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Several pigments of different colors spread out on a black surface.

Pigmently Answers: What Is Pigment?

Introduction to Pigments

Welcome to Pigmently, our online store for high-quality mica powder pigments and liquid dyes.

Have you ever wondered about the source of the vibrant colors in everything from the color of your walls to the paint on your canvas? Most of those colorful tones are generated through the use of pigments—sometimes natural, sometimes synthetic, and often a mix of the two.

In this article, we're going to cover what pigments are, outline the different types, and explain how they're made and used.

Understanding: What Is Pigment?

What is a pigment? Well, first we need to clarify what we're talking about here. In casual terms, a pigment is simply a colorant—something used to change the color of something else.

However, a more particular definition might include that, to be a pigment, the colorant must be a dry substance and almost always insoluble, meaning it won't dissolve in liquid such as water.

Because pigments are used to color other materials, they're almost always ground into a fine powder and mixed with a binder, which can be a liquid to create paint or ink, or a solid to create plastic or crayon. This makes them more usable.

When a pigment is mixed with a transparent binder, the pigment's color is seen clearly. When the binder is colored, the pigment and binder's colors combine to create a different color. For instance, combining a bright blue pigment with a yellow binder might result in something green.

The Science Behind Pigments

On a more scientific level, pigments work by absorbing certain wavelengths of light and reflecting others. The color that we perceive is the color of the light wavelength that is reflected. For example, a pigment that absorbs all wavelengths of visible light except for blue will appear blue because blue is the color that is reflected back to our eyes.

The vast majority of pigments have a range of properties that make them ideal for use in coloring products. They are stable, non-toxic (which doesn't mean edible), and have strong coloring power. They also resist physical and chemical changes caused by light, heat, and weather, which makes them durable and long-lasting.

What Does Pigment Mean in Color Terms?

In terms of color, the term 'pigment' refers to the substance that gives a material its color. Pigments can be used to color a wide variety of materials including plastics (such as epoxy resin), inks, paints, fabrics, food, and cosmetics.

Pigments can produce a range of colors from the palest shades to deep, intense hues. The color of a pigment can be altered by changing its particle size or by mixing it with other pigments.

Several different colors of clay, a source of pigments.

Different Types of Pigments: Natural vs Synthetic

Pigments are frequently grouped among two different types: natural and synthetic. Natural pigments are derived from plants, animals, and minerals. They have been used for millennia in art and decoration. Examples include ochre, which is a form of clay; lapis lazuli, a deep blue mineral; and cochineal, a red dye made from a type of insect.

On the other hand, synthetic pigments are made in laboratories and offer a wider range of colors than natural pigments. They are also often more durable and fade-resistant. Examples of synthetic pigments include Prussian blue, cadmium red, and titanium white.

Note, though, that synthetic doesn't mean less safe. Sometimes the synthetic pigments are safer than the natural ones, such as with Ultramarine Blue. The natural form of Ultramarine is made from Lapis Lazuli, which can be toxic in pigment form. To avoid this, a synthetic version is used primarily these days. Not only is it non-toxic, but it's also cheaper and more vivid, due to even finer particles.

How Do Mica Powder Pigments Differ from Other Types?

Mica powder pigments are a unique type of pigment made from mica, a group of naturally occurring minerals that are mined from the earth. Mica powder pigments are known for their shimmering effect and are commonly used in cosmetics, automotive paint, resin art, and pearlescent inks.

Unlike other pigments, mica powder pigments have a shiny, metallic finish. This is because mica flakes have a flat, layered structure that reflects light, creating a sparkling effect. They also have excellent color stability and resistance to weather, heat, and UV light, making them a popular choice for many applications.

Common Types of Pigments

There are numerous types of pigments, each with unique properties and uses. These include organic pigments, which are carbon-based and often made from plant or animal sources, and inorganic pigments, which are typically mineral-based and include metals and their oxides, sulfides, and silicates. Our Pigmently Mica Powder Pigments are inorganic.

You can also group pigments by color. For instance, there are white pigments, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are used to provide opacity and enhance the brightness of other colors. Black pigments, like carbon black and iron oxide, are used to darken other colors and increase their depth and intensity.

A selection of brightly colored eye shadows that were made with pigments.

Uses of Pigments in Various Industries

The use of pigments spans across numerous industries. In the paint industry, pigments are used to provide color, hide the surface underneath, and protect the surface from UV light. In the plastics industry, pigments are used to color plastic products, from toys and packaging to car parts and furniture.

In cosmetics, pigments are used to provide color and sparkle to products like eyeshadow, lipstick, and nail polish. In the food industry, specific edible pigments are used to make food more aesthetically pleasing.

In fact, many foods themselves naturally create their own pigments. For example, carotenoids give carrots their orange color, chlorophyll gives green vegetables their color, and anthocyanins give berries their red, purple, and blue colors.

Pigmently: Your Trusted Source for Premium Powder Pigments and Dyes

Now that you understand what a pigment is, it's time to explore the world of color for yourself. At Pigmently, we offer a wide range of high-quality powder pigments and dyes, from vibrant hues to subtle shades.

Whether you're a professional artist, a DIY enthusiast, or simply someone who loves color, you'll find what you need at Pigmently. You'll find cost-saving Pigment Bundles in our store, and you can look at any individual pigment in our Pigments Section.

Come take a look at any of our Mica Powder Pigments, where we've made placing an order easy and convenient—and we'll have your package shipped out in no time.

From there, all you have to do is be ready to see your art come to life with Pigmently Pigments!


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