Monday, May 19, 2014

Cheating On My Cadmiums: Why I Replaced My Cadmium Paints



When I was an art student studying in New York City I dreaded having to purchase cadmium colors — as the proverbial starving artist I cringed at the price tag for them.  At that time any money was too much money.   But at some point I decided they were necessary and justified buying a cadmium red and a cadmium yellow light. I made do with just those two pigments for a number of years and they gave me that extra punch of chroma or intensity whenever I needed it. After awhile I found them a necessity for many projects.  At some point I ended up also adding cadmium orange to the mix. But still every time I went to repurchase them I found myself cringing at the price tag. However, by this point we had become old friends and despite the price I was so accustomed to their hue, value and chroma attributes that I automatically added them to my cart without much reservation whenever I needed a new tube.

A couple of months ago I started doing some tinkering with the colors on my palette and decided that I might look into some alternatives for my cadmium paints. And after trying a handful of different colors I finally settled on replacements for cadmium red and cadmium yellow light.  I thought I’d share those results in case there are others out there who also wanted to begin phasing out their cadmiums.

For cadmium red (PR108) I’ve replaced it with Scarlet Lake (PR255), also known as coral red or sometimes Pyrrole Scarlet.  From the reading I’ve encountered it appears to be quite lightfast receiving an “ASTM I rating.”  I like that although its hue is very similar to cadmium red light (which makes it feel familiar to me) its chroma is actually a bit higher and continues to hold up well with the addition of white paint — at least as well as the cadmium red I’ve been using.


For cadmium yellow pale/light (PY35) I have replaced it with Winsor yellow (PY74), also known as Hansa yellow, Arylide Yellow or Azo yellow. This one also receives an “ASTM I” rating which I’m pleased about. And although its hue appears to display slightly less of an orange trace, when compared to cadmium yellow light, it is still close enough in hue that it, again, feels familiar to me.  It also has a slightly higher chroma than cadmium yellow light, giving me just a touch more color-space range.


Now if the characteristics above were not enough to get me to make the switch, the price for them added that extra incentive I needed.  Both of these generally run under half the cost of their cadmium counterparts, and for the remnants of that starving artist I once knew so well, this makes me very happy!

Despite trying a few alternatives I’ve still yet to find a good replacement for cadmium orange — so I suppose it will still linger on my palette until I do so. If anybody has found a good replacement for it I would love to hear your suggestions.


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35 comments:

  1. Re cadmiums - I've found that the brand really matters. I have a Utrecht cad yellow that's irreplaceable. And I find Hansa yellow to decidedly greenish. over the years I've accumulated almost every red every made- and find no substitute for cad red light.

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    1. I think you are right that brand does play a big role. I also find that Hansa is a bit on the greenish side but it still seems to be working for my needs. If it helps both the pigments I replaced and the new ones are winsor and newton brand.

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  2. I really didn't want to be anonymous, but I don't have a website. Cant you just let someone use an email address?

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  3. I found this post to be exciting and plan to give it a try. The visual you included is a deal maker. Thank you for sharing.
    I remember being told that it is impossible to make an orange as brilliant as the premixed color so I can see why you keep it on your palette. Thanks again Marjorie Ewell

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    1. Thanks Marjorie, I hope they will end up working for you.

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  4. by the way, this post was written by Marjorie Ewell, not the Cape Coral Art League. Just a member of that group.

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  5. Have you heard that there is a threat to cadmium colours in Europe? The EU is considering banning their use for artist as they are concerned about waste reaching the food chain. Michael Wilcox (School of Colour) has mentioned this in his May newsletter in UK!

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  6. Cad red in the Old Holland products is very good and high in Chroma, better than the scarlet lake, however I find the Cad yellow is not the best in the Old Holland products.
    Rembrandt cad yellow is thicker and richer in color good to mix with other color and still retains its yellow hue.
    Valerio

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  7. I agree brand makes a difference - however... the coolness of both Scarlet Lake and Hansa Yellow would be too much for me to change. Also, both are more transparent, less opaque. I also suspect they are both a bit more fugitive in the long run, despite any rating they may have. Put all four on a white canvas strip in the sun for a few days, That will tell you how they'll hold up comparatively. Lastly, the cad tubes go a real along way. They are used far more sparingly in relation to other colors. How frequently do you need to replenish your tubes?
    btw I find your work to be tremendous, I'd love to see a canvas in person some time.

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    1. Thanks for the input, performing a light fast myself would be a good idea. The rate at which I go through cad paints really changes depending on the subject-matter I'm involved with so it's hard to make an estimate. Thanks for the additional comments!

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  8. Thank you for this Douglas. I love a good pyrole red and Hansa yellow light. The Azo yellows I have tried seem to have a real ascerbic after-taste; kind of acidy dyes that come through any mixture. I recommend Mono orange and transparent orange - both by Gamblin, I think. The transparent is really useful.

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    1. Barbara, thanks for your comments and the orange hue suggestions!

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  9. PS: We should all be very concerned about not only the personal toxicity of the cadmiums, but the consequences to the environment and everyone else's health. When you are on well water, you really become aware and vigilant about this.

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    1. The art world uses cadmiums of low solubility to make the small risk smaller still. They are sufficiently safe that we all make casserole in pots that are painted in cadmium orange and yellow. Even the EU themselves admit that the paints we make using the pigments we select are not considered hazards under REACH.
      (for your reference)

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    2. Thank you for that input Wim!

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  10. Thanks for the advice Douglas . Yes the cads are expensive and I will definitely try out the alternatives .

    Rati

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    1. I hope they will work out for you Rati!

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  11. I'm using the same red! For my bright yellow I'm using PY83. The nice thing is they're good non-toxic alternatives that are still light fast and have strong tinting strength.

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    1. I will have to try PY83 at some point. Thanks for contributing to the discussion Michael!

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  12. Hi! thanks for the information!! I just have a couple of questions. 1) What about its transparency? When I paint I do it directly on the white canvas, I don't know enough if they make a good cover on the canvas as a first layer or sometimes, first and final layer. 2) What about its slow drying? It could be used as first layer in indirect painting? Thanks a lot!

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    1. Good questions! I believe scarlet lake is semi-opaque, while winsor yellow is semi-transparent. The cadmium paints I was using were classified as opaque. This hasn't been much of a problem for me as I mainly use them as modifiers, included in other mixtures, but it definitely means they don't have as much coverage power. For this reason they may not serve your needs as well. In terms of drying they dry at similar rates as cadmium red and cadmium yellow light, both of which are slow driers—something to take into account depending on your painting practices

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  13. Rovenzo Trotta David Gray , Douglas Flynt Tested several substitutes for cadmium orange, all weak in chroma ... the only that matches in chroma, incredible does not seem to want to belong to professional line of Winsor and Newton but its economic line! And it is a mixture of two pigments PO73 and PY65. It is possible that you find this mixture in other brands and premium professional line a bit more expensive .
    Follow the link : http://www.winsornewton.com/.../colou.../cadmium-orange-hue/

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  14. Thank you for that information Rovenzo. Very interesting. I actually have both of those colors in the professional (artist) line of Winsor and Newton (winsor yellow deep PY65 & winsor orange PO73). Funny that there isn't an option in the professional line. I may have to try out the "hue" version—thanks.

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  15. Yeah, I think pyrole may be superior to cadmium. I am considering it for its tinting strength.

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  16. this sucks! I didn't find anything I needed to!

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  17. Pigment Orange PO 62 benzimidazolone orange, and Pigment Orange PO73 pyrrol orange both make a nice substitute for Cadmium Orange. PO73 is in the same family of pigments as Pigrement Red 255 Coral Red.

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  18. Thank you! Trying to break the cadmium habit and you've saved me some experimentation and money.

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  19. A cad orange substitute - try mixing hansa yellow with quinac magenta, permanent rose, or napthol red.

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  20. Thank you so much for sharing this really an amazing post.
    best alternatives to AZO

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  21. Thank you! How about Hansa Yellow Medium vs. Cadmium Yellow Medium?

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