FUGITIVE PIGMENTS LIST! Lightfast tests, paint fading, rating systems in watercolor and other art supplies.
A fugitive pigment list with independent lightfast test results. Many watercolors, gouache, acrylic paints and other art supplies claim to have a high degree of lightfastness. Large reputable companies are usually accurate with their ratings, but some companies lie. Sometimes they are simply misinformed due to limited testing data originating from the ingredient manufacturer. There are dozens of fugitive pigments misrepresented as being lightfast. They may have tested a pigment in only one type of paint. Acrylic paint can initially appear to have more light resistance due to the thick masstone application plus the polymer binder that serves as a waterproof coating. A pigment stated to be max lightfast in acrylic, could be fugitive in watercolor. I've heard people say that watercolor is more fugitive than other mediums, but this is not always the case. There are hundreds of lightfast pigments used in watercolors that can withstand daily sunlight for years. A thick application of a pigment in acrylic may have its top layers fade first. This degradation is not clearly visible for a long period of time. A manufacturer could determine a pigment to be "lightfast", but later if an artist dilutes it to a thin watery layer they may discover it actually fades. It was never truly a lightfast pigment, it will just take longer to fade in a thick layer. Lightfast testing of both masstone and diluted watercolor paints is one of the best indicators of the UV durability of a pigment.
QUICK REFERENCE LIST OF COMMONLY USED PROBLEM PIGMENTS: PB27, PG8, PR48, PR83, PR112, PR170, PR177, PO13, PO16, PO64, PO73*, PY40, PY55. Dye based products such as ecoline/ph martin radiant/fountain pen inks etc. as well as additives in all types of paint to make them "fluorescent", "neon" or "opera" colors. Rare pigments, such as Daniel Smith's Primatek Mayan colors, Rhodonite, Sicklerite. Natural and antiquity colors, such as Malachite, Azurite, Vivianite, NB1 natural and synthetic Indigo, NR9 Rose Madder (root plant), NBr8 (Van Dyke Brown, literally a dirt-brown). *More info and lightfast test results elaborated upon for each pigment further down the page. Some colors are only fugitive in very specific conditions, such as repeatedly prolonged hot sun, while in their diluted form.
What is lightfastness and why does it matter? In general, when a color is labeled as lightfast it means that it will not easily fade when exposed to UV (natural sun light, not indoor lamp light). I often hear people dismiss lightfastness as something that might happen "years from now", but fugitive colors can fade very quickly (as little as days for dyes or several weeks to months for pigments) even when placed in INDOOR location such as a brightly lit business offices, a restaurant or gallery with a lot of glass windows. Even wall art hung inside homes can fade over time, especially in those near the equator (natural light coming in your windows is stronger in FL, CA, TX or near water with lake/ocean reflected light) or a living room with large sliding glass doors where beams of light regularly shine in from sunrise/sunset etc. For most artists, the concern is that a buyer of your artwork may hang it on a wall where it will fade over time. I have not found any UV spray that helps with this (krylon had little to no effect). Thick coatings of resin are capable of distorting light enough to protect watercolors and dye inks from fading, but can reactivate and ruin paintings. UV glass is a scam, as most affordable picture frames that mention UV may or may not have a spray coating that does very little (there is no standard in place and my tests have shown little to no efficacy). Only expensive museum grade glass that is cost prohibitive to the average artist is effective, as well as thicker tinted glass made for cars/house windows. It's cheaper and easier to use lightfast pigments in the first place, rather than try to seal/frame/fix problems later. This is less of an issue for those practicing in sketchbooks, or professionals specializing in print replicated illustrations (book, magazine, prints etc.) website, product design, or short term projects like indoor crafts/card making.
It is sometimes assumed that lightfast paints are more expensive or that they are only available in pro grade paints. This is not the case, but it's easier to tell which ones will fade before purchasing in pro grade paints because of the ingredient labels being more detailed. Many brands, even cheap ones, offer mixed selections of lightfast and fugitive pigments. It is often just as affordable to buy lightfast paints as fugitive ones (such as avoiding the low rated ones labeled as * of *** stars in the White Nights watercolor catalog when picking out the colors you want to buy). Many colors that would fade can be easily replicated by stable ones instead. The exception to that is neon or fluorescent colors, which are abnormally bright including man-made dye additives. There are no lightfast pigments that can replicate them. Any art sold using them should have a note in the listing advising the buyer to avoid storing it near window light. It is unfair to assume that buyers (and likely non-artists) know about pigment vs dye properties and fading potential.
Understanding lightfast rating systems: Here in the USA UV stable paints are labeled ASTM "LFI" to "LFII". (Formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials, it is one of the only systems where the lower number is better. Written in roman numerals on a scale from I-V. LFI and II being lightfast, III being borderline/fair and IV-V being fugitive.) Other lightfast rating systems include the Blue Wool scale of 1 to 8 (BW1 being the worst, BW8 being the best) and star systems with ratings like "+++" or *** (of 3 stars) or ***** (of 5 stars) in a star system that works like review ratings where more stars is better. This varies based on the brand/country of origin with each company deciding which system they prefer.
--- #1) --- Benzimidazolone Orange PO64:
A new pigment that started popping up in a few professional watercolor brands between 2017 and 2020. Currently rated with max stars in White Nights and Rembrandt brands, but shows fading in masstone equivalent to LFII results. Most significantly, the diluted range (approx. 50% water) starts to fade dramatically in as little as 1 month, which is closer to colors that are rated LFIII to LFIV.
In comparison, most lightfast paints can be exposed to multiple years of general daytime sun exposure without showing any signs of fading. LFII paints have minor signs of fading by 1 year, but no where near this diluted test result. Over 200 colors in Daniel Smith's watercolor line show zero fading despite having faced daytime exposure for 3 years in my north facing window. Please note that I do not test in constant or direct sun light, such as sunroof upward facing clear boxes in Arizona like ASTM methods. The day time limitations (indirect, general dawn til dusk lighting) means my tests take longer, but that the time results are a bit more comparable to realistic display scenarios (such as in a room with large windows receiving brief direct light beams every morning at sunrise).
This modern pigment has not had enough testing for the LFI-II/max star rating to be taken seriously. I have done multiple tests and in masstone it has only minor fading, but when diluted it fades much faster. Called "Saturn Red" by Schmincke Horadam, "Brilliant Orange" by Rembrandt and "Orange" by White Nights.
White Nights also put it in their color called "Peach" (a pastel mixture with white - which is particularly fugitive due to the pre-diluted mixture).
--- #2) --- Aureolin (Cobalt) Yellow PY40:
PY40 doesn't just fade, it discolors into a brownish gray. This can cause paintings to appear dirty as if they have suffered water damage over time and completely alter the artists original color harmony. While some companies still mark this paint as LFII, it is widely regarded as a pigment to avoid for traditional art for sale/wall display. With so many alternative yellow pigments out there, I would avoid Aureolin. Note that some brands have paints called "Aureolin" "Aureoline" "Aureolin Hue" etc. that have been updated to use a better pigment instead (such as Rembrandt's Aureoline PY150). These new lightfast "hues" (a look-a-like replacement pigment) are often not suggested by the color name. This poor choice in wording may hurt the marketing on those colors for those who don't look at the pigment ingredient and just assume it's PY40.
--- #3) --- Prussian Blue PB27: This pigment has a chemical reaction to UV light exposure. It is different than the standard fading that happens in other pigments. This is caused by the oxidation of ferrous ferrocyanide salts. Sun bleaches the FeIII (Iron) which requires time to re-oxidize away from light. Because it is possible to regain color intensity over time in shade, manufacturers have lazily marked it as LFI.
Possibly the most widely misrepresented color, Prussian Blue is almost always labeled as LFI / max lightfastness. Some brands have honestly made an attempt to make a note about it's odd tendency to fluctuate in color (thank you Winsor and Newton), but most have no warning that it fades in light and recovers in shade.
The down side to this warning is that it's not enough information. The problem I've found in my testing is that all brands fade, but only some brands make a nearly full recovery after prolonged shade. The return to the original color can take as little as days, but some brands stay faded indefinitely. This variable is too great to be considered a lightfast pigment. Nor should you have to take a painting off the wall for a nap for it to be considered stable.
--- #4) --- Anthra Red (Anthraquinone) PR177:
The use of PR177 is not very common as a single pigment red choice. It's rarely available as a red in pan set assortments, but it is used in some convenience mixtures. The most popular of those mixtures has to be Daniel Smith's Moonglow which is often rated as LFI however this is incorrect. PR177 has a tendency to be more stable in masstone, and it's original pigment rating stems from it's use in acrylic and oil paints. Diluted it is known to be closer to LFIII in watercolor paints (which is also reflected in the notes of other popular pigment database sites like Handprint and The Color of Art Pigment Database if you're looking for further tests/info).
In my test I can clearly see that the red component of this mixture has faded away after indirect general daytime window lighting within 1 year. Regarding Moonglow's LFI rating, this should have meant no changes within this time frame. I did notice that in Daniel Smith's materials, it's also commonly noted as "NR" in color charts and dot cards meaning "not rated in ASTM". This implies that at least one pigment was never thoroughly tested in all mediums/tints/diluted, yet they are passing along a guess (without testing it themselves? or have they...). It's hard not to feel like this is intentionally misleading. The comparison of how this color fades when up against paints they rated LFIV (poor lightfastness) concerns me:
Unfortunately in recent years this color has gained so much popularity among artists that this unusually color-separating and granulating mixture containing PR177 has been copied by other brands such as Da Vinci and Roman Szmal Aquarius (who also labeled them as lightfast). It's possible that a pigment manufacturer (such as Kremer Pigments, or a automotive coatings company) rated this pigment as highly lightfast after testing it in masstone in acrylic or oil paint, which could be a very different result from diluted watercolor.
A note about Daniel Smith Moonglow "dupes" "knock-offs" "look-a-likes" vs "inspired by" paints by other brands. Daniel Smith has had a lot of success over the past decade and a great many watercolorists have celebrated their color-separating convenience mixtures. This has not gone unnoticed by other brands, and colors just like Daniel Smith's Moonglow, Shadow Violet and Imperial Purple are popping up in other brands catalogs. Sometimes the way these colors are named along with their mixtures is a fairly straightforward "dupe" or blatant mimicry. The closest Moonglow-like mixture in hue and pigments used is from Da Vinci which they called "Artemis". There are two other brands with similar colors to Moonglow - Roman Szmal Aquarius "Przybysz's Grey" which does include the PR177 and PB29 but swaps out the PG18 for Cobalt Green PG26.
*Shadow Purple likely includes PR177, but is not labeled*
The other similar color to Moonglow is Paul Ruben's Shadow Purple (which is named oddly considering P.Rubens also has a "Moonlight Purple" that is similar to D.Smith's Shadow Violet. Yes the names seem switched, more about that later under PO73.) This color contains more Ultramarine and leans more Blue than the other look-a-like paints. The big problem with Paul Rubens dupe is that it is incorrectly labeled as only containing PB29 and PG18 without any mention of the red it obviously contains. Is it PR177 just like Daniel Smiths? Probably, but it could also be a dye and therefore not disclosed under pigment info.
Because each pigment manufacturer has access to different raw materials all of these paints vary in how they look and perform. Part of the issue for all of these paints is that some of the ingredients are natural minerals which change batch to batch or mine to mine. A pigment mined in one part of the world is never exactly the same as a pigment mined in other, for example red iron oxide the red rock of a mountain in Arizona may look completely different from one in Spain, yet will both be labeled as PR101 since they are chemically the same thing. In this regard, buying "dupes" or the same pigment code paints from multiple brands may actually be worthwhile if they are different enough.
Above: A problem that I noticed with color separating paints is the fact that they also separate within the tube over time. The lighter, thinner particle PR177 often separates out with the liquid binder away from the heavier PG18 Viridian and PB29 Ultramarine Blue. If you are not often mixing these back together (ideally a toothpick or a lot of kneading) each sample you remove from your tube will be gradually a different color. This means that some of your paintings may be much more fugitive than others (if the paint released from the tube that time had a higher content of PR177). Here is an extreme example of a tube that was allowed to sit for over a year. This of course would be less severe for less time/more frequent mixing, but is also something to be aware of when you see color comparisons online. It was not enough to knead/press on the tube, I had to put a toothpick in and thoroughly stir it back to it's original color. I recommend mixing your own version of this color using the single pigment ingredients (and perhaps Schmincke's "French Ultramarine" for the PB29 which has particularly active granulation texture) along with a more lightfast red or violet. I'll be doing some tests with PR122 and PV19 in the future.
--- #5) --- Pyrrol Orange PO73: Little to no change when used in masstone. Caution in diluted range. Problem for long term display (office, gallery etc.) with repeat UV or environments using Fluorescent bulbs.
PO73 is NOT universally fugitive in every brand/medium/thickness. It appears that this pigment is only notably fugitive in tints/when diluted. Widely regarded as lightfast when in mass and midtone, it suffers only when UV exposure is prolonged (or consistent over a period of months, such as daily sunsets) and the paint was diluted (est. with more than 50% water). This can be problematic in buildings with large windows or homes near the equator that receive even an hour a day of sunbeams.
While not as fugitive as PR177 found in the popular Daniel Smith color "Moonglow", I did see signs of fading in the color called Shadow Violet. PO73's fading also causes a loss of warm hue in the similar color by Paul Rubens called Moonlight Purple. When PO73 is such a small part of the mixture, the overall lightfastness suffers. I have mixed feelings about calling this paint lightfast when there's an "IF" statement attached. This will be a color I continue to test over a variety of brands to see if some pigment sources are more stable than others.
--- #6) --- Four Daniel Smith "PrimaTek" colors made from minerals, gemstones and reproduction of ancient Mayan pigments not commonly used in any other brand or art material. Due to that, many of these types of colors do not have common pigment code numbers. The Mayan colors were rated as LFII, which is close but the diluted range is showing more significant fading than present in other LFII paints. Their website notes the Mayan colors as being dupes of colors that "despite exposure to severe heat and humidity, the color has hardly faded over a thousand years"... That was vague enough that I'm not sure that they meant outside walls, or inner caves/buildings and therefore protected from sunlight? They certainly faded from my window lighting.
--- Mayan Blue --- LFII, fading can be more severe when diluted.
--- Mayan Violet PV58 --- LFII, fading can be more severe when diluted.
--- Sicklerite --- This brown mineral is rated LFI but has shown minor fading in over the 6 months to 1 year of nearby window light exposure. While minor, this is definitely closer to LFII level fading.
--- Rhodonite --- A beautiful pink stone that creates a delicate cool-red to pale-pink similar to PV42 Quin. Pink's diluted range. It lacks the unique granulating, shimmer or color separating characteristics of Daniel Smith's other mineral paints. Combined with it's fading for a paint that is rated as LFI, I would pass on this one.
--- #7) --- Benzidine Orange PO13 (+ PO16 red shade variant):
PO13 and PO16 versions of Benz Orange are commonly found in bargain/kids/crafter grade paints including Prima Art Philosophy. It is also available in some "designer" gouache or intentionally vibrant options of watercolors by ShinHan (who has a tendency to prefer bright colors over stable ones in their entire catalog). Though the watercolor set called "Confetti" by Prima is one of the most overall fugitive selections I've ever seen in any brand. Many of the colors in that set fade within a few months, some so completely that it doesn't look like paint was ever on the paper.
Even using this color thickly in masstone will not save it from completely disappearing over time. I'm hesitant to even use it for card making, because diluted it can fade within weeks and if someone had their handmade birthday card sitting on their office desk for a while...
--- #8 -- Alizarin Crimson PR83:
PR83 was offered in almost every major brand of paint for decades as a rose-red color loved by botanical artists. Many companies have changed their paints to be called "Alizarin Permanent" when they switched the pigment ingredient to a similar, slightly more stable red such as PR264 or PR177 mixtures (be aware that PR177 is still prone to fading in it's diluted range but has a more stable masstone than PR83 had). The original PR83 pigment, by popular demand, is still offered by many brands though it is often appropriately labeled as fugitive LFIII to IV at this point.
--- #9 and onward)
Current LIST PROGRESS --- The following pigments are under suspicion after initial test results. More info and images to come in the future.
--- Diarylide Yellow PY55,
--- Naphthol Red variants including PR170 and PR112 - these, similarly to PR177 have a tendency to fade in tints or when diluted with water. Often marked as LFII, can vary greatly based on pigment source and thickness of application.
--- Scarlet Lake, Carmine (Hue) or Perm. Red PR48 - LFIV used in ShinHan, Holbein and Renesans watercolors.
--- Natural, Antiquity and uncommon mineral pigments:
--- Van Dyke Brown NBr8,
--- Rose Madder Genuine (root of the madder plant) NR9, also referred to as a lake pigment "Rose Madder Lake" (regarding "lake", see dyes below).
--- Natural Indigo Blue NB1, as well as Victoria Blue sometimes also labeled as synthetic reproduction of Indigo PB1, which I have seen used in brands like Blick (art store), Utrecht and Grumbacher.
--- Carmine or Cochineal NR4 - this red dye is laked from the cochineal insect.
--- Last, but not least, let's talk about DYES (and sometimes "lake" pigments made from dyes) ---
The majority of DYE based products fade over time. Many dye colors show signs of fading in as little as a few days to weeks with nearby window lighting which is quite fast in contrast to stable pigments that can last many years with constant UV exposure. Dyes are an easy thing to avoid once you realize which products are prone to including them.
Dyes are available as printer inks, fountain pen inks, inside Copic and other markers for illustration, as well as "liquid watercolors" that don't specifically state "pigment based" as well as craft supplies like ink sprays, rubber stamp pads, brush pens and alcohol inks. Dyes are also frequently slipped into pigment based products that are called opera,neon, bright or brilliant and marketed to professionals as "designer" paints that are abnormally vibrant. Dyes are capable of achieving bright neon colors artists might want for botanical, neons, street lights and other design elements that require fugitive fluorescent colors to replicate.
Dyes are typically an intense or vibrant transparent liquid. Often man made, chemically altered or extracted for it's vibrant qualities. Dyes can be made in a lab and sometimes extracted from plants where the bright color is taken away from the rest of the plant matter in a liquid state. In this state it can be used to dye clothing (such as indigo dye), or similarly dye particles like salts and polymers to become thick enough to use in a paint (which is often referred to as a "lake pigment" meaning a dye coated base particle). On rare occasions a color named "--- lake" can be lightfast, but it's good to investigate any testing information on the specific one in question. In general dark dyes such as browns and blacks may be less prone to fading than bright pinks, reds and purples.
Dyes offer bright saturated color not typically found in lightfast natural minerals, so many people choose to use dyes even though they are fugitive because they offer vibrant colors that you can not achieve with more stable pigments. "Opera Pink" is very popular among botanical artists who otherwise struggle to replicate bright floral pinks.
Some artists are not aware that they can be frequently found mixed in with pigment based watercolors, gouache and acrylic. Dyes are most frequently found in art supply products like "liquid" watercolors (ecoline, radiant), markers and alcohol ink. They are also used as a way to boost the vibrancy in all "FLUORESCENT" COLOR paints such as most brand's "Neon" colors or the super common "OPERA PINK" which = PR122 + DYE. It's the dye that is fugitive, not the PR122.
Dyes are also common in "designers" gouache, liquid watercolors like ecoline, radiant, "watercolor brush pens", Copic markers, inks etc.
Opera Pink or Rose is also sometimes called Neon, Opus, Vivid Pink or colors starting with the word "Bright" or "Brilliant" in some brands. There is a lot of mystery around this watercolor because certain brands only disclose that it is made with the pigment PR122. Technically it's a pigment list, and in their opinion dye doesn't count as a pigment so it's not stated. Some label it as LFII, some say "NR" for not rated, others only LFIV or * of *** stars. By not disclosing the dye, they imply that it's PR122 that fades when it's actually the fluorescent dye mixed into it. Most commonly a vibrant red dye like BR1 or the bright pinkish violet known as "BV10" is added as a liquid to the binder. BV11, BR12 and other dyes are often found in designer gouache paints. These colors can drastically fade in a relatively short time even indoors from nearby window lighting. This fading varies by brand and how much dye was used with signs appearing in a few weeks to a few months. There is a problem with accurately color scanning dyes, which is bad for print reproduction. Cameras struggle to detect the same reflected light from the fluorescent dye that your eye can see. Often the scan or photograph will appear dull and need to have the brightness and contrast edited in computer software.
--- UPDATES ---
This page is currently in progress. I am running tests on over 500 colors at this time. As results come in over the next year this page will continue to receive updates.
Check out the pigment database if you'd like to learn more about pigments and how certain colors compare across different brands. Stay up to date about my current projects at YouTube.com/kimberlycrick for videos or Patreon.com/kimberlycrickart for swatch card updates, line art drawings for practice painting and more.
Where do I shop for art supplies?
My favorite American art supply chain store is Dick Blick. They have a massive catalog and competitive prices, with quick shipping options here in the USA.
One of my favorite places to shop for a world-wide selection watercolor paint and brushes is Jackson's. They have affordable shipping to the USA and a lovely selection of items not easily found in American stores.
Amazon USA continues to offer more and more art and craft supplies that can be found no where else. They often have import sets, such as Chinese brands like Paul Rubens, that are not available in the more common art stores. This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
For craft supplies, such as Tim Holtz Distress or Alcohol Inks, Alt&New, Art Philosophy and Prima Marketing watercolors, alcohol or dye inks, stamp pads, markers etc. I shop at:
Scrapbook.com: Thousands of scrapbooking supplies. HUGE daily discounts!