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The Truth about Hues:

30 August, 2006 (14:02) | Plastic Arts

I just received a call from a teacher and artist who shared with me that students are being sent into the art stores to buy their colors for class and told that they can’t buy any hue colors. So they are passing by our historical colors, Sap Green Hue, Alizarin Crimson Hue, Indian Yellow Hue… etc. etc. etc…. and buying what they think are the actual true pigment colors without a ‘hue’ designation. It reminds me as to how much bad information is out there that people rely on.

We are always extremely careful in all our labeling to make sure that we share the correct information. Do any artists actually think, when they are buying Indian Yellow that it is really made from the urine of Brahman bulls fed mango leaves? If we felt it was ethical, appropriate, permanent, safe to be using the actual historical pigments within a waterborne system, we’d be doing it in a heartbeat. I love color… I love original color. But even more important is maintaining our integrity. Other brands of product will readily list a pigment color as just a marketing device without actually having that pigment within tube. It is a scheme I thought was well on its way to being discontinued. Back in 1984 the member scientists in our ASTM committee actually tested many of the products being offered under one name and found out that they actually did not contain the listed pigment. I had thought that by now more manufacturers would be adhering to the ASTM standards that have been under development for almost 30 years now.

You know how many of the dozens of manufacturers making artists paints around the world actually list adherence to these standards?…. Two. Sam, my father, always shared with me that art materials are a blind item; there is very little that an artist can do to actually know what is inside. We’ve worked hard as a company to change this. By providing real information, by providing truth in labeling, by doing our own research, we would make a difference.

I do understand that many hue designated colors are less expensive imitations of the hue and chroma position of more expensive colors. In fact we make replacements hue colors for the Cadmiums and the Cobalt pigment. These are important colors, especially for Universities that are required to keep the heavy metal Cads and Cobalts out of their waste streams. There is a significant difference using a Cobalt Blue Hue versus a real Cobalt Blue or a Cadmium Yellow or Red Hue versus a real Cadmium. It is wonderful that teachers want students to use the real thing. But professors please tell your students that buying a Hookers Green Hue is a much more appropriate choice than using the old – non-lightfast, real Hookers Green. I don’t think you can even get the old Hookers anymore… and thank goodness. And if they do find a Hooker’s Green tube, it probably doesn’t contain the original Pigment Green B from which Hookers was produced anyway.

Please, please just because something has the ‘hue’ designation does not mean it is a cheap imitation. In fact all of our historical colors are actually created with much greater lightfastness and consistency when compared to the original pigments. These colors provide a meaningful part of a serious palette; they are not a secondary grade of products.




Comment from conni
Time: August 30, 2006, 6:05 pm

Hello from Miami and CONNI Gordon. Your great acrylic paints helped hundreds of people paint pictures-in-minutes at various Miami Beach community events. Would you like to see photos of results?
Again, thanks for generosity. We are now our own non-profit, tax write off….

Comment from Karen
Time: December 15, 2006, 1:42 pm

I was wondering if you could use gum arabic instead of rabbit skin glue as a binder for pigments in thangka painting?



Comment from dan
Time: February 17, 2008, 3:14 am

hello, i agree with this article, i think that there is a terrible stigma (for lack of a better word) attatched to this word “hue” on paint labels. But you are right, a lot of the historical colors are not permanent, some are actually terribly non-lightfast. For some reason people have this infatuation for original pigments that are great, but some people might be mislead on its true abilities as a pigment, as much as they might be mislead about the true quality of “hue’s”. I also think its a shame that paint manufacturers list pigments on thier tubes which contain no such pigment. This type of activity is as bad as stealing, its false advertisement, and it causes a distrust between the artist and the paint manufacturer.

Comment from Mark
Time: February 18, 2008, 12:30 pm

Dan I think you’re sense of distruct is unfortunately deserved. If more artists would support the effort by ASTM committee on Artist Paints it would go a long way in creating much greater transparency. Forcing manufactures to see the economic benefit for complying. Until there is some consumer penalty in a marketing sense for not complying, nothing will change. Mark

Comment from annie
Time: March 29, 2008, 4:05 am

I was advised to avoid hues. Reason; “they don’t mix properly”. I use red, yellow, blue, white, and sometimes black. I didn’t know why there were some colors I couldn’t mix and was told by the retailer to avoid the hues to correct that problem. ??

Comment from annie
Time: March 29, 2008, 4:13 am

I mean, “there were some colors I couldn’t MAKE by mixing”

Comment from C. L. Curole
Time: March 29, 2008, 5:59 pm

It’s not hues as such that cause that problem, it’s not knowing what you’re mixing. IF you have a yellow paint that’s got, say, yellow and reddish pigments in it, and you mix it with a blue paint that’s got blueish-purplish pigments in it, you might get green, but you’re more likely to get a greenish brown kind of color due to the complementary components mudding each other out. This is great if that’s the effect you want, but if you want a clear bright green…..

Comment from annie
Time: March 31, 2008, 12:14 pm

Thanks, C.L.,
I understood from the retailer that when the paint is not a hue then it won’t have other pigments in it; that a yellow that’s not a hue will be just yellow, and so on. I guess that would be just too easy, and mixing is not going to be so simple after all.

Comment from Mark
Time: March 31, 2008, 12:46 pm

Annie, the problem with hues might have been with our own efforts to try to use a more formal language of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) Committee on Artist Materials D01-57. We are only one of two companies in the world that actually list compliance to the quality standards of the ASTM. This means that if we are not using pigments that are not the actual chemistry of the Standards Name for these colors then we must include the word ‘hue’ after our common name. This simply signifies that the colors within this tube do not contain the same chemistry as the traditional color. It is our opinion that transparency in labeling is critical for our customers to be able to evaluate our product.
Hues in the past simply meant that a cheaper (or less toxic pigment as in the case of the Cadmium or Cobalt hues) colorant was used to replace a more expensive product. I will readily admit that even our Cadmium or Cobalt Hues do not have the same saturation as true Cadmium or the feeling of a true Cobalt. But for the majority of our color hues, we’ve done exceptionally well to match the color and undertone of the original chemistry and in most cases have also dramatically improved the lightfastness of the color.
As for mixing purposes, when we balance these color mixtures we are assuming that they will be used in very much the same way as the original chemistry was used, your find the qualities of masstone, undertone and tint very close to the qualities you’d expect if you were going to use the actual chemistry. I hope this makes sense.
And C.L. thanks so much for your insight. It isn’t enough to know the masstone of the color, you really need to understand how it will tint out as well as understand the thinned out color, or undertone. Often times they can be quite different from colors with even similar masstones! Best, Mark

Comment from C. L. Curole
Time: March 31, 2008, 7:57 pm

Hi Annie – the real answer is (always!) It Depends. the thing about color mixing is that there are a heck of a lot of ways to make brown.

You can have single-pigment colors that don’t mix together the way you want them to. As an overgeneralization, blended colors increase the chance of it not doing what you expect when you mix them due to the other things in the blend. Golden’s paint line is exceptional in that a) their hue colors are blended to be very close to the single-pigment colors which they substitute for (take a good look at the historical hues line for a sample of this), and b) most (but not all!) the colors that aren’t labeled “hue” are single pigment colors and they all have the pigments listed on the container so you can see what’s in them.

But just because it’s single pigment doesn’t mean it isn’t going to mix up weird. That’s part of the fun. For example, go to your favorite art supply store and hang around the Golden display. Pick up a tube of Diarylide Yellow and a tube of Ultramarine Blue. The first is a warm yellow that tends to slightly orange and the second is a dark blue with a purplish cast. I haven’t mixed them lately but I would expect to get something like greenish black, not a bright green. Whereas if you mixed a very small amount of Phthalo Blue (GS) and a rather larger amount of Hansa Yellow, you’d get a much brighter green – although not as bright as just going for Phthalo Green to begin with…

If you want to mix colors the Principle Six or Principle Eight mixing groups are a good place to start.

Comment from C. L. Curole
Time: March 31, 2008, 8:16 pm

And here’s a hue-or-not-a-hue question I haven’t been able to find a good answer for on the “interwebs” (my formal art education is sadly lacking) — Jenkins Green. Has it always been a blend? Assuming so, since nobody ever calls it Jenkins Green Hue, but I’m wondering what was originally in it, assuming it hasn’t always been made with what’s in it now (that being the way of a lot of paint blends that aren’t labelled “hue”).

Comment from annie
Time: March 31, 2008, 11:58 pm

Thank you Mark, and C.L.,
I’m going to keep an eye out for the Golden paints. I’m almost sold and haven’t even tried them yet, but I love that information on what’s in the tubes is so readily available. That means a lot. Thank you both very much for your generous help with this.

Comment from Mark
Time: April 7, 2008, 11:14 am

C.L., Jenkins Green was one of our first custom colors back in 1981 for the artist Paul Jenkins. He wanted a replacement for the Hookers Green which was quite fugitive. Since we only sold it to him for quite a few years, it was simply called, Jenkin’s Green. When we started getting calls from other artists for a Hookers replacement we asked Paul if this was Okay and he agreed. So yes, it has always been a mixed pigment.

Comment from Diane
Time: November 22, 2010, 7:01 am

What are u views on the Acrylic Ink medium – do ‘hue’ come into the equation – I have recently dropped Oils and pastels because of asthma, I cough continously using these mediums – so I am trying the Acrylic Ink – its been a little hard converting because of the colors – as well as painting on a ‘material’ type canvis this is taking time to get used to.
Thanking you
Diane Broom
Durban, South Africa.

Comment from Ulysses
Time: November 22, 2010, 10:41 am

Hello Diane,

Mark is currently out of town, but asked that I respond to your question.

Many companies manufacture Acrylic Inks which are basically very thin Acrylic Paint designed to be used in an Ink like way. While we would be unable to comment on other companies products, Golden Artist Colors does manufacture a line of Airbrush Acrylic Colors that have a very thin consistency and function similar what other companies call Acrylic Inks. Also, any of our Fluid or Heavy Body Colors can be thinned with Golden’s Airbrush Medium to function similar to an Acrylic Ink.

That said, within all our lines of product we follow ASTM naming conventions and list “Hue” when another pigment is substituted for a similar color space.

Comment from marce
Time: February 24, 2013, 9:31 pm

Hello, i just want to thank you for writing posts like this, where people can read actual reasons to change paintings’ pigments. People don’t imagine what cadmio and other heavy metals can cause in their organisms and even when you tell them they don’t believe it. Producing paintings with this formulas help to protect people from themselves…

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Time: October 1, 2013, 9:31 pm

[…] – “Hue” shouldn’t be seen as a blanket term for ‘cheap imitation’, howev…, Mark Golden points out. “It may be that the original color is no longer produced, or it may […]

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