Goodies Came in the Mail Today!
The extra box promised to ArtSnack subscribers this September arrived at my door today. It contained promotional samples from Liquitex. This box was a bit of a challenge as it contained two colors medium yellow and medium red but each came in two forms the traditional Cadmium formula and Liquitex’s new Cadmium free formula. The challenge is for the customer to paint with both set A and B and see if she can tell the difference.
What is Cadmium?
Before I get into the box contents let me discuss what Cadmium is and why one would want a Cadmium free formula. Cadmium (Cd) is a metallic element it has many uses Batteries, Electro Plating, and LED Televisions are among them. Cadmium salts are used as pigments in red, orange, and yellow paints. Cadmium has long been the gold standard for paints of the above three colors in the categories of vibrancy and permanency. Such paints are always clearly marked as “Cadmium” while red, orange, and yellow without Cadmium are generally marked “Hue”. Keeton’s Art Supply blog does a very good job of explaining the difference between ‘Hue’ and ‘True’ pigments. Liquitex promotional materials state their Cadmium free formula as having the same vibrancy, opacity, and mixability of Cadmium paints. The literature also states their Cadmium free formula’s lightfastness rating is excellent.
Cadmium is a heavy metal and potentially carcinogenic. It is one of many potentially toxic pigments found in artists grade paints. Before I go further I would like to add.
I am not a Chemist. I am not an oncologist. I am a Social Studies teacher who likes to blog about art. Don’t assume I know what I am talking about.
There is certainly risk associated with industrial uses of Cadmium if inhaled. Head over to OSHA to learn more about that. But, the relative risk to artists using cadmium paints is not definitively settled. It has and continues to be hotly debated in Artists’ communities online. The problem with trusting artists’ opinions on this is most are not Chemists and Oncologists. Cadmium has been banned in Europe in jewelry and plastics. But, Cadmium pigment is legal. I can’t find anything written by a bench scientist or specialists in this area on the topic on my regular art information sources. Best I can tell from my research (reading other people’s writings on the topic). Cadmium pigments are hazardous if inhaled and ingested (which frankly is not surprising.) But, will likely only cause skin irritation to those with sensitive skin if you get it on you. But, you can absorb small amounts of pigment through your skin. Therefore, gloves wouldn’t be a bad idea if you are planning on extensive exposure. If you are painting with any artist’s grade media assume it is toxic. Follow common sense precautions: don’t eat while painting, don’t consume paints, don’t use artist grade media for body paint, don’t inhale it, etc…
Also if you are a parent like myself. Never let your children use artists grade paints. I keep mine in the basement far out of their reach.
Every paint company has a Health and Safety page for its products that lists the toxicity of each product and precautions you should take. My personal opinion is that the “poison is always in the dose” my personal level of exposure is not a high enough risk to worry over. However, this is not true for everyone. Some people are risk-averse. Some artists may want to coat their bodies in yellow, orange, and red apply their paint to the canvas by rolling their bodies across it. If you plan on painting with your fingers and hair Cadmium is not a good idea. Toxicity is among the range of considerations that should come into play when choosing your art supplies. Okay, now that we got all of that out of the way onto the box!
The box contained:
- Plastic Palette Knife
- 2 oz Titanium White (considered non-toxic if you’re wondering)
- Set A .74 oz each of Medium Red and Medium Yellow
- Set B .74 oz each of Medium Red and Medium Yellow
Here is a comparison chart set A and B on the left. I have a Golden Cadmium Yellow Medium on the upper right and Liquitex Red Cadmium Medium on the lower right. They all look very close to me.
For comparison purposes, I wanted to try the paints in action. So I made two quick Fall birch scenes utilizing A on one canvas and B on another. I used a size 8 bright brush to paint a blue gradient using Titanium White, Bright Blue, and Persian Blue. Once that was dry I painted on white trees with the bright and a small square brush. I then coated the side of the pallet knife in Burt Umber and scraped it across the trees. I then mixed up various amounts of Medium Red, Medium yellow, and orange mixed from the previous two and applied it with the tip of the pallet knife. Adding a bit of Burnt Umber here and there. On the palette knife, the paints handled identically and mixed identically.
A is on the left and B on the right. What do you think can you tell the difference? I can’t. Cadmium Free is available at Bick Art Materials while some bottles are a wee bit cheaper in Cadmium Free others are more expensive on the whole there is not a significant price difference either way.
Ideally, at this point, a lightfastness test should be done. But, I lack the patience for such things. So I will take Liquitex’s word for it for now. While hoping a more industrious art blogger does one later this year.
Happy art journey,
On Margo Pritchett’s suggestion, I did try mixing up some greens. I wanted a control in this example, unfortunately, I did not have any Liquitex Cadmium Yellow Medium on hand. But, I did have a Tube of Golden brand which I used as my control. Not perfect but I think similar enough. I mixed A, B, and the known paint with Liquitex Ultramarine Blue (red shade) Ultramarine Blue, (green shade), and a Blick Phthato Blue (green shade). Ultramarine and Medium Yellow should produce an Army or Moss Green while mixing Medium Yellow with Phthato should produce a Leaf Green. They all mixed fairly similarly but there was a very slight difference between A and B especially when mixed with Phthato Blue. B seemed to be closer to the control Golden’s Cadmium Medium Yellow. But, the difference is barely discernable in person and as you can see my camera did not pick it up at all.