“Substitutes” for Cadmium Yellow

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Cadmium Yellow Medium (Maimeri Puro)

There are concerns that cadmium yellows (PY 35, or cadmium sulphite) may fade over time, as has been observed in several paintings, although this pigment is rated as having excellent lightfastness (or 8;8;8 at BWS – Blue Wool Scale). There are reports of Van Gogh, Matisse and Munch works where the cadmium yellow turned into a milky-gray compound. Researchers have found that one variety of cadmium yellow becomes cadmium sulfate when it is exposed to excessive dampness and light, over decades. Some say this is problem that affects only the cadmium yellows produced before 1920, as the manufacturing process has changed since then. So, actual paints of such pigment would be stable. But, besides, there are the safety issues related to cadmium pigments.  These questions may lead one to look for a substitute for cadmium yellow.

Unfortunately, there isn’t yet an ideal replacement. Others yellows usually fail in offering equivalent opacity and covering power.

Commonly, yellow pigments used as “substitutes” for PY 35 are: PY 74, PY 73 and PY 65. All of these three are labeled as being of low hazard.

PY 74, a “hansa” (or “azo”, or “arylide”) yellow, may be not entirely reliable: it’s rated as having just a good lightfastess (or, sometimes, a 7;6;5 at BWS).

PY 73 e PY 65 are the “azos” with better lightfastness. PY 73 ranges from reddish to greenish yellow. It’s not opaque as a cadmium. PY 65 tends to present a more reddish tone, and may be a bit more transparent than PY 73. I’ve tested Winsor Artist’s Yellow Deep, produced with PY 65, and it’s really a bright reddish yellow, nearly an orange, as can be seen in the photo. It’s nicely saturated.

Others oil paints that are produced with this pigment are Lefranc & Bourgeois Chrome Yellow Deep Hue and Williamsburg Permanent Yellow Deep.

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Above: Maimeri Puro Cadmium Yellow Medium (PY 35) Below: Winsor Artists’ Yellow Deep (PY 65)

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Drawing of the day

Grey papers are great for portraits, because light areas can be highlighted with white pencil. I had a hard time trying to find a toned grey paper, and I’m surprised by the quality of this “Canson Color”. Unfortunately, I’ve just found it in size A4. It’s 180g/m2, and it has a fine grain, good enough for drawing.

For this self-portrait I used Bruynzeel and Staedtler graphite pencils. So far, Staedtler softer grades are the darkest I’ve found. The white pencil used in this drawing was Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth “Gioconda” White Coal. By the way, Koh-I-Noor produce a lovely black charcoal pencil (from this series “Gioconda”).

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Drawing stages

Some people like to start a drawing making first the great masses of values. I prefer to draw the main lines, visualizing the features and proportions of the face before working on the fine details. The white highlights come last. To avoid smudging the paper with my hand, while drawing, I like to place a tracing paper under the hand.

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Pencil drawing self-portrait