There’s a New Cadmium-Free Paint Alternative for Artists

The cadmium-free pigment was developed after three years of research and development.

Vincent van Gogh Sunflowers (1889). Courtesy Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

Artists rejoice! A new cadmium-free paint has just hit the market.

Popular paint brand Liquitex showcased a new range of colors this past weekend at Art Materials World, part of the NAMTA art fair in Salt Lake City. The brand is touting its new colors as an alternative for health- and safety-conscious artists, since the heavy metal found in oil, acrylic, and watercolor paints has been the subject of controversy over both environment- and health-related concerns in the past few years.

The new products will hit the market in July.

A ban on cadmium pigments was proposed by a European Chemical Agency (ECHA) in 2014 over pollution in food chains and negative effects on calcium levels in bones. These, along with other diseases, have been potentially traced to the metal. The following year, however, the ban was not enforced or put into effect after objections by artists and printmakers. 

Image courtesy of Colart International Ltd.

Image courtesy of Colart International Ltd.

Cadmium is one of the primary components in creating vibrant, intense pigments in hues of red, yellow, and orange, among others. It was discovered in 1820 and put up for commercial use in the mid-1840s, quickly becoming popular among the Impressionists and post-Impressionists, including, famously, van Gogh.

Liquitex’s cadmium-free range carries an Approved Product (AP) seal from the Art and Creative Materials Institute, Inc., an international association of manufacturers dedicated to safety in art and creative products.

The range was developed over the span of three years by Colart Chemists and underwent blind testing that showed that painters failed to distinguish between the environmentally friendly paint and paint with the less wholesome, heavy metal alternative.

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