Sunday, April 25, 2010

Color tests of the elusive Alizarine!

After reading James Gurneys blogpost about light-fastness, and ´s scary tests, I decided to do my own. Since I never glaze (so far) I'm more interested in how Alizarine behaves in mixtures, rather than on its own. So that's what I did.

Aliz. Crim is notorious for being fugitive, as in it will fade to nothing under direct light. Most pigments have a light-fastness rating of 1 or 2, (pretty good) but Alizarine has 3 (Pretty bad) according to the ASTM (American Society for Testing Materials) Since its such a lovely pigment we keep on using it.

There are alternatives, like the Alizarine Permanent that I'm trying out, but instead of being a single pigment color like the regular Alizarine, it consists of 3 pigments, which in theory should muddy up your mixtures faster. (The more pigments you mix together, the faster it will turn to brown, and if there are already 3 pigments in your one tube of paint, well then you have fewer mixtures to make before you go brown or grey. Not that theres anything wrong with that, but I like to make that choice with my own pigments! Preferably, all your paints on your pallate should be single pigment paints for just this very reason)

I had a tube of Alizarine Crimson Sennelier, and a tube of Permanent Alizarine by Gamblin, which is what the famed Richard Schmidt recommends using. They are going head to head on this board coated with Galeria Acrylic gesso. which in turn was coated with a thin layer of Liquin, an alkyd dryer made by Winsor Newton. the Viridian is from Rembrandt, the Titanium white from W&N, and the Blue from Gamblin.

After the swatches were dry, I placed a thick black paper strip and taped it down with some acid free tape, to assure that no sunlight will penetrate and get to the hidden layers. I then place the board in direct sunlight. I will put the board in a plastic transparent bag, and just leave it outside throughout the summer.

You can read on the boards what colors and brands I'm using.


  1. Tim I'll be interested in what you find out. I did this a couple of years ago with 3 true Alizarin Crimsons and 3 substitutes. Painted on the paint in strips from heavy paint to paint thinned with turp and a tint mixed with white (value of about 3). Left it in constant light 24/7 for exactly one year.
    The results were surprising to say the least. Let's just say that I'm still using Alizarin Crimson, the real thing, with confidence. I don't glaze either but use it in heavier mixtures in darks mostly.

  2. The constant light was either full sun or artificial lights overnight. Always in the light tho' all year.

  3. Cool Marc, Im keeping them under that light too. Im not using any sort of UV light though, just regular sunlight and then incandescent and fluorescent. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning though, do I really have to wait an entire year?! hehe

  4. It's hard to wait. I almost went longer then thought "what the hell... any painting isn't going to be in that kind of intense light for it's entire life unless the owner is stupid', so I figure one year is enough.