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WHITE, MICA AND METALLIC Art Supply Pigment Database Watercolor Acrylic Ink Pencil Color Chart Swatch
Artist reference guide to White, Glow in the Dark, Mica and Metallic pigments in art supplies. Color chart swatch cards of watercolor, acrylic paint, inks and pencils. Includes lightfast or fugitive information, index by pigment number, brand, manufacturer color name, how the color appears in masstone (full strength) or diluted (with water).
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:
Also called Mixing White or Chinese White in some watercolor brands. This is a less opaque white than PW6, often used to make tints and pastel colors that are more transparent than titanium white. It is possible for this white to lighten or have a yellowing color shift over time. Can cause cracking in oil paints.
An inexpensive, lightfast white, often added in cheaper gouache or bargain paints (similarly to PW18 chalk). PW5 is sometimes also called "mixing white" and used like PW4 as a less opaque alternative to PW6. Made from a mixtures of barium sulfate and zinc sulfide.
PW6 Titanium White: The most opaque, lightfast, non-yellowing, stable white pigment. Ideal for working on dark surfaces, when complete opaque coverage is desired. Valuable for highlights and as an integral mixing color in opaque mediums, such as gouache.
PW6 Unbleached Titanium:
PW6:1 Titanium White Buff:
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:
PW7 Zinc Sulphide / Sulfide: Lightfast as a semi-transparent white. Fugitive fluorescent properties are obtainable after a wet chemical process with trace elements (often silver, manganese or copper). It's detection with the naked eye is difficult and nearly identical black light glow effects are possible with other types of dyes and pigments. "Sulphide" is the original British English spelling, but many parts of the world have adopted the American English spelling "Sulfide". Appears uncommon in professional paints, but is available in Amsterdam acrylic paint (by Royal Talens, the makers of Van Gogh/Rembrandt).
Phosphorescent vs fluorescent pigments:
Phosphorescent pigments are typically made from Zinc Sulphide mixed with trace elements (silver, copper, manganese). It is also commonly made from Strontium Aluminate (a stronger charging pigment, often resulting in several more hours of post-light glow effect). Phosphorescent means they absorb light and release it slowly over time, resulting in "glow in the dark" paint.
Fluorescent pigments (sometimes laked dyes, where the non-substantial dyestuff is attached to a resin or salt and pulverized into powder) are visible in light, but not in the dark. These are "neon" colors, but also invisible inks and UV FX acrylic paints such as "invisible blue" which can look very similar to silver doped zinc sulphide but is only visible under black light (refract UV-A).
Silver doped zinc sulfide is fluorescent, meaning it will "glow" BLUE under a UV black light, but also phosphorescent, meaning it will continue to glow in the absence of light for a short duration. PW7 is sometimes used for invisible ink, neon, fluorescent UV effects and "glow in the dark" paint. Copper doped zinc sulfide is phosphorescent, meaning it will glow GREEN after exposure to light. The copper can be "charged", allowing it to continue to glow after the lights are turned off. Fluorescent and phosphorescent glow effects are fugitive, wearing down over time. Manganese can be mixed with zinc sulfide in a wet chemical process to develop yellow to orange phosphorescent pigments. All of these effects have a limited life, becoming non-reactive (essentially fugitive) after several months of daily sun exposure (as in lightfast testing).
Optical brighteners (also called fluorescent brightening or whitening agents) are chemical additives (often the hydrocarbon "Stilbene" based) commonly used in goods where a bright white color is desirable. Most frequently this additive is what is responsible for printer paper being bright white and laundry detergent giving the illusion of cleanliness by visually changing yellow leaning stains towards blue. This is a UV light trick, where the yellowish light is absorbed and refracts blue light instead. The fluorescent property is fugitive, here's an example of a window lightfast test (1 year no sun vs sun exposure):
A clear (daylight invisible) optical brightener or fluorescent dye (not listed on the label) is likely mixed with PB15 Phthalo Blue inDaniel Smith's Manganese Blue Hue. That underlying PB15 color is lightfast, but the fluorescent UV reactive glow no longer works after a lightfast test where it absorbed sunlight for several months. I could not find a single other brand that offers a pure, lightfast "PB15" that happens to also be fluorescent. It has a nearly identical appearance to fluorescent pigments, as well as optical brighteners used in invisible inks or UV black light acrylic paints. Similar to silver doped zinc sulfides when under the presence of black light, it glows bright blue (refracts UV-A). I do not believe Daniel Smith's Manganese Blue Hue uses a cyanine dye (commonly used in "fluorescent blue" paints) which typically fades completely including its blue undertones. The fluorescent part of this paint fades, but does not change the appearance of the blue color visible to the naked eye. It's my personal speculation that this is just the clear additive, an optical brightener, that fades and not a different type of dye or pigment. Coarse (not finely ground) Phthalo Blue pigment granulates and easily lifts without resorting to unusual additives. Perhaps the fluorescent additive enhanced those characteristics or something else made this fluorescent component integral for creating a convincing replacement for the original (toxic and discontinued) Manganese Blue PB33 genuine pigment.
The following picture shows several brands of paint in normal light (top) and under UV black light (bottom). The brighter glow of the Wildfire Lighting Invisible Blue acrylic (Modern Masters brand from Rustoleum) is due to the thicker application of this heavy-body paint. The glow effect is more intense with thick applications of paint, but even the Manganese Blue Hue watercolor (thin, watery) has an impressive glow:
Lightfast, semi opaque white. Often used as a cheap filler in kids/bargain watercolor and gouache paints. This is often the reason for calling something "chalky" looking, though it is sometimes not what someone is intending to communicate. There are times when a paint is referred to as chalky because like a chalk pastel the color acts like dust that can be wiped off a page once the paint is dry. This cloudy dusty smearing of color can be referred to as chalky, causing confusion if someone assumes they just mean "opaque". It's better to use the word "opaque" especially when referring to paints that use a nice quality PW6, such as pastels made with finely ground titanium white.
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 email@example.com or use the contact form with details. Thank you :)