Early in the nineteenth century, the reliability of artists’ colours was inconsistent and questionable. Until Winsor & Newton. The company was founded in a small shop at 38 Rathbone Place in London. Henry Newton was a dedicated painter, while William Winsor brought exceptional scientific knowledge to the partnership, knowledge that had been missing from the artists’ colourmen trade. To this day, that dedication to the marriage of superior chemistry with artistic experience remains a hallmark for Winsor & Newton.
Today, Winsor & Newton has more expertise with artists’ materials than any other manufacturer in the world. Many of our employees are hired for their experience as artists as well as for their superior technical expertise. That modest partnership launched almost two centuries ago became the foundation for the world’s most recognized name in artists’ materials.
Winsor & Newton launched their enterprise in 1832 at 38 Rathbone Place, London (left)
The Winsor & Newton factory in 1909 (middle)
Main entrance to the Winsor & Newton factory, Wealdstone, England, Present day (right)
Making any artists’ colour requires astonishing skill. You don’t simply add pigment to linseed oil and mix up a batch. Making truly fine colour requires extensive understanding of the different pigments, the drying oils and how the almost infinite number of variables affect the final product. Every pigment absorbs oil differently, requiring careful and individual milling processes to provide the artist with colour that offers optimal tinting strength, that remains in stable suspension in the tube, and that forms the most permanent paint film possible.
There’s no substitute for the years, the decades, and the generations that are needed to understand colour. Winsor & Newton holds the collective experience and expertise to formulate each and every colour in exactly the way it will best serve artists. There are qualities – such as brilliance of colour, or ease and consistency of application — that make a dramatic difference to the artists’ success. And we know, through almost two centuries of experience, that our products do exactly that.
But making a great product isn’t enough. In this rapidly changing culture, we also know that great information and world-class technical support are just as important as the quality of our colour. That’s what this book is for: to provide you with direct, accessible information about how to make best use of the colour, ensuring that your carefully created image is held within a paint film that, under the right conditions, can last for many generations. We know that the quality of our materials will show up in the quality of your finished art.
History. Oil colours have been used in various forms since the fourteenth century. Before then, pigment ground into an emulsion with egg was the medium of choice in most artists’ studios. Oil colour, however, quickly surpassed egg tempera in popularity because of greater versatility, longer working time and more subtle rendering. The rounded, exquisitely modelled forms characteristic of the Renaissance would not have been possible without the qualities that come with oil colour.
The Winsor & Newton Colour Museum in Wealdstone, England includes pigments and materials used in the manufacture of fine colour. Some of the materials are unique and date back thousands of years.
Originally, the master painter’s apprentices within the studio prepared oil colours. During the late eighteenth century, colourmens’ shops appeared in Europe, offering colour that was pre-milled. In 1832, Winsor & Newton was founded in London.
While there is great romance in the history of oil colour, there is also no question that today’s colours are vastly superior in quality to those made centuries, generations, and even just a few decades, ago. Why? New, more permanent materials, superior methods, as well as the accumulated experience and scientific expertise of the manufacturer have made a dramatic difference in the quality of colour available to today’s artist.
Components. Today, traditional oil colour is made through essentially the same process employed in the fifteenth century. Pigment is milled with a vehicle of linseed oil (from the flax plant) and, in some cases, safflower oil (which is paler and dries more slowly). Instead of grinding each colour by hand, using a stone or glass muller, the best quality colour is produced today using a variety of milling methods. Decisions about how many passes are required through the triple roll mill, how much oil is used, as well as the kind of oil, are all determined based upon the individual characteristics of each pigment.
|< Vehicles and oils of the finest quality will remain stable in the tube for decades, and stable on the surface for generations. Above is a selection of mediums and oils dating back to the 1880’s on display in the Winsor & Newton museum in Wealdstone, England.|
Madder root is made into pigment for the colour, Rose Madder Genuine, using an exclusive process developed by colourman George Field in 1806. Winsor & Newton is the only manufacturer in the world of this historical colour. >
The Rose Madder room at Wealdstone, England. >
Characteristics. The finest oils offer the following:
< Artists’ Oil Colours are formulated and milled to the most exacting specifications, allowing artists to take full advantage of the unique characteristics of each individual pigment. Winton Oil Colours are formulated and milled to offer dependable working properties at an economical price.
A few words about drying and the stable paint film: Linseed oil dries by oxidation, a chemical process that occurs as atmospheric oxygen is added to the exposed oil film. In short, oil colours dry through a long, slow breathing process. The drying mechanism starts as oxygen is added to the oil molecule, launching a reaction that transforms the essentially linear structure of the fluid oil into a hardened, three-dimensional, lattice structure. When properly applied, the oil film can be highly stable and permanent. But anything that interferes with the drying or polymerisation process - whether it be through over-thinning, or the use of impure solvents – will produce a film that is less able to withstand the ravages of time. In later sections, there are additional details regarding how to use the colour in a way that will prove as permanent as possible. That said, here are four important principles for a stable film:
Following the introduction and subsequent popularity of acrylic colours, which dry in 10-20 minutes, oil painters began requesting a product which dried faster than traditional oils. Winsor & Newton responded in 1976 by developing a range of alkyd colours, which has today become Griffin Alkyd Fast Drying Oil Colour.
Alkyds are made from a naturally derived vegetable oil (most of the alkyd oils used in the art materials industry are soy-based). The oil is polymerized through a chemical reaction with an alcohol and an acid, (“Polymer” means that the molecules link up into long chains.) It’s like coupling a long train. The polymerized result is a resin-like product that - when mixed with a suitable, low-aromatic solvent - takes on many of the properties of traditional linseed oil. Just like traditional oils, alkyds dry by oxidation (a linkage achieved with the help of oxygen in the atmosphere), a process that happens much more rapidly for alkyds than for traditional oils. The film is touch dry in 18 to 24 hours.
The Griffin range includes 50 colours (51, USA), all of which are rated AA or A as permanent for artists’ use. The colours remain workable for 4 to 8 hours, and are touch dry in 18 to 24. Faster drying means that the traditional oil techniques of both impasto and glazing can be done in considerably less time than when working in traditional oils. The colours are ideal for working outdoors. Consistent drying times across the range removes the usual restrictions that come with conventional oils, making it easier to overpaint, regardless of the colour upon the surface.
Because alkyd resin has physical properties that differ somewhat from those of traditional oils, the pigment load is somewhat different, as well. Experienced painters will notice slightly greater transparency compared to the Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Colour range. Just remember that pigments vary in their transparency by nature, and Griffin colours are marked as “transparent or semi-transparent,” or “opaque or semi-opaque” on the colour chart. The level of transparency of a colour is relative to other colours. And greater transparency means increased depth and clarity for glazes.
Permanence and stability of alkyd. As a paint vehicle, alkyds create a paint film that is comparable in stability to that of traditional oils. In fact, Dr. Marion Mecklenburg, Senior Research Scientist with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, has been researching the stability of oil films since 1978, attempting to identify the factors that contribute to the most secure paint film possible. Winsor & Newton Alkyd Oil Colours have shown extraordinary stability and stretchability.
With few exceptions, tests on twenty-year old Winsor & Newton alkyds show the paint film remaining stretchable up to 10% before breaking. That’s amazing, considering that traditional oil colours of the same age exhibit stretchability of only 1-2%.
In addition to their superb working characteristics, their superior qualities as a colour for underpainting and for glazing,Winsor & Newton alkyds are proving to be remarkably stable and durable.
Water mixable oil colour. Contrary to the old phrase that “oil and water don’t mix,” linseed oil can indeed be made to accept water as a solvent. The resulting mix is called an “emulsion,” a balanced mixture of substances that don’t normally combine. And it’s been done for thousands of years with egg and water, wax and water, and, yes, oil and water. The mixture can be accomplished through mechanical means or by a chemical modification.
Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colour is a genuine oil colour made from modified linseed oil and modified safflower oil. A range of unique mediums have been formulated to allow the artist to achieve all the traditional oil colour techniques, without requiring turpentine or white spirits (mineral spirits).
The most successful water mixable oil creates the emulsion immediately upon adding water. This self-generating emulsion, used in the formulation of Artisan, yields the most traditional type of paint consistency and workability. The only chemical modification to the linseed oil vehicle is in preparing it to accept water as a solvent rather than spirits. The working characteristics haven’t been compromised, and are like those of traditional oil colours.
Solid stick oil colour. In the early 1980’s, Oilbar was created by two American artists, who wanted the characteristics of oil colour in combination with the immediacy of pastels. Following the demand and success of Oilbar in America, Winsor & Newton launched Artists’ Oilbar to the worldwide market in 1992.
Oilbar is simply oil colour in stick/solid form. The artists’ range of 35 colours is made through a combination of pigment and linseed oil or safflower oil with a blend of specially selected waxes. And the range includes a Colourless Blending Bar for a variety of painterly effects.
There are some fundamental differences between the very finest colour that money can buy, and colour intended for students and beginners. Artists’ quality colours are:
While colour made for students or beginners may not offer the standards that come with Artists’ colours, there are qualities that are essential for an introductory range to fully meet the needs of a new artist.
Here are the qualities that you can expect from a well-formulated colour for students or beginners:
It’s worth remembering that the oil vehicle used in milling both student grade and artists’ grade colours is essentially the same, and the colours can be safely intermixed.
A word about pigment strength. There’s a common misconception that pigment strength is the only benchmark for making good colour. But that’s too simple. High pigment strength is important, but too much pigment can make the colour unworkable.
For example, packing a tube full of phthalocyanine pigment would make a colour with far too much tinting strength, overpowering any colour with which it’s mixed. On the other hand, some pigments are naturally weak in tinting strength. The formulation of our Terre Verte, for example, offers superior pigment load, (or concentration within the tube), yet because of the physical structure of the pigment, the colour is weak in tinting strength.
Colour ranges which boast of “nothing but pigment and oil” can be difficult to work with; stringy, sticky, lacking in brilliance, and are often unstable. Each of these characteristics makes it more difficult to construct a sound paint film.
Although Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Colours are essentially “pigment and oil,” it is the type and quality of each, the formulation and limited use of the correct additives, the machinery used, and the people with a lifetime of experience who can ensure that each pigment is developed into a stable, permanent colour. Winsor & Newton balances all the features - including pigment strength - needed to make colours that allow maximum artistic freedom and superb control. And, after taking into account all the variables, Winsor & Newton colours generally show the highest pigment strength.
Single pigment colours. As a governing principle, single pigments are used wherever possible in Winsor & Newton ranges. The quality of colours made from a single pigment is dramatically better than those made from mixed or multiple pigments. Combined with strength of colour, single pigments provide a wide colour range and offer cleaner, brighter mixtures with an infinite range of hues. This is particularly important for greens, violets, and oranges. Use of single pigments in formulating these secondary colours considerably broadens the artists’ available spectrum. A total of 95 different pigments are used to produce the range of 114 Artists’ Oil Colours.
“Hue” replacement colours. The biggest contributor to the price of the finest artists’ colours is the expense of the pigment. Cadmiums, cobalts and cerulean, for example, are expensive colours to produce. And for the artist requiring the characteristics that only these pigments can offer, nothing else will do.
But for the artist who requires colours that mix cleanly and consistently, who needs a comprehensive (but not necessarily exhaustive) spectrum, and who desires dependable quality, a student range (such as Winton Oil Colours) may be the best solution.
The Winsor & Newton student ranges include colours labelled as “hues” (for example: Cadmium Red Hue, Cerulean Blue Hue, and Cobalt Blue Hue). These are colours that have been made from an alternative pigment to approximate the original colour at a lower cost; the real difference is in how they perform. When comparing the genuine Cadmium Red with its Hue counterpart, you’ll see that they’re both a bright red. Both are very permanent but the cadmium is opaque while the hue is transparent. The Hue shouldn’t be dismissed as lower quality. Because of its natural transparency and mixing characteristics, some artists may prefer the hue colour! In artists’ ranges the word “hue” is used to indicate where an alternative pigment has been used to replace an original pigment that, for whatever reason, is no longer available.
Transparency vs. opacity. The physical structure of pigment determines whether or not it will be opaque, semi-opaque, or transparent. For example, when viewed through a microscope, pure phthalocyanine pigments appear translucent, as if made from stained glass. This characteristic transparency makes the colour well-suited for glazing techniques and clean colour mixing.
Conversely, a cadmium pigment is quite dense and opaque, allowing the transmission of little or no light. Naturally opaque colours are best suited for applications requiring maximum covering power. With experience, the painter can learn to take advantage of the relative natural opacity or transparency of fine colours, exploiting those qualities to achieve an almost unlimited range of hues, and the cleanest, brightest mixtures possible. Every Winsor & Newton colour is rated for transparency on the colour chart.
Series numbers. The relative price of each colour is indicated by the series number upon the tube or within the range literature. Each series is determined mainly by the cost of the pigment, with Series 1 being the least expensive and Series 6 the most costly.
Series numbers do not indicate the quality of the colour, only the relative cost of the pigment and production. Depending upon how the painter is working, a Series 1 colour may be the best possible choice.
As the world’s largest manufacturer of premium quality artists’ materials, Winsor & Newton bring as much care and attention to the labelling and safe use of products as to the quality of their performance. Winsor & Newton products should not present a risk to health if handled appropriately, as detailed upon the product labels and within our literature.
Prolonged contact with the skin and ingestion (or swallowing) of the product should be avoided. This includes avoiding practices such as applying colour with the fingers or pointing brushes in the mouth.
Detailed below is information about health labelling, legislation, directives, and best practices in the EU and the USA:
EU legislation. These regulations were introduced in the 1960’s. They cover all products available to industry or the general public in the EU. The basis of the system is the classification of dangerous substances into one of the following classifications: TOXIC, HARMFUL, CORROSIVE, IRRITANT, OXIDISING, EXPLOSIVE, FLAMMABLE or DANGEROUS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.
There can be various levels within a classification, for example, Very Toxic or Extremely Flammable. Most levels of classification have accompanying symbols, for example, skull & cross bones for Toxic. In addition, these classifications can be accompanied by “Risk Phrases” and/or “Safety Phrases”. Any artists' material, which falls into one of the above classifications, must be labelled accordingly. The three most common classifications in artists' materials are Harmful, Flammable, and Dangerous for the Environment. The seals for each are shown below.
The risk and/or safety phrases will vary according to each product. For an example of the labelling required with each classification, English Distilled Turpentine would be labelled with Harmful and Dangerous for the Environment, and with the following risk phrases:
And with the following safety phrases:
Health Labelling for the USA.
All artists’ colours should be used with care and respect. To ensure that essential health and safety information is, quite literally, in the hands of every artist using paints and colours, all products are labeled accordingly. Here is a brief outline of the labelling information that you can expect to find on artists’ colours in the USA:
The US system labels all products whether a health warning is needed or not. The most common US labels are:
In the US, if a potential risk exists with a product, the label will say so. The “CL” seal (replaced the “HL” seal in 2000) is used for products which are potentially hazardous, with appropriate phrases. For example, some cobalt colours may be labeled:
The labelling system came about through the combined efforts of a number of associations and groups. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has prepared standards for the safe use of artists’ materials. These have been published in a booklet entitled, “ASTM Standards for the Performance, Quality, and Health Labelling of Artists’ Paints and Related Materials” (ISBN 0-8031-1838-4).
The address for ASTM is:
The labelling standard for Chronic Health Hazards in Art materials (ASTM D-4236) was codified into US law as part of the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. The Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) provides labelling certification, and works to promote the safe and informed use of art materials in North America.
Beginning in 2000, many art materials sold in the United States will include additional labelling for products containing cadmium and lead as a result of action surrounding California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (commonly known as Proposition 65). The new labels will reflect requirements resulting from Proposition 65, independent of labelling required by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.
Hazardous materials (correct at time of printing)
Winsor & Newton Products in EU with Hazard Warnings
Those containing solvents:
Those containing lead carbonate:
Those products with USA only warnings:
Studio clean up and safe use tips
Good working practice should be adopted with all artists’ materials, whether potentially hazardous or not. Before you start, read the product labels.
Within your studio:
Travelling with oil colour
There’s real pleasure to be had in packing a portable colour kit, and painting under an open sky or during holiday travel. Any of our oil colour products are suitable for outdoor use. Of all our ranges, however, the fastest drying and therefore the easiest to work and re-work over the course of a single painting session, is Griffin Alkyd Fast Drying Oil Colour.
Because of safety regulations with the airlines, we offer the following information regarding our colour products. Any product or material with a flash point below 61° Celsius is classified as dangerous goods, and those products cannot be included during airline travel. (NOTE: the flash point is the temperature at which a product will flame, therefore a higher flash point is better.) While a few of our products do have a flash point at or below the 61° mark, the flash points of a large number of our oil colour products are well above. Below is a comprehensive list that can be used (and shown to an airline official, if needed) to verify whether or not a product may be considered allowable for airline transport.
Products with flash points below 61° Celsius, that are considered Group II or Group III flammable materials should be considered unsuitable for airline travel:
Winsor & Newton products with flash points above 61 degrees Celsius, and which therefore classified as non-hazardous
|Artists’Oil Colours||>230° C||Sansodor||70° C|
|Winton Oil Colours||>230° C||Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colours||>100° C|
|Refined Linseed Oil||>230° C||Artisan Water Mixable Linseed Oil||>200° C|
|Linseed Stand Oil||>230° C||Artisan Water Mixable Stand Oil||>200° C|
|Thickened Linseed Oil||>230° C||Artisan Painting Medium||70° C|
|Bleached Linseed Oil||>230° C||Artisan Water Mixable||>70° C|
|Cold Pressed Linseed Oil||>230° C||Fast Drying Medium|
|Oilbar||>230° C||Artisan Water Mixable||>70° C|
|Griffin Alkyd Fast Drying Oil Colours||70° C||Impasto Medium|
Winsor & Newton lists the following information upon the labels of all oil colour products:
Colour name This is the common name, eg. Cadmium Red
Colour code Each colour is given a code number that is uniform across all ranges. For example, Cadmium Red has the colour code 094 within each range in which the colour is offered.
Product code For ease of reference and cataloging, every Winsor & Newton colour product is labelled with a unique product number Pigment content The chemical description of the pigment. For example: cadmium sulphoselenide is the pigment for Cadmium Red.
Vehicle used Identifies the specific vehicle used in formulating the colour Permanence rating Rated as:
AA – Extremely permanent
A – Permanent
B – Moderately durable
C – Fugitive
Series Number Each series is determined mainly by the cost of the pigment, with Series 1 being the least expensive and Series 6 the most costly.
Volume The volume quantity is in ml and US fl. oz.
All oil colour ranges made by Winsor & Newton are milled according to the following standards: