Burnt umber and alizarine crimson


I live in Montreal and recently bought some paints (the colours recommended for the limited palette) from a company here called Kama pigments. They sell high quality raw and mixed pigments. I bought tubes of oil paint rather than the raw powders.

My first question is about burnt umber: I had previously a small tube of windsor and newton burnt umber and the Kama burnt umber is a VERY different colour. It's a much lighter (less red?) brown. Can anyone explain this? They're using, as I understand, the very pure raw pigment. Why is it such a different colour? I'm just learning and I bought a large tube so ultimately I've decided I have to make it work. Any tips?

Second, I also bought a tube of alizarine crimson, not permanent alizarine crimson. I googled around and found there are some very strong opinions about the superiority of permanent alizarine crimson over alizarine crimson. I'm just learning and I'm going to work with what I've got but can anyone explain what is really different about these pigments? 

This is Kama. (Not trying to promote the competition here-- I think Kama is only available in Canada and Geneva isn't available here anyway).  

Thanks for your help!



  • For burnt umber there can be a wide variety of colours depending on the way the pigment (PBr7) was created. Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber and Burnt Umber can all be created with the same pigment, just treated a different way. Alternatively it may be that Iron Oxide (PR101) was used which can be more of a reddish brown colour. Do you have the pigment information on the tube?

    "Natural iron oxides, all labeled PBr7, constitute a family of very lightfast pigments that have played a long and important role in human art and crafts. Red and yellow ochres were used as a ritual cosmetic in human burials as early as 20,000 years ago; the calcinated forms were probably discovered when iron colored clays were first fired in kilns about 8,000 years ago (6,000 BCE).
    Iron oxides can be any of several colors, including earth yellowearth orangeearth redbrown or black, depending on (1) the quantity of trace manganese, aluminum or silica in the pigment; (2) the size of the pigment particles; and (3) whether the pigment is in its hydrated form (contains some water in the iron oxide crystal) or is calcinated ("burnt" or roasted) in kilns or foundry ovens, which drives off the water. This means that two paints made with PBr7 can have very different color appearance, and any paint containing PBr7 may actually be a mixture of two, three or four iron oxides pigments, each with a different color, blended to match a specific color target." - Handprint.com

    Alizarine Crimson (PR83) is a fugitive colour, so it will fade away when exposed to much less light than other pigments. This can be improved be using UV protecting glass, or varnish, and only using Alizarine Crimson in it's darkest pure form, i.e. not thinned down or used in tints.

    Permanent Alizarine Crimson is a name used by paint companies to make an alternative colour. But every company seem to use a different combination of pigments to do this.

    Have a look at this article for more information:

    Kaustav[Deleted User]
  • Hi @mmccabe I checked the burnt umber color swatch. Looks accurate to me. You can add a little ultramarine in your umber pile and mix well, which will darken the color. When you are done with this tube, buy from another brand if you aren't satisfied.

    Alizarin is one of those pigments that are unmatched in terms of brilliance and versatility. But this will fade in a short span of time. Permanent as the name suggests, will not fade but it is slightly less brilliant. 
  • Geneva paints are available via online purchase in Canada.

    I just got a box today.
    Thanks for mentioning that to @mmccabe I forgot to write that!
  • oh that's right, Geneva are available now. My mistake.

    The burnt umber, you'll have to take my word for it, is a completely different colour than Windsor & Newton. 

    Interesting all this info about pigments. There's a lot to know. Thanks for input! 
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