"Art for art's sake makes no more sense than gin for gin's sake." W. Somerset Maugham
© 2000 Nita Leland
In ancient times artists made their own paints, so they knew exactly what to expect from them. As the paint industry began to develop with the discovery of new pigments and synthetic colors during the nineteenth century, this practice fell by the wayside. In recent years, however, artists have taken a much greater interest in their paints, partly because of a greater awareness of the dangers inherent in some pigments.
The information will vary depending on the medium and the manufacturer. Here are some significant numbers and symbols on my Winsor & Newton artists' watercolors:
All of this information is important, but artists have different criteria for paint selection. One might be more interested in toxicity, another in lightfastness and another in size of tube and price level. Not all manufacturers have this much information on their tubes, but you can usually find what you want to know in their sales literature, by calling customer support or checking their web sites.
You'll find a handy full-color Color Index/ASTM chart in the appendix of my book Confident Color on pp. 152-153.
I highly recomment David Pyle's book, Paint & Colors: What Every Artist Needs to Know, comprehensive coverage from the history of pigments to the behavior of paints and safety issues.
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