Mark Golden on Paint

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Picking a palette

21 March, 2008 (10:07) | Paint Ideas

When we first began developing a color palette in 1980, the choices seemed quite simple: Provide the basic color set for the acrylic paints making sure that families of pigments are covered in a very traditional way. This meant the three cadmium’s in red and yellow; the basic earth colors, umber’s and sienna’s; the phthalocyanine colors, a few quinacridones and hansa (or arylide) yellows, the cobalt family, ultra blue and titanium white.

Over the years the palette of colors we chosen have come from a variety of sources, including our suppliers, our customers, filling out gaps within the color space and serendipity. We are always searching out new quality suppliers asking what new things they’re working on. Often times these suppliers are not familiar with artist materials and the unique potential that exists in making colors for artists that don’t exist in any other field. Artists are not simply looking for beautiful colors, they are looking for interesting colors. In fact some of the most unappealing colors can have incredible versatility, nuance and mixing capabilities. Nickel azo yellow is probably the best example of this, but what an amazing color. Basically though, there isn’t a color I don’t like.

Often times we bring in colors that are already extremely close to already existing products within our line. In the effort to find more durable, lightfast colors, or potentially colors with less color pick up or less bleeding, we will introduce a new pigment even when the color variation is not totally obvious. Most likely though the colors we introduce have some unique property that cannot be reproduced by simply mixing others together. For example the Hansa Yellow Opaque has very similar characteristics to our Hansa Yellow Medium, yet it offers considerable more coverage. On the other side of that though… the Hansa Yellow Medium provides more intense mixing capabilities. There are always trade offs in these materials that make the investigation of new colors even more interesting.

When we introduced the Historical Acrylic Colors, we had huge debates here, as it seemed such an oxymoron to have historical acrylics. But when we surveyed our customers, it was clear that most wanted us to mix the colors versus simply providing color mixing guides. We’ve always prided ourselves on having the most single pigment colors of any company, so this was a departure from our own sensibilities. Fortunately, they have proven to be amazingly successful. I don’t want to call artists lazy, just a recognition that you don’t want to have to mix to a color that is a basic starting point of your palette.

The Interference Colors that we introduced in 1984 were simply a wonderful case of serendipity. Having had problems with an iridescent color coming from Germany, we asked the Company to send as many possible replacements as they had in their line. Among some of those replacement iridescent colors were these amazing interference colors. I remembered I had an artist that asked if we could make some custom colors that might change as the viewer passed by the canvas, similar to paintings done on a corrugated surface. When we realized these interference colors did just that, we brought them in make this custom product. After making the colors we realized how incredibly unique these materials truly were and after evaluating their lightfastness, recognized how valuable they would be in the artist palette.

Bringing in new colors is always exciting for the folks in the lab. As many of these staff members are also artists, it is hard to say no when you see a unique material with a unique color space. I hope we will always continue to be excited to bring these new materials to our customers no matter how many colors fit into a rack.




Comment from Matt Ramada
Time: March 26, 2008, 12:26 pm

I have to say one of the things that has impressed me the most about your company as compared to other paint companies is how comprehensible your color line is. When I look through your line nothing seems out of place or excessive, and even with the historic colors you don’t simply have them to have them, you actually have a history on each color and why the historic pigment isn’t viable, it goes a long way to ensure that you’ve got a strong consideration for what we are doing as artists, instead of just bloating your line to make it look bigger (Holbein is reminscent of that strategy, I’ve seen probably 4 or 5 mixtures of pthalo blue and ultra blue in their oil line all sold as “different” colors.) It makes selection a much more logical, approachable and enjoyable process, which I appreciate greatly.
On top of that, having such a logical selection of “colors” makes branching out into iridescent and interference or the various mediums a much easier step. Because I can really understand what you’re doing with your color line, I’m not as hesitant to expect that I’ll meet a similar success with your more unique products. I’ve recently dug into your packaged Gels & Molding Pastes kit and amplified it with some interference colors and a 16oz container of Extra Heavy Gloss to make some of the most textural and visually intriguing paintings I’ve ever thought of. The range of things you can do is astounding, I’m absolutely enamored with marbling iridescents with the Clear Tar Gel (between two paintings I used the entire 2oz container and immediately went to buy more.)
Anyway, I think you’ve done a fantastic job assembling a line of paint color that is both aggressive and sensical and I expect more of the same in the future.

Comment from C. L. Curole
Time: March 26, 2008, 6:49 pm

OOOOooooh! I haven’t tried mixing the iridescents with the tar gel yet! Now I have to try this….


(I do wish you had an Interference Colors sampler, though. I can’t decide which one to try first.)

I started with a collection somewhere between your Principal Six and Principal Eight starter kits – Titanium White, Hansa Yellow Medium, Yellow Ochre, one of the phthalo blues, phthalo green (YS), Quin Magenta and I think Naphthol Red Light. Shortly after that I got the other phthalo blue and phthalo green, and discovered Quin Crimson.

I don’t use the hansa yellow much, and the crimson has replaced the magenta in most of what I do. Still haven’t figured out what zinc white is good for but *someday* I’m going to want pale translucent pastels and then I’ll remember it’s in there. Received the Historical Hues kit for Christmas year before last and I am IN LOVE with the Sap Green Hue so the basic phthalo greens are getting ignored for the moment. Titan Buff has replaced titanium white in a lot of my projects, too – has a nice warm undertone and makes a good base for lighter shades of human. (Burnt sienna works well as a base for medium-to-dark shades of human, too.)

One thing I appreciate about Golden’s product line is the wide variety and (as the previous commenter noted) that things make sense. I’m glad I started out with the good stuff. :-)

Comment from Mark
Time: March 31, 2008, 12:50 pm

Thanks Matt and C.L. We have a number of artists in the shop that are incredibly passionate about color, color selection and not simply for adding more for no reason. Our line is already too complicated for most and simply making more doesn’t make it any easier. Products and color better have a very good reason for being included in the mix. Best, Mark

Comment from Matt Ramada
Time: March 31, 2008, 2:49 pm

I agree with Curole about the interference sampler, I was lucky that I recieved and and then managed to get a few more as samples when I visited your factory (I don’t know if you remember me, but I introduced myself, again it was a pleasure to meet you in person,) but I think a sample pack of iridescent and interference colors would be fantastic for people who aren’t really sure they’re ready to try out-of-the-ordinary paints, but would like to do a little experimenting and see what works for them. The 1oz and int.violet samples have been more than sufficient for my experimentation and the 3/4oz bottle of fluid oxide has made me crave buying a lot of that color (just how the clear tar gel sample in the mediums and pastes kit prompted me to buy a big container of it.) I think introducing a sample packet as a product would get a lot of positive response amoung people (especially art students, who want to try everything and can afford nothing) who are just used to using your line of “typical” colors.

Comment from Mark
Time: March 31, 2008, 4:24 pm

Thanks Matt, I’ve always believed that the success of the company has been the willingness to get the product into the hands of artists. Although we a thousand pages of content on our website and hand made charts and you name it… the best way for artists to understand what we do is by just trying it. Mark

Comment from C. L. Curole
Time: April 6, 2008, 9:21 am

I keep coming back to this in my head and wondering – not that there’s anything wrong with the way you have the overall color palette set up now, but if you ever decided there were too many colors and needed a structure to organize them – one way might be to separate out the single-pigment colors from the blended ones in the main color line. The information is already on the tubes, of course, it would just be a case of saying “Too much?! Okay, -these- are the single pigment yellows and -those- are the blended yellows…”

I don’t know if that would necessarily be useful to the general customer, though. Some customers, surely, but it might confuse others. I know I looked hard for single-pigment colors at first, figuring to do my own blending (and I still do a fair amount of that) but I admit it’s a lot easier to open a tube of Sap Green Hue or whatever than trying to replicate that color from scratch every time I want it.

Comment from Mark
Time: April 7, 2008, 11:07 am

C.L., I think the situation you found with the Sap Green Hue, is exactly what finally put us over the edge in making these mixed pigment colors. Artists just don’t want to do a great deal of mixing to get just to the starting line of where they want to begin painting. What has dramatically helped us be successful with mixed pigments are the range of new synthetic pigments which mix so much cleaner then older counterparts. We actually can match a good deal of the qualities of traditional pigments, both in undertone and masstone. But I’d agree with you, that if I had my druthers, I’m a huge fan of single pigments. Best, Mark

Comment from Dave Perskie
Time: April 20, 2008, 8:05 pm

It would be very helpful if you could write more about the use of Interference Colors. I have used them for a few paintings, but I have trouble getting a uniform laydown. I am sure I must be doing something wrong, but what.

I would also like to see how others are using these colors.


Comment from Maria
Time: July 14, 2008, 10:09 pm

I wish to know how to tell which of the primaries Red Yellow and Blue contains wich other pigment so I that do not mix all of the three primaries (and get dirty colors).

Comment from Mark
Time: July 15, 2008, 8:28 am

Maria this is a great question! If I was teaching a design class or wanted matched set of primaries I’d use the Primary Magenta, Cyan and Yellow. But if you’re doing color mixing and want to maintain the highest chroma use the Quinacridone Magenta, Phthalo Blue G/S and the Hansa Yellow Medium. They are not matched for tinting strength so you’ll have to note that the Phthalo Blue is an extremely strong tinting color, about 3 times the strength of the Quinacridone Magenta and about 8 times stronger then the Hansa Yellow Medium. But you just can’t beat these colors for the ability to mix almost any clean secondary or tertiary color. If I had to include some other colors, I’d pick the Naphthol Red Lt. for the brighter reds to oranges.

Comment from Aaron Ortega
Time: August 24, 2008, 11:49 am

Interference colors are a very important part of my palette…
And there is no such thing as too many colors… Nonsense!

Comment from Dean Thompson
Time: September 27, 2008, 6:58 pm

When mixing inks, I use a split primary palette (warm & cool of each primary). I want to get back into painting, If you were to choose 6 colors for this purpose, what would you suggest?

Comment from Mark
Time: September 28, 2008, 7:24 pm

Dean, thanks for the question. Although we have a set of matched primaries, (Primary Yellow, Primary Magenta, Primary Cyan) I’d choose the straight colors, Hansa Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Magenta and Phthalo Blue Green Shade as my primary set. Although they are not matched for strength, I think if you just make the adjustments in quantity you’ll need for mixing, these will work extremely well. Although these are extremely high in chroma, some of the choices I’d suggest around these will not be of the highest chroma themselves, but will provide an incredible range of mixing possibilities.

For the Hansa Yellow Medium, on the green side one of the most versatile mixing colors is Green Gold. It is a tough color to love, as it’s masstone is not all that impressive, but it’s very yellow undertone, makes it an extraordinary color, and thinned out it has incredible chroma. The easier choice on the green side might be the Hansa Yellow Lt. as with it you can absolutely make the most brilliant greens, but I don’t think it is as versatile. One the red side of Hansa Yellow Medium, I like the Diarylide yellow, it is still a clean color and will work well to give bright orange.

The split for the Quinacridone Magenta I prefer is the Napthol Red Lt. With this choice you are able, with the Diarylide yellow mix the complete light red to orange range. Some folks in the shop prefer the Pyrrol Red Lt. but this is a pretty intense color, and although a brilliant mixer, the Napthol is a bit more transparent and an easier mix. On the blue side of the Magenta you’ll need the Dioxazine Purple.

For the red side of Phthalo Blue Green Shade I prefer the Anthraquinone Blue. This color is as close to Ultramarine blue as any color, yet it is a much deeper masstone and much, much cleaner mix. On the Green side of the Phthalo, I’d prefer the Phthalo Green Yellow Shade.

The only other color you’d be missing that I think is incredibly valuable in this set is the Nickel Azo Yellow, which provides an amazing range of yellows through greens and mixes amazingly clean. Best, Mark

Comment from Steve
Time: October 15, 2008, 12:39 pm

Mark, as a follow-up question/request to your reply above… I started using you HB line about a year ago (after a 25 year break from painting). I really love your paints especially the organic pigments for their clean mixing qualities. I just ordered a bunch of your Open Acrylics and would like to know if you plan to add more colors in the near future. My personal request would be: Pyrrole Orange, Hansa Yellow Med., Phthalo Green Yellow Shade, and Zinc White. Great products, company and Just Paint newsletter, thanks for your support of artist who chose acrylics, Steve

Comment from Patricia Jaster
Time: December 25, 2008, 12:29 pm

Mark, I am looking for your email address?
Thank you

Comment from Sister
Time: December 30, 2008, 5:01 pm

What color Fluid Acrylics would I use to produce realistic looking skin tones. I’m using the watercolor styling.

You sent a password and it didn’t work. Twice.

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