Colorful Fridays-Wallet Friendly, Fire Engine Red


“Red is the ultimate cure for sadness.” Bill Blass (from

The very-expensive, highly-toxic Vermilion red was replaced by the lesser expensive and less toxic Cadmium reds in artist’s palettes in the nineteenth century.   Less toxic and less expensive was less than perfect so the search for the perfect red continued.   Eventually, chemists came up with a fairly good substitution for Vermilion and Cadmium. Naphthol Red was born in a chemistry lab as a derivative of coal tar.

Just Paint on the Golden Paints website describes Naphthol Red as, “bright, opaque, fire engine red.” Gamblin’s website says Naphthol Red is a, “modern organic, warm red that closely matches Cadmium Red Medium,” though Naphthol Red “makes more intense tints” and is “more transparent.” Gamblin also reports Naphthol Red is “excellent for high key painting.” AArbor Colorants recommends Naphthol Red for printing inks and gives it an excellent light fastness rating. Some sources report Naphthol Red as fading in tints. Confirmation of this claim was not confirmable so tests may be in order.

Naphthol Red does not have the toxic properties of Vermilion and the Cadmiums and is considerably less expensive. The Material Safety Data Sheets give Naphthol Red a very low toxicity rating. The MSDS says Naphthol Red may cause some mild skin irritation, nausea if consumed, or respiratory irritation if inhaled. Contact in large amounts could be more toxic.

If in need of a bright intense fire engine red, Naphthol Red may fit the bill, especially if you don’t want to shell out a lot of money. Just don’t have the Naphthol Red for dinner or add it to body lotion. It’s probably not a good idea to set any dried pigment around a fan either. Otherwise, Naphthol red can be a palette staple as a strong clear red without fear of damage to health or wallet.


Colorful Fridays–Healthy, Love Inspiring Yellow

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“I really just want to be warm yellow light that pours over everyone I love.” Conor Oberst (from Brainyquote)

For generations the cadmiums had a stranglehold on the yellows in paintings.  Brighter and cleaner than Indian Yellow and without the green undertones of Gamboge and Aureolin, the cadmiums ruled the world of sunny yellows.  As costs of the cadmiums increased and word began to leak out of its carcinogenic properties, artists and paint makers frantically searched for an alternative.  Thus Hansa Yellow was born in a chemistry lab of relatively nontoxic chemical compounds. Developed in Germany, Hansa Yellow became available as an artist’s pigment in 1915.

Screen shot 2014-02-21 at 9.06.48 AMHansa Yellow is sometimes known as Arylamide Yellow or Monoazo Yellow. lists Hansa Yellow as the primary yellow for the basic three colors of the primary triad of the color wheel.  Gamblin says the Hansa family of yellows, “retain their intensity in tints and make beautiful glazes.” The American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) adds Hansa Yellow to the list of recommended paints for botanical artists for its wonderful transparency in watercolor.  The Museum of Fine Arts describes the Hansa Yellows as having, “good lightfastness and weather resistance but are susceptible to bleeding in some media and discoloration when heated.”

Hansa Yellow is so loved by painters that one artist was moved to write a love letter to this sunny yellow.  “Without you, my palette feels naked, empty and completely lost,” writes the author of  All artists may not be driven to writing love letters but many find the bright cheerful sunny Hansa Yellows irreplaceable as a palette staple.  The Hansa Yellows easily replace the evil cadmiums in the hearts of artists as long as they don’t cook them or leave them out in the rain too long.  And Hansas won’t expose anyone to carcinogenics.  So keep your Hansa saturated paintings out of heat and weather and they will keep the sun shining in your art.

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The painting above was made with Dr. Ph Martin’s Hansa Yellow.

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