Hands-on History: Making and Knowing in Early Modern Europe: Colors & Pigments

Monographs on Colors and Pigments

The Materials and Techniques of Drawings and Prints: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This online feature outlines the most common techniques for making prints, and the same will be added for drawings in spring 2019. Through the descriptions of each technique, as well as the animated images (GIFs) and illustrative works from The Met collection, you will be able to learn the ways prints are made—from the earliest employed techniques of woodcut, engraving, and etching, to those such as lithography and screenprinting, which came into common use more recently. All of these techniques are still employed by artists today, in much the same way they were hundreds of years ago.

Pigment Databases

The Color of Art Pigment Database: The Color of Art Pigment Database is a valuable reference for all artists working with color, and it is the the most complete pigment resource with color index names available for free. This collection of pigment information is an indispensable resource for all artists and art conservators interested in art restoration or making permanent works of art. Whether an artist uses oil paints, watercolor or acyclic, knowing the pigments and their properties is essential for all the visual arts from oil painting, watercolors or acrylics, to printing, and indeed, any craft or art that uses color. Artists interested in making paint in the studio should find this information useful too.

FORS (Fiber Optics Reflectance Spectra) of Pictorial Materials (Italy): This database presents a collection of reflectance spectra in the 270-820 nm, 350-1000 nm, and 980-1700 nm ranges acquired on several paint layer structures that were built with materials selected from those most commonly used both in the past and in the present day. The pictorial materials were painted out onto small wood panels prepared with a traditional ground of gypsum and animal glue. They were applied as pure pigment/dye or as a mixture of different pigments/dyes with different binding media. Some of these pictorial materials were also applied as transparent glazes over opaque paint layers or metal leaf.

Forbes Pigment Database (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston): The Forbes’ Pigment Collection contains over 3000 colorants assembled by the late Edward Waldo Forbes, former Director of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University (1909-1945). Currently, the core collection of pigments is housed in the Straus Center for Conservation at Harvard University while Forbes’ private collection of pigments resides at the Institute for Fine Arts Conservation Center at New York University.

Pigments Checker (Cultural Heritage Science Open Source): A collection of pigments important in art history. Among all the pigments and their varieties ever used in art, this collection selects the most used from antiquity to early 1950’. Pigments Checker is a standard tool designed for Art professionals, scientists, students and conservators to evaluate and practice non-invasive techniques for pigments identification. The actual Checker costs money but the website features useful information and timelines.


Online Resources

Relevant Journals

Getty Research Journal (full-text access from 2009 to present)

Color Research & Application (full-text access from 1976 to present)

The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal (full-text access from 1974-1996)

Archaeometry (full-text access from 1958 to present)

Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (full-text access from 1977 to present)

Journal of the Warburg Institute (full-text access from 1937 to 1939; continued by the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes)

Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (full-text access from 1939 to present; continues the Journal of the Warburg Institute)

Analytical Chemistry (full-text access from 1947 to present)