Color Science

The DANIEL SMITH difference paints, pigments and the ASTM—our commitment to quality and value.

“My vision in the formulation of DANIEL SMITH paints has been twofold,” says Dan Smith. “First and foremost to produce materials that are the best in lightfastness and permanence, and secondly, to offer a selection of truly unique colors. From the beginning, in 1976 when I first began manufacturing etching inks, I knew I wanted to be innovative and I knew I wanted to use the best ingredients.”

We have three rules for the pigments we use:

1. They have to be safe
DANIEL SMITH has been a leader in making paints and inks safe for artists to use. None of our paints or inks contains highly toxic chrome or lead pigments. We pioneered the use in artists’ colors of safe, low-soluble, chemically pure (CP) pigments. Our non-toxic Cadmium Hues are virtually identical in color to their namesakes, but cleaner in mixtures and much stronger in tints—you’ll find a little goes a long way. Working properties are almost identical to those of the low-soluble Cadmium colors previously offered—and they’re extremely lightfast.

2. They have to be lightfast
We were the first artists’ paint manufacturer to use many of the modern, lightfast pigments such as the Quinacridones, Pyrrol Red, Hansa Yellow, Anthraquinoid Red and Perinone Orange. For all of our colors, we test lightfastness by placing samples of paint or ink on a Xenon Arc Fadeometer which exposes paint to the equivalent of 100 years of sunlight in about 10 days. Artists can rely on our colors not to fade. (Alizarin Crimson and Rose Madder, with lower lightfastness, are traditional exceptions.)

3. They have to be reliable
We start with pure pigments from sources all over the world, from natural mines to high-tech laboratories. Each color in our line was carefully formulated by our chemist and tested against similar colors in competitors’ lines, with the dual goals of greater permanence and greater color strength. As Ron says, “I look at more pigments and make more formulations than I actually need, just to make sure I don’t miss a great one.” Careful, small-batch manufacturing assures consistency from batch to batch.

How the ASTM helped
In developing paint lines, we were helped immeasurably by the standards the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) had developed in 1977 for the labeling of artist’s pigments. These standards were a major step in rectifying centuries of misinformation.

Since the start of the art materials business as we know it, many pigments and paints have been imitated, adulterated and weakened. Color names became misleading and color descriptions became deceptive and confusing. When I began formulating the lines of paints and inks that would carry my name, I knew I wanted none of that. I was determined that DANIEL SMITH would become the first manufacturer to label artists’ colors in full compliance with ASTM standards.

ASTM label requirements state that explicit information including the Common Name, the Color Index Name, and the Color Index Number of the pigment should be printed on the label, identifying the specific pigment used. ASTM standards also cover the requirements for Lightfastness tests and ratings and provide a list of approved pigments. Only pigments rated as being in Category I (Excellent Lightfastness) or Category II (Very Good Lightfastness) appear on the ASTM list. The ASTM further defines the labeling standards for pigments that are imitations—“Hues,” Trade Names and Mixed Pigments.

ACMI circle
In addition, our product labels carry the seals of the Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI). These indicate that they have been certified in a program of toxicological evaluation by a medical expert to contain no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans or to cause acute or chronic health problems.