Making Paint With Inorganic Chemistry

Back during the Renaissance, great artists like Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael would create their own paints. Of course paint is very cheap and readily available, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make your own paint by playing with chemistry.

Last summer, [Sean] at the Philly hackerspace Hive76 did some experiments with ferrofluids. For these experiments [Sean] prepared a bunch of magnetite from rusty iron screws. In the process a lot of iron hydroxide was formed, which can produce wonderful colors. The red-brown eye in the title pic was made from some of the stuff floating on the top of [Sean]’s beaker.

[Sean] was really after something really black, so he turned his efforts towards hematite, a very dark pigment and is now working with other metals to produce some interesting colors. Already he’s made green and yellow pigments with two copper compounds. We’ll just have to hope he uses a fume hood when he starts taking apart mercury switches to make red.

7 thoughts on “Making Paint With Inorganic Chemistry

  1. That brown eye image reminds me of this prison reality show I saw recently where they showed this guy had painted all over his cell with a very readily availble brown pigment. I gotta think renaissance painters did not have any shortage of brown paint. I know they used to use urine to make some of the yellow pigments.

    1. I had a similar thought. I would imagine something like this appearing in one of the toilet cubicals at work.

      I’ve seen some ‘finger painting’ in one before. Needless to say I don’t use the workers bathrooms any more.

    1. Well, yes, that is certainly true, but as I said, I was first experimenting with ferrofluids and *then* had leftover stuff that I wanted to do things with. The second time around, I was going for the brownish-red and *just so happened* to also have a lot of black iron hydroxide. And while black is easier to get from carbon, it stops there, you can’t get any other colors out of it. Finally, it was just a lot of good fun to be playing with chemistry again.

  2. dood, ive been using hematite for pigments for a while [pretty much all the range].. Its all been touchy feely with my negligible knowledge in chem,
    Thx for all the closure /:D
    [if yre ever up for a show in the middle east, find me: i got the channels to sell]

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