News 2019, Pigment Spotlight

Pigment spotlight:Cadmium-free Cadmiums by Winsor & Newton

I cannot tell you how excited I was when I discovered that Winsor & Newton were releasing a range of Cadmium substitutes. I have long been in favour of ditching the Cadmiums for good. Their devastating environmental impact just isn’t worth keeping them, especially with more modern pigments coming in all the time. For this major paint company to officially recognise this and provide an alternative is a huge environmental victory.


Then I hit a snag. The information on which pigments are used is a secret. This is the message I received from W&N when I asked them very nicely about these alternative pigments: “It has taken a long time and a great deal of work to replicate the genuine cadmium colours with very close alternatives, so, all information regarding the pigments and formulations is proprietary information. Sorry, but, we cannot divulge our secrets!”

What is it? 1832? For years now paint manufacturers have listed pigments on paint tubes. (I suppose to expect transparency when Cadmiums are concerned was too much to hope for – nasty pun alert!) Opting for not informing your customers is never a good choice. This is a huge step backwards and so disappointing.

I also fail to see the logic from a business point of view. People who want to avoid Cadmiums are people who care about what is in their paints, for ethical, environmental or health reasons… To provide us with an alternative but not tell us what’s in there doesn’t make any sense. The artists who don’t care about what’s in their paint will keep on using Cadmiums and the artists who do care won’t buy these because they don’t know what pigments are used… so who exactly is targeted with these?

What…. on Earth…. were they thinking?

It is beyond frustrating for me because I would love to be able to recommend them but I can’t because I don’t know if they are single-pigment paints or a mix, I can’t find out if they are lightfast because I can’t check their permanence ratings and I don’t know if they contain pigments any better than the Cadmiums they are replacing.

So where does that leave me regarding this potentially brilliant initiative by W&N? I just cannot recommend paints made with mystery pigments, it would be irresponsible. So unless they change their mind and more information is released, I will stay away from these (with great sadness), and I will continue using the substitutes I have been using for years.

I will write another post about these soon. It is now more relevant than ever.

Happy painting!




6 thoughts on “Pigment spotlight:Cadmium-free Cadmiums by Winsor & Newton”

    1. The conversation I had with them didn’t give me the impression they were… However, if enough people feel the same way, they might see how illogical their approach is…


  1. It’s odd, isn’t it Sandrine. I posted about it on Jackson’s website. But so far no reply.


  2. What I find as odd, is that WN says it’s to protect their secret formula–but some other paint companies have Cad hues already and I don’t see them changing them to match WN. It seems like they could at least release lightfastness and other properties. And I agree that the artists who care about paints won’t use paint without pigment info, and those who don’t care won’t bother to buy a cad substitute that costs the same as what they are familiar with. It’s a mystery! Thanks for publishing your thoughts on it!


    1. You’re very welcome. Perhaps they think that putting an aura of mystery around them makes the substitutes feel more precious 🙂 Or perhaps they don’t want the public to find out that they are using affordable pigments in the formulas, so that they can keep the price up… Who knows… A mystery indeed.


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