Pigment Guide: Ultramarine

Pigment code: PB.29

The name Ultramarine comes from Middle Latin ultramarinus, literally “beyond the sea” because it was imported from Asia by sea. Natural ultramarine comes from Iran, China, Italy, Afghanistan and Eastern Europe.

Ultramarine is very popular in painting. It has mineral origin and is derived from lapis lazuli. Ultramarine is extremely resistant to light and air, almost sulphur-free, and very stable in mixing colours. Blue colours in Gothic paintings are strong evidences of this.

However, ultramarine is very sensitive to acids that cause greying of blue colours in some paintings. The problem is that refraction indices of ultramarine and oils are about the same, which makes this blue colour less saturated. Thus, ultramarine works better with gums. For example, Van Dyke added gums to his oil paints to brighten up the colour.

Ultramarine colour varies from vivid blue to violet shades. Also it’s very helpful in eliminating of yellow shades in painting.

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