Painting homes goes back as far as homes, perhaps before. Caves were painted in prehistoric times, with the artist both making the paint and producing the design. The origin of the paint pigments is still of some historic interest today, even as we buy premixed paints when we paint our houses today.
Bone white: this colour was once made by from old chicken bones which were heated in a fire. It was often used as the ground for panels.
Carbon Black: Literally made from the carbon produced by burning compounds. Different compounds produced different varieties of black. Ivory black was made from burn ivory. Carbon in the form of soot was later gathered from lamp, producing ‘lamp black’ pigment. These carbon blacks are still used in calligraphy and Asian art forms.
Carmine (Cochineal): a natural and organic dye made from the bodies of the cochineal insect. The crimson red colour was used not only in paint but also in soldier’s uniforms. Though now uncommon in paint the product is still used as a colour additive for various foods.
Ceruse: Lead white or lead carbonate was the only pure white colour for many centuries. It has been used since the time of the ancient Greeks, with other white paints only being introduced in the mid nineteenth century.
Chrysocolla: A green colour made from copper.
Chrome orange: Lead chromate was discovered by the French in the 1800s. It was inexpensive and popular, though lead paint went out of fashion as the toxicity of lead became known. Largely replace by cadmium.
Cornflower blue: Made from various lowers, but only really suitable for watercolours.
Cobalt Blue: An expensive but highly stable colour. It has been used in everything from coloured glass to porcelain. It is still used by artists, and is still relatively expensive.
Emerald Green: a substance which also doubled as a rat poison. It never mixed well with other colours, and faded in sunlight, but was quite vivid and very popular.
Ultramarine: Made from the precious stone Lapis Lazuli this was an expensive but vivid paint. It was used sparingly and thought to very well compliment the colour gold.
Tyrian Purple: Derived from sea snails this expensive cloth dye has been produced since ancient times. It was popular with the elite, the Roman rulers and not only retained its colour but seemed to grow more vivid over time. According to rumour the process used to extract the dye produced such a foul odour that the women who made it were doomed to always remain single.
Red Oxide: used since the time of the cavemen; it was once made from natural occurring red iron ore, but is not artificially synthesised.
Mummy: Egyptian brown was literally made from the remains of ancient mummies. It has long been banned for obvious reasons.
The mixing of pigments to produce the right colour is still an art today, even if painting services often have a machine to analyse your samples. But prior to the 20th century the process was much harder. Mixing colours had a lot more to do with chemical reactions, and a lot less to do with primary colours producing secondary ones. Pigment made from different compounds rarely produced predictable results, though many different colour combinations had a tendency to turn brown. Remember that next time you struggle trying to decide on what colour you’re painting your house.
Talk to Sydney’s Tiger painting for all questions about painting your home.