Pigments Checker 2016-11-22T11:31:53+00:00

Pigments Checker

 In Brief

Pigments Checker is 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.

Pigments Checker CHSOS

Criteria for selecting the pigments’ collection

One of each kind.  There are plenty of version of the same pigments. For example, the earth pigments: red and yellow ochre as well as umber,  sienna and green earth. Earth pigments extracted from different locations have slightly varying mineral content and they have been marketed over the centuries, with specific names, such as Pozzuoli red and Sinopia. Both are red ochre pigments, but from, respectively, Naples area and Cappadocia. They are characterized by their common iron oxides content but different proportions of other minerals accounting for their different hues. Pigments Checker collects just one pigment for each kind. It features just one red ochre, one yellow ochre and so on. Pigments Checker is an education tool for students and art professional learning pigments identification with affordable and simple technical tools. Distinguish among varieties of red ochre is possible but requires more advanced and costly equipment.

Highest quality. We constantly evaluate the quality of the pigments provided by a number of vendors using spectroscopic analysis. We want to be sure that Pigments Checker features best quality pigments.

Mineral and artificial. Natural ultramarine  and artificial ultramarine, cinnabar and vermilion, madder lake and alizarin. These are some examples of mineral and organic pigments which eventually were produced artificially. Pigments Checker features both the natural (mineral or organic) and the artificial versions. It is of the most interest to distinguish natural pigments from their artificial counterparts for dating works of art.  This can be achieved from microscopic and spectroscopic observations (different impurities and crystal forms).

Old recipe. We choose pigments manufactured following original recipes.

Chemical quality check.  An international team of Laboratories and Research Groups involved in Scientific Art Examination are collaborating with CHSOS to evaluate the chemical composition of each pigment. This data contributes to the Free and Downloadable spectral database of the pigments used in Pigments Checker: Raman, XRF, FTIR and XRD.


Pigments Checker (570 euro + 30 euro handling and shipping)


Pigments’ Table (version 4)

ivory black
burnt sienna chrome oxide green azurite naphthol red cadmium yellow lead white
vine black burnt umber cobalt titanate green blue bice cadmium red cobalt yellow zinc white
bone black van dyke brown green earth cobalt cerulean blue red lead lead tin yellow I lithopone
lamp black raw sienna malachite egyptian blue red ochre lead tin yellow II titanium white
iron gall ink raw umber phthalo green indigo vermilion (natural) massicot gypsum
bitumen verdigris maya blue madder lake naples yellow chalk
sepia viridian prussian blue lac dye orpiment
cadmium green smalt carmine lake curcuma
ultramarine (natural) realgar yellow ochre
phthalo blue vermilion (artificial) yellow lake Reseda
cobalt violet alizarin gamboge
cobalt blue chrome yellow
cobalt chromite blue arylide yellow 5GX
manganese violet stil de grain
vivianite saffron
han blue
ultramarine (artificial)

Previous version

 How to identify pigments. Infrared photography, ultraviolet photography, multispectral imaging, Reflectance Transformation Imaging, infrared reflectography, technical photography, reflectance spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, X-Radiography, microscopy, paintings conservation, paintings authentication.

Pigments’ Timeline

Pigments Checker - Timeline (251 downloads)

Pigments Checker Timeline provides a simplified representation of the use of the pigments across ages. Pigments’ history is actually quite complex and depends on a number of factors; The kind of artifacts. A pigment can be used on wall paintings while becoming obsolete in easel paintings. Geography. As an example, natural cinnabar is found in Almaden (Spain) and Murillo used it since it was close to him, rather than the artificial form, vermilion, much more diffused elsewhere.










Pigments Checker. Pigments Timeline. How to identify pigments. Infrared photography, ultraviolet photography, multispectral imaging, Reflectance Transformation Imaging, infrared reflectography, technical photography, reflectance spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, X-Radiography, microscopy, paintings conservation, paintings authentication.

Cardboard: cel­lu­lose and cot­ton water­color paper, acids and lignin free, not treated with opti­cal brigtheners. Slightly ultraviolet fluorescent, it reflects infrared radiation.

Swatches: 2 cross-hairs (0,2 mm) printed on each swatch of paper before application of paint, to evaluate pigments’ transparency in infrared photography.

We made Pigments Checker more durable adding a rigid finnboard support (pure wood pulp, 3 mm).


MSI calibration card

MSI calibration card

Pigments Checker comes with our new Multispectral Imaging calibration card. Commercial gray cards for photography cannot be used for multispectral imaging since they absorb near UV and violet radiation. We developed a gray card to cover the 400-1000 nm spectral range. Take our Training program and Learn how to use the calibration card with our Multispectral Imaging system.


 Tecnical Photography of Pigments Checker v.3


Who purchased Pigments Checker

 Research papers using Pigments Checker

Publications on Pigments Checker
A. Cosentino “FORS spec­tral data­base of his­tor­i­cal pig­ments in dif­fer­ent binders” e-conservation Jour­nal 2, 57–68, 2014.
A. Cosentino, S. Stout "Pho­to­shop and Mul­ti­spec­tral Imag­ing for Art Doc­u­men­ta­tion” e-Preservation Sci­ence, 11, 91–98, 2014.
A. Cosentino “Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of pig­ments by mul­ti­spec­tral imag­ing a flow­chart method” Her­itage Sci­ence, 2:8, 2014.
A. Cosentino “FORS, Fiber Optics Reflectance Spec­troscopy con gli spet­trometri minia­tur­iz­zati per l’identificazione dei pig­menti” Archeo­mat­ica, 1, 16–22, 2014.
A. Cosentino “Practical notes on ultraviolet technical photography for art examination” Conservar Património 21, 53-62, 2015.
A. Cosentino “Multispectral imaging system using 12 interference filters for mapping pigments” Conservar Património 21, 25-38, 2015.
A. Cosentino “Multispectral Imaging of Pigments with a digital camera and 12 interferential filters” e-Preservation Science, 12, 1-7, 2015..
A. Cosentino, M. Gil, M. Ribeiro, R. Di Mauro "Technical Photography for mural paintings: the newly discovered frescoes in Aci Sant’Antonio (Sicily, Italy)” Conservar Património 20, 23–33, 2014.
A. Cosentino "Effects of Different Binders on Technical Photography and Infrared Reflectography of 54 Historical Pigments” International Journal of Conservation Science, 6 (3), 287-298, 2015.
R. Larsen, N. Coluzzi, A. Cosentino "Free XRF Spectroscopy Database of Pigments Checker” International Journal of Conservation Science, 7 (3), 659-668, 2016.
M.C. Caggiani, A. Cosentino, A. Mangone "Pigments Checker version 3.0, a handy set for conservation scientists: A free online Raman spectra database” Microchemical Journal 129, 123–132, 2016..


How to take care of your Pigments Checker?

Pigments Checker is actually a painting! So you should consider all the standard conservation procedures you would use for a painting made with historical pigments. Reduce as possible exposure to light and keep it a controlled environment with constant temperature and humidity. If you notice difference in the hue of the paint of a swatch, this is normal and it is due to the manual brush application of the paints which could provide brighter or darker areas. Some of the oldest pigments are indeed the most difficult to apply while modern age pigments allow a more uniform application.