The first time I had ever heard of Quinacradone Burnt Orange (C20H12N2O2) was after starting to work for an art supply company, DeSerres, that I worked for for the next 10 years. That was also when I first started becoming fascinated by pigments.

A number of the staff were excited about trying different pigments, and sometimes we would get together and order a box of colour that wasn't normally available in our store. I remember when my friend Doug got excited about Quinacradone Burnt Orange. We ordered it in, and along with Naples Yellow and Olive Green, it has remained on my palette ever since. I've even used it in our Symbiartic banner, above.

The quinacradone family of pigments is an interesting one, borne of necessity. Red pigments tend to be fugitive: a term that means they fade quickly in sunlight. Think of all the cyan blue-looking faded photos in old hair salon windows. The magenta and yellow have been bleached out from the sun.

What stays in the sun all day and looks flashy in red? Yep: cars. The car manufacturing industry first began using quinacradone pigments in the 1960's and it wasn't long before they began appearing in fine art paints. There was a brief trend when fine art paint manufacturers would shy away from complicated sounding chemical names: Liquitex sometimes has Quinacradone labelled as "Acra Red" (similarly Winsor & Newton label phthalo blue as "Winsor Blue").

The current family of quinacradone pigments runs from pinks and violets, to magentas, to bright reds to oranges. From Wikipedia: "the hue of quinacridone is affected not only by the R-groups on the molecule but by the crystal form of the solid." Quinacradone Burnt Orange is a wonderfully rusty orange-brown colour suitable for mimicking rusted metal or weathered brick. Despite being a heavily manufactured pigment that does not exist in nature (unlike say, clay-derived umbers and siennas) adding Quinacradone Burnt Orange gives a painting rich and earthy warmth.

I find the interplay of using a thoroughly modern pigment to render ancient, rusty things kind of delicious.

See more about Quinacradone on Chemspider.

See more of my art on my new site. /shamelessplug


All fine art paints are pigment particles bound in a sticky medium: vegetable oil (oils), gum arabic (watercolour) or acrylic polymer (acrylic).

Find more of these posts by clicking Pinch of Pigment in the tags below. This is the 3rd in the series.