Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Pigment used in Cadmium Red

This article looks at the pigment used in Cadmium Red. It also lists some of the meanings for the colour Red.

All artist paints whether acrylic, oil or watercolour all use the same pigments to produce the colour of the paint.

We are lucky today that we can just go to the store and buy the paint colours we want, without the need to prepare the colour before starting to paint.

A lot of the colours used to come from toxic substances and mixing your own paint was a dangerous business!

Red and Cadmium Red

Artists have always wanted permanent bright reds and often this has meant working with hazardous and expensive materials to get them. The colour Vermilion was originally made from cinnabar which is a mercury based ore. Vermilion was then artificially made from mercury and sulphur.

Red earths were used but were dull in comparison. Other reds made from madder root, crushed insects or pomegranate peel were not lightfast and the colour faded.

The mineral cadmium gives the most valuable pigments of yellow, orange and red. It is the chemical compound that produces the range of colours from cadmium. If there was no selenium in the ‘red pigment’ it would be a yellow!

Cadmium Red was first manufactured at the start of the 20th century. It is much less toxic than Vermilion as well as permanent and lightfast. It comes in a range of reds from orange/red to maroon.

If the artist paint you are buying says ‘Hue’ at the end it means that the paint matches the colour of Cadmium Red but does not contain the expensive cadmium pigment.

The Meaning of Red

Red is said to be the most emotionally intense colour and the symbol of an active mind. It increases you heartbeat and breathing. Perhaps that it why it is ‘the colour of love’?

In the Gothte’s colour system red has the highest energy. Its sound is middle C.

It is bold and easy to see, and so used in stop signs, brake lights and fire equipment.

It represents different things in various countries. In South Africa it is the colour of mourning. In China the colour of good luck and used as a holiday and wedding colour.

It is considered good luck to tie a red bow onto a new car. However red cars are popular targets for car thieves.

Red is the most common colour found in national flags.

To ‘see red’ is to be angry. Back to the fast heart beat and heavy breathing again ;-)

A ‘red herring’ is a distraction, something to take your attention away from the important issue.

A ‘red eye’ is an overnight plane journey.

Red clothing gets noticed and can make you look heavier. It is not the best choice of colour to wear for negotiations or confrontations.

The Aztecs of Mexico showed the Spanish explorers how to make red dye by crushing beetles called cochineals.

In decorating red is usually used as an accent colour. It is considered an appetite stimulant and often used in restaurant colour schemes.


Pale red – or pink is much gentler. It is the most romantic colour and more calming.

This can make you lose energy and sports teams sometimes paint the locker room used by the opposing team bright pink hoping that the opposition with not have the same energy for the match.

Although often considered a ‘girl colour’ before the 1920s it was considered a boy’s colour.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Buying Artist Brushes Information

Artist Brushes come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and materials.

The artist brush is made up of 3 parts.

1. The Tuft which can be natural hair or synthetic fibres.
The tuft holds and applies the paint.

2. The Ferrule which is the metal part that holds the tuft
to the handle.

3. The Handle, a good quality handle is made of hardwood.
Artist brushes can have either short or long handles. Long
handles are for working on a vertical surface when you would
be standing further away from the painting. Short handles
are more suited to close up work.

The tuft can have soft, medium or stiff hairs.

Soft, this is best used with thin paints for blending and
glazing. It gives more control and has a fine point or edge.

Medium, this will hold its shape and usually holds more
paint. It is good for painting with medium to thick paints.

Stiff, or bristle type brushes, that allow you to push and
move thicker paints. These are especially useful when painting
on canvas.

Natural hair brushes are often made from sable. This is a high quality
(and high price) brush that is very good for using with watercolours.
However there are also artist brushes that use other natural hairs like
squirrel hair, ox hair, goat hair and bristle (which is from the ear of a pig).

Synthetic brushes are usually less expensive than natural hair ones.
Synthetic artist brushes are easier to clean as the cell structure of the
hairs is smoother than the natural hair. Synthetic brushes are usually
more durable and can be used with watercolours, acrylics and oils.
Synthetic bristle tends to soften a bit in water.

*Nylon brushes are the best for acrylics. They can be kept constantly
wet so that the paint does not dry in the brush and ruin it.*

The Size System

The number on the brush is determined by the diameter of the tuft
and by the length of the hair. Most manufacturers use the same

For example a size 2 round brush tuft is 3/32 inches in diameter
and has a 7/16 inches hair length.

The size of brush you chose is usually a personal preference that
comes with experience.

Brush shapes

There is also a range of shapes of artists brushes.
The main ones are -

Pointed, round brushes, good for highlights and applying smooth

Flat, square brushes, good for covering large areas and tree trunks
Bright are shorter versions of a flat which gives more control and is
good with thick paints.

Filberts (flat brushes with a curved end), good for hiding brush strokes

Riggers or Liners, round brush with long hair shaped to a square tip,
good for lettering and detail

Fan brush (curved end), good for grass, clouds, foliage and blending

2 Main Brush Types

There are two main brush types and your choice will depend on
the thickness of the paint you are using.

Water absorbing and releasing brushes
including sable and the synthetic equivalents. These absorb the water
(and paint), hold it in the body of the tuft and release it through the
brush tip. This type of brush is good with thin, fluid paint.

Paste brushes
Like hog bristle and the synthetic equivalents. These brushes hold
the paint in the tip. Good with thicker paints.

Buying Brushes

Always buy good quality brushes. Cheap, poor quality brushes lose
their hair and the ferrules will loosen on the handle.

Surprisingly, putting the brush head onto a handle gives a company
the right to say that they made the brush!


I paint pet portraits and doing the fur can be fairly time consuming.
Last May I took an old flat brush and cut out sections of the hair. It
was quite successful for painting in cat and dog fur, especially for
longer fur effects.

Of course you can buy brushes like this. They seem to be called
by a range of names; rake, comb and wispy are ones I have see
recently. I bought a couple while we were on holiday and I have
been experimenting with them.

I bought a couple of different sizes and manufacturers to see what
the differences were. One very fine one (meant for decorative painting)
was only suitable for thin paints. The larger ones are more suited to
my painting style.

These brushes also produce lovely grassy effects but this would need
to be used in the foreground of a painting. Remember, there is less
detail in the distance.

I am very pleased with the results. This might be something you
would like to try too.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Welcome to my Acrylic Painting Course blog.

This is the place to get great information about all aspects of artistic painting.

I share ideas and techniques that I’ve learned in my many years (don’t ask how many years!) of painting. I hope you’ll enjoy the articles and insights you find here.