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 The colour Vermilion was originally made from cinnabar which is a mercury based ore.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.

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