Japanese Pigments (日本の絵の具)

Japanese pigments are materials used in Japanese traditional painting.

Pigments or Dyes
Several kinds of pigments are used in Japanese painting, including natural mineral pigments made from powdered minerals, synthetic mineral pigments made from colored glass powder, and mud pigments made from colored whitewash or other materials. Please refer to the section on Mineral Pigments for further details.

Pigments of Mineral Origin

Pigments of mineral origin are produced from natural minerals. Many of them are very expensive.

Iwagunjo: A pigment made from pulverized azurite, which has a purplish blue color. The pigment is classified in order of color depth under different names such as konjo (Prussian blue), gunjo (ultramarine blue), and byakugun (pastel blue).

Iwarokusho (malachite green): A pigment made from powdered malachite. Fine-grained iwarokusho is called byakuroku (whitish green). This pigment exhibits green.

Verdigris (copper rust): A pigment in green powder created by the oxidation of copper.

Cinnabar: Also known as vermilion. This pigment, powdered mercury sulfide, has been used as a charm against evil since ancient times. This pigment exhibits yellowish red.

Ocher: A pigment in powder of ocher ore, and exhibits yellowish brown.

Orpiment: Also known as arsenious sulfide. It exhibits bright yellow. It is poisonous. The reddish type is also called shio (garcinia cambogia), and it is often confused with to-o (cambogia).

Pigments of Plant Origin

Pigments of plant origin are mainly made from materials that are harmless to human bodies. Many of them, including seitai (a blue pigment made from indigos) and tsuya-beni (a red pigment made from safflowers), were once used as cosmetics.

Tsuya-beni: A precipitate of safflower pigment. It exhibits purplish red. The pigment was daubed on pieces of earthenware and preserved. It is also used as lip rouge in ancient times.

Seitai: A blue pigment made from indigos. It is also known as indigo.

Suo: A pigment that originates from sappanwood, and exhibits reddish purple. This pigment is similar in color and usage to tsuya-beni.

To-o (cambogia): A pigment extracted from resin of Guttiferae plants, and exhibits reddish yellow.

Smoke black: A pigment made from soot of plant oil, and exhibits black. Sumi (cake ink) is made from smoke black solidified with glue.

Pigments of Animal Origin

Coral: Powder of red coral, and exhibits pink. Coral is also used as accessories, and therefore expensive.

Whitewash: Originally made from lead compounds, but now it is made from shaved clamshell, and exhibits white.

Cochineal: A pigment made from an extract of cochineal insects, and exhibits red.