Metal Pigments

A brief overview of metal pigments

The writing and diagrams shown here are all my own work and form a brief overview of the material I cover in my workshops. I hope you enjoy exploring them, however please do not use my work without permission, thank you.

An expansive range of colours, with various incremental changes in shade and hue can be created from metals. Pigments produced using metal compounds can be made from many sources and the resulting pigments come in many forms. Handmade metal pigments vary greatly in their makeup and resulting properties; the shape and size of the particles [particle morphology] and traces of other minerals are a few of the things that can impact the way they behave in binding media. 

Some of the sources of metal can be; solid scrap, laboratory grade purity (above 98%), naturally occurring ores, dissolved iron compounds in water, ocherous materials etc. As a pigment maker focused upon vernacular colour especially pigments created from local waste streams some of the raw materials can be surprising, for example roadside e-scooter parts or rusted car bumpers. The urban flotsam and jetsam of the street provide fruitful pickings for the transformation of banal, everyday rubbish into colours of great beauty and utility.

In order to create pigments from the raw materials many processes can be employed that usually involve the use of heat, water and acids (alongside physically sorting the material, washing it, grinding and levigating). As a pigment maker interested in historical recipes and associated technologies, many of the pigments produced from palaeolithic, mediaeval and renaissance recipes are corrosion products. The use of these processes can produce different oxidation states of the metal and can create different colours from the same starting material. Changes in state can lead to changes in what colours of the white light that is absorbed, and so the colour of the light you see is then different.