JAIC 1977, Volume 17, Number 1, Article 1 (pp. 01 to 08)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1977, Volume 17, Number 1, Article 1 (pp. 01 to 08)


Bettina Jessell


In choosing pigments to match a given color the overriding consideration is the degree of transparency required in each layer, covering for the ground, more translucent for the underpaint and design.

One should further keep in mind that old oil paint consists of two components: the oil medium which has to some degree gone brown through oxidation, and the pigments. Therefore, as a first step I base all colors (even black and white) on a mixture of red and green, covering or transparent according to the layer being inpainted. Then I add whichever pigments seem to match those of the painter's, again transparent or covering as required.

Here is a list of color matching tricks which I have found frequently useful: For a deep inky black

Ivory Black with a little Prussian Blue.

Skin tones

Medium tones

Light Red, (or Cadmium Red or Burnt Sienna) Viridian, Naples Yellow and Titanium White.


Add Ultramarine to medium tone.


Viridian (not blue), Burnt Sienna and Titanium White.

White garments, (shirts, ruffs, etc.)

Titanium White, Viridian, Burnt Sienna, and often some Ivory Black.

Very dark hot glaze

Bone Black and Alizarin Orange

Fiery red glazes on early Italian and Northern painting

Alizarin crimson, Alizarin Orange and Bone Black.

Hot glazes, substitute for Alizarin Orange

Indian Yellow and Burnt Sienna.

Brilliant, light colors

First underpaint in pure White, then glaze with transparent color.

Copyright � 1977 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works