Why ‘cadmium-free’ needs to be part of your art vocabulary

by Art Materials on Sep 28, 2021

Art supplies - Cadmium free paints

Cadmium (discovered in 1817) is a rare soft metal and the primary component used in the manufacture of vibrant yellow, red and orange paint pigments. The lightfast properties of cadmium colours were a welcome addition to the artist palettes of impressionist masters, Matisse, Monet and Van Gogh. But two hundred years later, it has become a controversial topic in Fine Art circles. Cue cadmium-free paints; a non-hazardous alternative for environmentally conscious artists. 

Although dangerous if inhaled in its dust or powder form, there is no consensus as to the potential health hazards of cadmium pigments. But the concern has motivated us at The Art Materials Company to closely follow the innovative development of a professional artist quality cadmium-free range paints

What is the Art world saying?

Chemists at Winsor and Newton have been developing cadmium-free paints that are comparable to their traditional cadmium counterparts in performance quality, colour strength, opacity and lightfastness. (Watch the video)

“Our team has replicated cadmium’s signatures: its bright mass tone, its undertone for subtleties in thin layers, its tinting ability, viscosity, opacity and flow, and its archival lightfastness. Plus, to give an authentic experience, the weight of the cadmium-free paint in the tube has been carefully matched.” -Winsor & Newton

Cadmium free paints

As artists have started experimenting with cadmium-free paints, the reviews have all focused on the fact that the vibrancy, opacity, smoothness and potency of the pigments are consistent with original cadmium paints. Basically, when artists were put on the spot, they couldn’t tell the difference. This is good news for eco-conscious shoppers.

What does this all actually mean?

To be awarded the AP (Approved Products) label, cadmium-free,’ the paints have undergone independent testing by the ACMI (Art and Creative Materials Institute) and certified as safe to use. This means they have been evaluated by toxicologists and declared to contain "no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans, including children, or to cause acute or chronic health problems.” -Winsor & Newton

Winsor & Newton Cadmium free colour range

What colours are in the cadmium-free range?

Currently, Winsor & Newton have added 9 cadmium-free colours to their range of Artist Oil paints (lemon, yellow pale, yellow, yellow deep, green pale, orange, scarlet, red and red deep) and 8 colours to their Professional Watercolour range (lemon, yellow pale, yellow, yellow deep, orange, scarlet, red and red deep). 

Liquitex have also introduced a cadmium-free acrylic range of 7 colours - 3 yellows (yellow light, yellow medium and yellow deep), 3 reds, (red light, red medium and red deep) and 1 orange. 

The Art Materials Company

Artists are realising that ‘cadmium-free’  certainly doesn’t mean compromise when it comes to the vibrant, jewel-like pigments that have been traditionally offered by cadmium paints. Artists that have tried them are loving them. Cadmium-free paints don’t just need to be part of your art vocabulary, they also need to be part of your art supplies. 

Browse all our Art Materials Company paint collections, including Winsor & Newton’s range of cadmium-free Artist oils and Professional watercolours.