Friday, April 24, 2020

What is Ivory Black Made Of?

Sakthivel V  asks: "Can I use vegan alternative of ivory black?"

Yes, good topic. As you probably know, "ivory" black is no longer made from elephant ivory, but rather from charred cattle or pork bones. It's also called "bone char" in reference to what it's made of. They don't use bones from the skull or the spinal column to protect from Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease.

A few enterprising manufacturers have tried making ivory black from chunks of fossil tusks from extinct mammoths, which are surfacing in surprising numbers in Siberia and are being used legally. But I don't know if there's any difference from regular bone char.

If you want to stay away from animal products, you could use Mars black, which is made from iron, or lamp black, made from the imperfect combustion of oil, or jet black by Holbein. There are also the near-blacks known as neutral tint, which M. Graham makes from quinacridone violet and chlorinated copper, and Payne's gray, made from amorphous carbon and sodium aluminum silicate with sulphur.

They're all interesting pigments with different handling characteristics, and I recommend students try various blacks anyway to see how they behave in opaque and transparent mixtures.
More about painting in gouache black in "Color in Practice, Part 1." Full video available here


Susan Krzywicki said...

Interesting question. Learned something new today!

Ted B. said...

Ivory Black seems to have become a generic term for "black hue" for many manufacturers, you have to look at the pigment-code to be sure. Some use bone char, some lamp black, others Mars black. A few even mix in a little Ultramarine or Phthalo so that it drifts towards blue when mixed with Titanium White.

Another reason to have some familiarity with common pigment-codes.

Virginia Fhinn said...

Holy cow! I didn't know that. (Sorry that was a terrible pun...) Hey maybe we could donate our own bones for ivory black - how great would it be to be painted into a picture after you've left this earthly realm?? Haha

James Gurney said...

Fhinn, according to a couple of novels human bone char has been has been made into cigarette filters, using skeletons from US soldiers killed in WWII combat. Egyptian mummies have also been made into the pigment "mummy brown" used by a lot of 19th century painters.
They also use bone black for heat shields of space probes:

Christoffer Gertz Bech said...

Another option is Gamblin's 'chromatic black'. It is simply a convenience mix of quinacridone red and phtalo emerald, so if you have those around, you can mix your own.

That said, there are many ways you can mix something black or blackish - I have been doing that a lot lately, and it is a great learning experience to see the various subtleties of different mixes. Among the mixes I have used are phtalo green + perylene red, phtalo green + quinacridone red and transparent red oxide + ultramarine blue. Sometimes I have used both a blue and a green in the mix to push it a bit in this or that direction. Great fun to experiment with!

Virginia Fhinn said...

Neat article, thanks for the link! ... I had forgotten all about "mummy brown"! 😬 kinda... gross. But also fascinating. I presume there must now be laws about disturbing human remains that would prevent it... another fine example of 19th century colonialism at its finest