RED: No longer banished

Much more important than red states or who controls congress. Cadmium reds and yellow are some of the most vibrant colors and can be mixed together to make a perfect Halloween pumpkins orange, but that’s not the scary part, they have a dark side too and along with many other careful artists, I have taken the step of banning them from my palette since they are highly toxic. Light fast colors keep the paintings from fading over time but I don’t want to fade either.

Recently, I found them on the recommended list for a painting class I was taking and decided I would not conform with the rest of the class. An artist who is non-conforming? yeah I guess that’s OK, but how else to capture the rosie flesh tones of the models?

I was ordering some supplies from Daniel Smith and noticed an innovation. They formulated a new series of Cadmium “Hues” and say they provide “the richness of classic cadmium colors without the toxicity of heavy metal pigments”. Well I ordered some and can’t wait to try them, but I probably still won’t fit in at class.



  1. Good post, thanks. I wasn’t aware that cadmium red and cadmium yellow still had actual cadmium in them, I thought that the names were just a left-over. I’ve just looked on Wikipedia (which I realise isn’t necessarily accurate) and on the Winsor and Newton site, as I occasionally use Cadmium colours (red/orange/yellow) in my watercolours and it seems they still do. On one hand, I’m appalled, on the other… I shrug. There are so many harmful substances about, I suspect that the minimal amount in a tiny bit of paint is not going to make much difference. That said – and aside from ones own use of these pigments, what about all the paintings through history that have used them? What should we do, go into all the galleries and museums and burn them all?

    Something else that is harmful – both in terms of toxicity (particularly, I gather, for the unborn when pregnant women use them) and in eco-terms – is the polymer clays that a lot of crafts people use for making models and jewellery. They are normally fired in a domestic oven. They have been passed as safe, but then they have warnings on them for people not to use them near food, not to let them touch anything that food touches (ie, baking trays, rolling pins), and not to let them get too hot. Years ago, I did the latter and put my oven on to the wrong temperature with the result that the fumes issuing forth made me very unwell for a long time afterwards (that’s how I know about this as, afterwards, I researched it).

    There are a lot of not-great art and craft materials out there that people either don’t realise are harmful or don’t care to know about.
    Val recently posted..AgeMy Profile

    • Hi Val,
      I think its wise whenever possible to avoid handling harmful chemicals. I’m less concerned with dried pigment in a museum and more careful with avoiding wet pigment that can be absorbed through hands or noxious fumes that can be inhaled.

      Thanks for mentioning the polymer clay, I have not used them and did not know anything about his. As you said there are a lot of potentially harmful crafts material and many people seem unaware of safe handling procedures.


      • I must also say that combining colors that are bright are spectacular. I’ve combined dark green and white and it shows apple green.

  2. I’ve just looked at the site you linked to. Despite their having removed the actual cadmium, they are still calling it cadmium red… how stupid is that? How is anyone supposed to tell just from the title?
    Val recently posted..AgeMy Profile

    • I have used the red and yellow and they are beautiful colors and very welcome back on my palette – it’s been so long since I used actual cads, I can’t say I can make a direct comparison. I don’t know the formulation but DS claims its safe and it seems that when they use the word “hue” its code for synthetic.

  3. Great prepositions. red and yellow have different shades but somehow it can be good when it is combined.