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Creating your own paint is a great way to cut costs while exerting greater control over the shades and effects you desire. Dry pigment powder can be combined with binders to create a variety of painting media, from oils to acrylics, and you usually need just a small amount of pigment. (Keep in mind that the amount of binder will vary, depending on the pigment used.) Like paint, however, the quality of powders is wide ranging, to suit projects from crafts to fine art. No matter what powder you favor, you should always handle these particles carefully and protect yourself from inadvertent inhalation. Review our picks of the best powdered pigments to find the one that suits your needs.
Sennelier Dry Pigments
Sennelier offers only top-quality pigments formulated according to a tradition of rigorous research it’s kept since the late 1800s, when the company was making oils for its Postimpressionist clientele. Artists can purchase close to 100 colors reflecting a mixture of natural earth, inorganic, and synthetic pigments, many of which are quite difficult to find. Case in point: Sennelier’s ultramarine blue light, which results from a complex process to reproduce the luminous intensity of lapis lazuli. Sennelier also provides the most comprehensive brochure about its pigments, with each color accompanied by notes on its properties, compatibility with binders, and even tips on how to retain vividness. These are pigments for serious artists who understand the properties of different binders and want to spend time learning more about their materials. Note that several pigments are toxic, such as Veronese green, chrome yellow, and flake white, which Sennelier still prepares using ancient methods.
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Schmincke Premium Artists’ Pigments
If Sennelier’s pigments sound too fussy to you, consider purchasing your colors from Schmincke. The German company offers a range of pure, traditional artists’ pigments as well as modern formulations. The 72-color catalog—48 classical pigments and 24 uncommon ones, including real cadmium and cobalt—is not as extensive as Sennelier’s, but the pigments are more user friendly. They are finely sieved to be more uniform in consistency and are therefore all suitable to produce a wide array of mediums, such as oils, acrylics, watercolors, gouache, and paint for lino prints. The pigments showcase excellent color strength, brilliance, and lightfastness. Schmincke provides an easy-to-read chart describing the properties of each color, from its opacity to its lime resistance for those interested in traditional fresco techniques.
Jacquard Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments
Looking for something more kid-friendly? Jacquard’s set of bright, nontoxic pigments is versatile and great for student work, classroom use, or afternoon crafts. Made from pure ground mica—a stone mineral with natural shine—these are highly stable pigments that incorporate well into any viscous medium. Mix them with oils, encaustics, acrylics, or epoxy; use them for stamping; dust them over polymer clay—the possibilities are nearly endless. The superfine powder adds vivid color as well as a subtle pearlescence, which can lend artwork a lovely depth. You get eight colors in this set of 0.5-ounce jars, including scarlet, emerald, and a dark brown.
TOP OF THE LINE
Like Sennelier, this family-run company takes its pigment research seriously and has redeveloped an impressive range of historical pigments. While it may not have been around as long as the Paris business, Kremer does offer the biggest assortment of pigments in the world. You can choose from more than 1,500, of which 250 are produced in its color mill in Aichstetten, Germany, where raw materials are manually processed and filtered into powder pigment. The chosen brand of professional restorers, this is your one-stop shop for hard-to-find genuine pigments such as smalt, vermillion, madder lake, and bone black. Kremer also publishes suitability lists so you can easily find out which pigments you can use for your art, whether you work in acrylics, ceramics, watercolors, resin, encaustics, or even cement.
Old Holland Pigments
Old Holland specializes in classic pigments and continues to prepare its products according to recipes used by old Dutch Masters. The process, for instance, involves using a manually operated stone roller to grind pigment. You’ll pay a price, however, for this artisanal quality; these are perhaps the most expensive pigments on the market (40 grams of Ruby Lake, for instance, will run you well over $200). These 98 pigments, including vermillion, cerulean blue, and Naples yellow, deliver unparalleled opacity, incredible lightfastness, and amazing color intensity and brilliance. Old Holland, however, doesn’t provide much information on individual pigments, whether specific lightfastness ratings or compatibility with mediums, and this is particularly frustrating given the astronomical prices.