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WHITE, MICA AND METALLIC Art Supply Pigment Database Watercolor Acrylic Ink Pencil Color Chart Swatch
Artist reference guide to White, Mica and Metallic pigments in art supplies. Color chart swatch cards of common pigments in watercolor, acrylic paint, inks and pencils. Includes lightfast or fugitive information, index by pigment number code, brand, manufacturer color name, how the color appears in masstone (full strength) or diluted (with water). Each image displays opacity, lifting (erasing with a damp brush), and layering (glazing a second coat after the first has dried).
Due to the opaque nature of white/mica pigments, many swatch cards on this page are done on 100% cotton BLACK watercolor paper. Links to materials shown at the bottom of this page.
PW4 Zinc Oxide White:
PW6 Titanium White: The most opaque, lightfast, non-yellowing, stable white pigment. Not to be confused with the more transparent China White or Mixing White commonly found in older pan sets.
PW6 Unbleached Titanium:
PW18 (literally chalk) as well as PW4 and PW6 are often used as filler. All of which can function as an opaque, cheap chalk-like substance in student grade paints and some gouache that have fillers. (Some brands of gouache such as Schmincke Horadam, not designers, and M.Graham do NOT use fillers, and instead make gouache opaque by thicker particle pigments and higher pigment load). The quality, purity and opacity of PW6 varies greatly. When used in professional grade paints they are typically more opaque, and used to create lighter pastel colors and add opacity similar to gouache. Over the past couple years more reputable brands have started making pastel convenience colors, such as Daniel Smith's Lavender and Wisteria.
One of my favorite examples of this is the 2019 White Nights pastel colors. PW6 is used in each of these 6 colors, and this brand has such a nice pigment load that they can be used similarly to gouache on black paper. See the effect of PW6 in this video review:
PW20: Mica. Non-toxic and lightfast in its pure form (as pearl white watercolor paint or iridescent medium). It's important to note that many colorful "mica based" paints are created by mixing mica with secondary pigments, often fugitive ones. Mica is a naturally forming reflective sheet silicate mineral, mined from large deposits mostly located in India, Brazil, China and Belgium. It can range from translucent white to clear like glass with varying degrees of reflective shine.
Because there are many grades of mica, the price range for this pigment can range from very cheap to very expensive. There are also ways to synthetically produce and alter mica, sometimes noted as Fluorphlogopite on ingredient labels. The synthetic variety, often enhanced by heating and coating with secondary pigments for interesting colors and chameleon shifting effects.
These shifting pigments, sometimes called two-tone or flip-flop colors in brands like Coliro/Finetec, can look like one color at a certain angle of light, but then shifts to a different color when light hits it another way. This type of mica based pigment is very common in the cosmetic industry and can cost hundreds of dollars for just a few grams / a handful of powder. Often sold as eyeshadow where only a small amount is purchased. A few major factories in China produce colorful mica pigments for use in make up, bath bombs, resin crafting and paint making. Calligraphy artists also use these shiny pigments for brush lettering or elegant writing such as wedding invitations done with a dip pen.
PW20 Mixtures:Lightfastness varies based on secondary pigment added. Any color other than pearl/white is a mixture of 2 or more pigments. Even pearl-white paints often include PW6 titanium white for better opacity to paint over dark surfaces. The additional pigment(s) are rarely identified on ingredient labels. Gold, Copper and Bronze colors of mica watercolor are typically made by specially coating the reflective pearlescent mica base with PR101 Red Iron Oxide.Silver is often made by adding PBk7 Lamp Black. Because of these lightfast secondary pigments, those colors tend to be lightfast in any brand. You can not count on other colors (pearlescent pink, purples, greens etc.) to be lightfast. Check the lightfast/review section for brand by brand testing and fugitive results. The way these are coated prior to grinding the pigment (think plating on jewelry) results in the shimmer reflecting a gold color instead of pearl-white. This is NOT like when you mix mica iridescent medium with your transparent watercolors in a mixing palette, which results in being able to see a white reflective sparkle in all of your color mixtures. Instead, watercolor companies like Coliro/Finetec, Paul Rubens, Kuretake, Superior and cosmetic products make specially prepared mica-based pigments that will appear colorful when they reflect light or when used on black paper.
WHY ARE THE SWATCHES DIFFERENT FOR THIS SECTION? Cataloging the large amount of metallic, interference, iridescent and other shimmer/glitter/sparkle paints made with a mica base is a tricky thing. The first mica-based paint swatch card I made (see Schmincke's Yellow-Gold below) demonstrated several problems. 1) Even the highest quality professional grade paint brands are vague about the ingredients used in mica-based paints. While I can say that they all have PW20 Mica as a base ingredient, often the second ingredient is a mystery. 2) Lightfastness ratings for many brands have proven inaccurate (I will be making notes about this as I post specific brands). 3) All mica based paints have a thicker particle size than most pigments, causing an uneven gradient similar to granulation. Due to said particle size none of them will have a pronounced salt texture reaction, causing that part of the test to be a waste of time. 4) The scanning method in which I record swatch card images does not work for metallic colors. The flat-scan method is a bad representation of their true appearance, as these paints require a photograph and specific lighting angle to see their shimmer.
Paul Rubens Glitter Watercolor swatches: Shown full strength, then diluted with water (so you can see if they have a strong underlying color or dilute clear). These swatches are from the 48 pan set, but I have also marked which colors are shared with the 24 pan set. Roughly half of these colors are lightfast, and about half are mixed with fugitive colors that will fade if hung on a wall near window lighting. They use the word "glitter" to describe glittering / sparkly / shimmer. Glitter watercolor does not mean that they plastic-based like common chunky particle "glitter" products (such as glues and shaker jars). These are all mica-based. More info on the Paul Rubens brand review page here.
Coliro / Finetec swatches: This used to be one company, but they split into two to manage USA vs. international distribution of their paints. They have since added unique colors to their catalogs, but they share a decent amount of overlapping colors from when they first started. One such color is "Arabic Gold" - one of my favorite shiny gold watercolor paints that can be found in either brand. The main difference is one has rectangle shape pans and the other has circle shape pans.
Where to buy art supplies used on this page: Each brand has a complete review and list of one or more places to compare pricing on the lightfast testing and art supplies review page. You can also check my most frequently shopped stores below.
Swatch card template available for download here, or get the rubber stamp here. Swatch cards were painted on Legion Black or Arches Cold Press 100% cotton watercolor paper. Paper and brushes are available at Jackson's or Amazon here:
I use affiliate links to places I have purchased my art materials. When available I'll include multiple reputable stores so you can compare and decide where you'd like to shop. Dick Blick ("DB" links below) is a large art supply chain store here in the USA that ships worldwide. Jackson's ("Jack" links below) is a great UK based art supply store which also ships worldwide, but carries some harder to find European products with quick low cost shipping to the USA. Amazon USA ("Ama" links below) often offers unique brands, including small business and Chinese off brand watercolor sets, that can not be found anywhere else. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Arches 100% cotton cold press 140# watercolor paper is one of the most durable surfaces for technical pen, scrubbing and lifting. It's surface sizing (coating) and texture is a good middle ground compared to the extremes of different brands. Due to these traits, and it being around for long enough to be the most commonly recommended paper for professionals, all of my swatches are done on this paper for consistency. Only white (and mica paints that do not show up on white) use the Legion Black paper instead. I buy my arches paper at Blick, and if you are in the USA this is likely the most affordable place to buy it:https://shrsl.com/2765w
Daniel Smith watercolors -- available onDB,JackorAma.
Interested in other ways to help this project? Visit me at Kimberly Crick Art on YouTubeor Patreon. If you have supplies that you would like to donate (such as watercolor dot cards or samples from your company or personal collection that you would like reviewed or displayed in this pigment directory) please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form with details. Thank you :)