This is the first part in a series I intend on doing over the winter where we try all the various brands for each color on my palette to see which is the best. I’ll start with the four colors I use in portraits: Red, Yellow, Black, and White.
Today we spent the day grinding every hand-ground vermilion we could get our hands on and comparing them to each other as well as the pre-ground tube paints on offer.
When I say ‘best’ I am referring entirely to what I, personally, am looking for in a vermilion. I only use 4 colors in my flesh palette and I need each to be perfect for the way I paint. By this I mean that the red has to mix beautifully with the white and ocher to give me my flesh tones, and to make rich purples when mixed with black. Here is the run-down of images from the test-canvas:
I realize the images don’t really show the best pigments. Luckily I took notes.
For me the best of the hand-ground paints was Robert Doak’s vermilion, which I believe is either cut with cadmium if not entirely cadmium-based. That said it is extremely similar to the old Zecchi cadmium vermilion they stopped selling 8 years ago (which we all remember fondly). I would prefer a cadmium based red anyways as historically real vermilion has had issues at times. Doak prices the stuff like it was cadmium as well.
The Sinopia cadmium #2 was really interesting as well, I hope to try it this winter on portraits.
Of the real vermilions, the ‘Sparrel’ (Daniel Graves gave me some of his stash, no idea where he got it) had the highest chroma. The Phase (a restoration store here in Florence) was pretty impressive as well. The Zecchi Cinabros were dull in comparison, though the Zecchi ‘Monte Amiato’ vermilion deserves a special mention for the chroma and tinting strength. I’ve never used it in a painting before, but I was very impressed in this brief color testing.
Of the tube paints the Zecchi was a surprising first for me (cadmium based again, but I was surprised by the tinting strength). The Harding was too cool and dull for my tastes, and the Zecchi cinabros were too blue as well.
These are just my personal opinions, I’ll post my notes tomorrow.