usually a mix of Ultramarine and Indian Red or Burnt Umber.
Whites........I just stick to Titanium white.
Hope this helps......
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Old 08-02-10, 08:37 PM
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Koo Schadler Koo Schadler is offline
Tempera Painter
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Alstead, NH & Zirahuen, Mexico
Posts: 318

Hello ms wings,

The choice of which colors to work with is of course a personal one - everyone has different color preferences. So please take what I offer with a grain of salt. Below are the colors I give to students. It is also my basic palette. It would probably cost around $250 for a minimum amount (50 or 100 grams is usually the least you can order) of each color. For most (but not all) colors, that is enough to last you a while (more on that below...)

1. Titanium White Rutile
2. Mars Black Brownish
3. Ultramarine Blue
4. Prussian (Milori) Blue
5. Cobalt Blue Pale
6. Chromium Oxide Green
7. Viridian
8. Verona Green Earth Mix (enhanced with viridian)
9. Burnt Umber
10. Raw Umber
11. Raw Umber Greenish German
12. Burnt Sienna
13. Raw Sienna Brownish Yellow
14. Yellow Ocher Italian Gold
15. Lemon Yellow Ocher Cyprus (Limonite)
16. Cadmium Orange Light
17. Cadmium Red Light
18. Indian Red
19. Quinacridone Magenta

Some companies offer introductory sets of pigments. Daniel Smith sells a traditional set, two ounce jars of eight colors for $36.59. Sinopia sells an Anniversary set (a teaspoon amount of 25 pigments for $65) as well as several others collections. Also, last I knew Jacqueline Mizaur was still making pigment kits. The cost was around $70 for a lovely collection of small samplings of many colors. She can be reached at

Regarding your question, how far do pigments go....this is difficult to answer because how far a pigment goes depends on several factors.

First there are the obvious considerations such as the size you paint, how many layers you build up, and what colors you give preference to. One can presume that Picasso in his blue period went through more ultramarine than cadmium red.

Another factor in how long a pigment lasts is its tinting strength. Prussian blue, with its very small particle size, is notorious for how powerfully staining it is. As Rob noted, the cadmiums are dense and very strong. Yellow ocher on the other hand is a more delicate color. And the green earths are so slight they give just a whisper of a tint (unless enhanced with a bit of viridian – a common practice to compensate for green earth’s shy nature). In other words, to match the coloring strength of a bean-sized amount of either Prussian blue or a cadmium, you would need perhaps two tablespoons of yellow ocher, and maybe a quarter cup of green earth!

Given the above, as well as the size (very small) and manner (many thin layers) in which I paint, I can tell you this: 50 grams of my favorite color, yellow ochre, lasts me maybe six months. 50 grams of cadmium red sticks around for a few years, and 50 grams of Prussian blue lasts for maybe six years. As you can see it varies dramatically, and thus its impossible to suggest precise quantities. Nonetheless here are some thoughts that may help you with your pigment purchases.

- White is the most commonly used color for most tempera painters. I use twice as much titanium white as yellow ocher, my next most popular color.

- Strong, dense colors that go a long way include: Prussian blue; all of the cadmiums; Indian red; chromium oxide green; and viridian. I don’t have much personal experience with modern petrochemical based colors (the hansas, pthalos, quinacridones, irgazines, etc), but I know they generally have very small particle sizes and consequently can also be included amongst the strong, staining colors. A little goes a looooong way.

- The yellow ochers and green earths (in particular) are generally delicate. However the other earth tones (umber, red ocher, sienna) are moderately strong.

- Iron oxides, ultramarine, and cobalt are moderately strong as well.

As for jars, avoid glass jars if you have a cement studio floor. If you add water to your pigs to make pastes, avoid metal lids because they will rust. I get my containers from Dick Blick - look in the craft section. I also get my ceramic palettes from them.

Good luck! And happy tempering..


Last edited by Koo Schadler; 09-02-10 at 08:38 PM.
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Old 11-02-10, 08:04 PM
ms wings ms wings is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Northern Colorado
Posts: 12
Default pigments and additives

Hello Koo: I very much appreciate your generous information. I didn't know I would have access to instructors. I live in Colorado. If you are near me I would love to take some classes from you.

My order included the following colors:

Titanium White 12.00
Zinc oxid

Black March 11.00
black Ivory 6.75
Light Ultramarine 8.15
Prussian Blue 7.85
Cobalt 13.50
Phthalocyanine 8.9 Naples Yellow dark 10.25
Indian 9.95

yellow oxide trans 14.95
Yellow ocher 4.50
Hansa yellow med 10.95
Spanish golden ocher

Alizarin crimson 13.95
Mahogany stain 16.85
Naphthol Red Medium 13.95
Dark Red Oxide 4.9

Phthalocyanine 12.25
Chrome Oxide 16.95
Oxide brown 4.95

Burnt Umber 6.75
Land Germany 6.75
Burnt Sienna 6.75
Terra d'Italia 4.95
raw sienna

I think I have colors I don't need and your list is more reasonable. I was working with a company in the UK because I thought their prices were very good. But I haven't checked the source you mention. I was trying to stay away from the cadmiums because of their toxicity. Also do you grind your colors into a paste to store for a particular painting you would be working on or use them directly from the bag. I thought one day grinding colors for a painting would be good use of my time.

I am a dabler in all things new, however I stick mostly to photo realism/abstract. Objects will be painted photo but somehow out of place according to the message I am portraying. But I am very ready to learn anything new as well that I could add to my portfolio. I do very well with portraits and have done Einstein that was mistaken as a photo. But rather than copying pictures, I'm at a stage in my life that message in my paintings is extremely important and have been doing some commissions out of my head without any references. I didn't trust myself to do that but it has been a very growing experience. I was surprised at my own abilities but my husband wasn't.

Your teaching is priceless and I am grateful for your teaching. I didn't realize what a resource the society would be. Thank you Koo.

Last edited by ms wings; 11-02-10 at 08:35 PM.
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Old 11-02-10, 08:43 PM
ms wings ms wings is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Northern Colorado
Posts: 12

Thank you Rob. Your information is very helpful and I will put it to good use. I've received valuable information from my friends here and at Wet Canvas. I hope we can be fast friends.

Joanne(aka) ms wings
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Old 11-02-10, 08:50 PM
ms wings ms wings is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Northern Colorado
Posts: 12

Hi Antonia. thank you for your ideas. They are valuable to me. I'm confused about the Calcium Carbonate. What kind of patches are you referring to. And why not use white instead of a separate chemical? I appreciate anything you can help me with, to get back into egg tempera. One thing is how do you handle the egg yolks you use. I've read of different methods. Hope we can become friends.
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Old 13-02-10, 06:34 PM
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Koo Schadler Koo Schadler is offline
Tempera Painter
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Alstead, NH & Zirahuen, Mexico
Posts: 318

Hello Joanna,

Just a few things to mention regarding your last posting. Most colors these days come already properly ground (to a certain micron size). You don't need to grind them (as in, actually make them into smaller particle sizes), rather you need to "disperse" them; i.e. get them fully dispersed and separated. Some painters disperse their pigments (using either a muller and slab, or just a palette knife and palette) with water to make a "pigment paste" before adding the egg. Others don't bother with pigment pastes; they just take the powder straight from the bag and add egg and water to make their paint. My preference is to make most of my pigments into pastes before using them.

If you don't like toxicity, be wary of the cobalt as well. It too is a heavy metal. There was a discussion a few months ago on toxicity on this site that you may want to look at - it discusses in depth the complexities of toxicity. (Its on page three of the topic listings for The Forum for Tempera Painting issues. I'm close to a computer neanderthal so I don't know how to give you better directions to that thread).

I couldn't find the posting of your work - where is it?

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Old 21-02-10, 08:28 AM
ms wings ms wings is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Northern Colorado
Posts: 12
Default My painting

Hello Koo: I don't usually take so long to respond and I apologize. I've been very ill which is just part of my life.

I had a hard time transferring my photo of my painting to my computer which I felt would be an easier way than from phone to forum. Since, I've learned how to do that successfully. The photo's are neither one a very good one but I chose the one that showed the best detail of this piece. Since you asked to see it I will attempt to add it to this message.

I am aware that grinding pigment isn't actually grinding, but more a mixing process. But how much water do I add to the pigment? Is it 1-1 or 2-1 or something different for every color?. Once again, I am grateful for your input and taking the time to care about a novice like me.


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Old 22-02-10, 11:11 PM
Alessandra Kelley Alessandra Kelley is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Chicago, Illinois USA
Posts: 417

I love your imagery. It's wild. And the color selection and rendering look good.

As for how much water to use when grinding pigments: I try to add enough to make a soft paste, but it does seem to vary from pigment to pigment. I'm not too concerned with how much water I use because once the pigment paste is prepared I keep it in a jar under a lot more water. My main concern with grinding is handling properties -- too much water and it's hard to really disperse the pigment as it slips away, too little and the dispersal is dry and stubborn. I add water with an eyedropper and give the pigment paste a few tries with the muller to see if it "takes" before adding more water (Anyone who's made hot cocoa from scratch knows the importance of not adding too much liquid too early in the grinding process, when it still looks too dry). Some pigments repel water, which makes it hard to judge how much water to use. There are a lot of ways of dealing with this; my own is to add a drop or two of rubbing alcohol to the pigment and water, but other people on this forum have other good methods.
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basic colors, color amounts, color choice, pigment

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