Soft. Warm. A brownish yellow. Opaque. Extremely permanent. A modern alternative to one of mankind’s oldest colors. Welcome to the pigment that is yellow oxide. Let’s dig deeper.
The story starts as a dirty yellow made from sediment and soil. Dug up and mixed with water and oils, it was used to decorate bodies, mark walls and communicate meaning. This early pigment was a natural iron oxide – found in the ground at specific spots around the globe. In the 18th Century, a yellow iron oxide pigment was synthesized in the lab alongside a range of other iron oxides. Made by precipitating ferric oxide hydroxide, it was then washed, dried and milled to give a pure result. This new pigment could be manufactured anywhere, to a consistent quality and color. It was free of the regular impurities found in the natural variant. The natural earth oxide pigment was still used (and still is today), but the new synthetic variant quickly became widely available and popular with artists.
How do you tell the difference between the two yellow iron oxide pigments? You can check their chemical name – the natural variant is PY43, the synthetic is PY42. It’s not easy to visually spot the differences. The particles of PY42 are generally more uniform in size, giving a more vibrant, ‘cleaner’ color than PY43.
Yellow oxide in practice
How can you use yellow oxide? Liquitex Yellow Oxide is made using a pure mix of PY42 pigment. It is opaque and has excellent lightfastness. The color brings a handy aspect to the artist’s palette – both for mixing and using solo. Mix with any blue to get a range of natural greens which are great for botanical and landscape painting. Get a more tropical green turquoise by mixing with a teal. Yellow Oxide’s great tinting strength gives a clean range of soft buttery pastels. When painting skin, play around with Yellow Oxide, Titanium White and scarlet reds to create useful flesh tones. And create a soft but earthy pink by mixing with a primary red.
On a wider scale, the pigment is used in manufacturing due to its bright and pure color, good weatherproofing and high opacity. It has excellent hiding power, absorbs ultraviolet light, disperses well in aqueous and solvent systems and doesn’t contain heavy metals. Our world is full of items colored by PY42: from the glazes on our bathroom tiles, to the plates on the table, to the clothing in your wardrobe. You’ll see it in industrial coatings, printing ink and paint, and as a coloring agent for building material, papermaking, plastics and rubber.
Find Yellow Oxide in Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic, Soft Body Acrylic, Acrylic Gouache, Acrylic Ink, Acrylic Marker, Spray Paint and Basics Acrylic Color.