Monday 20 March 2017

A Rose by any other name...Rose Madder and Potter's Pink.

Rose Madder is a natural colour from the roots of the common madder plant called Rubia Tinctorum. It is a soft granulating rose colour, but it is not lightfast so should not be used for exhibition purposes or outside of a sketchbook or reproduction work.

As far I know only DS and W&N have the genuine NR9 pigment. I am rather glad they do - even though I don't choose to use fugitive paints, it's nice to be able to test them out to see what the hues are trying to replicate! The genuine versions in W&N and DS are the first two swatches below.

There are a number of hues available to replicate this delicate colour and I have shown three of them - Schmincke has a Rose Madder, Daniel Smith has just released a Rose Madder Permanent, Art Spectrum has a Rose Madder (Permanent Hue).

I thought I'd show them all together.

When you see the range of hue in the genuine NR9 between W&N and DS, it's easy to see why the hues also vary.  Rose madder was used for portraiture and as a cool red, often with the also fugitive aureolin and alizarin crimson pigments (one of which is included in the Schmincke hue)! These days quinacridone rose does a better job, but sometimes a softer colour is desired, and Quinacridone Rose doesn't granulate.

Another granulating soft pink is Potter's Pink or Pinkcolor made with a very reliable PR233. I've included the W&N, DS and Schmincke versions as well as some handmade watercolours to show the range of hues in this pigment too. 

I'd make a Rose Madder hue with the softly granulating Potter's Pink mixed with the more powerful Quinacridone Rose - I just might explore that mix some time. The PV19 pigment might float to the surface too much of course. It would be interesting to try with DS Rhodonite too. I do mix Potter's Pink with Indian Red to deepen it, and have shown that mix (Jane's Earth Rose) here. Sharlie's Pinkcolor Deep is similar.

A few more interesting rose pigments are the very deep Piemontite genuine, that can paint out to a soft rose colour, and some of the pipestone pigments.

Apparently the W&N Rose Madder smells lovely - a rose by any other name?


  1. Daniel Smith doesn't make the Rose Madder Genuine any more. It's discontinued. I couldn't even find any old stock online.

    I got out the label from my Schmincke whole pan, then I got out a magnifying glass and mine is the same as yours. It is a mix of Alizarin Crimson and Scarlet Lake. Both almost as bad as the original genuine rose madder when it comes to permanence. But I do like the warmth of it.

    I did have a whole pan of the Winsor and Newton Rose Madder Genuine and it does match the new Daniel Smith Rose Madder Permanent very closely. Seeing both of them I can now see why Quin Rose has become so popular and almost a standard. I think I'd rather use the new Rose Madder Perm. if I ever do any florals.

    I kinda like the Schmincke mix so I may try to mix my own with Permanent Aliz. Crim. and Anthraquinoid Scarlet.

    The Rhodonite is pretty close to the Rose Madder too but I'm not so sure how permanent that is. I think the color shifts when tested in a south window for a few months. Not as bad as Opera but there is still a change.

    Daniel Smith's Minnesota Pipestone looks very close to that sample of Daniel Smith's Rose Madder Genuine. It is a taupe pink and granulates wonderfully. I wonder if the DS rose madder genuine color has aged in the tube? The color seems so different than the others. Or is that a trick of the camera or the computer monitor?

    1. I hadn't realised that DS had discontinued Rose Madder Genuine. I only had some on a Dot Card so have never had a tube of it, but as I said above, I do like to be able to find the traditional colours if only to have a comparison. I painted another swatch from the tube and it is a definite dusty-rose, completely different from the W&N one. I can see why the DS one would have been used in portraiture, and why the W&N one has been replaced with the more permanent Quin Rose...

      Rhodonite is a bright rose at first, but changes to a little more lavender on exposure to oxygen, as I understand it. I have shown both on my website - the freshly painted and the exposed. The link is but the colours are not really true. I have to try another way to photograph rather than scan many of the oranges, corals and reds on my website so they are closer to reality :-(

      Minnesota Pipestone is another that I have only tried from dots. I have heard lovely things about it but I think I'll just continue to play with the Indian Red and Potter's Pink pigments when I want granulating dusty earth reds.

    2. It's true that rhodonite does oxidise - it goes grey eventually - but it's nice when it lasts. I enjoy it in mixes as then you still get the 'fire' when young and don't lose the colour over time - it partners nicely with Schmincke's Rubinrot (Ruby Red), which is a Quin Violet (sensu PV19) single pigment paint.

      I like that WN still produce Rose Madder proper and still sell Alizarin Crimson alongside Perm Alizarin Crimson as no brand has a "Perm" that matches the true hue of genuine Alizarin Crimson. The 1980s PR83 used by Wallace-Seymour (prev. Pip Seymour) in their Vintage Watercolour tube line is very nice indeed, as is the Rose Madder in their 18th Century watercolours line (made as handmade discs, using a genuine 18th base of gum senegal and gum tragecanth) - reviews of both on my YouTube channel 'The Spin Doctor'.


    3. Dear Jane,
      In the process of pursuing a further understanding about pigments, their names and their chemical makeup, as well as, their cross references between names and brands, I happily discovered your blogs Thank you for your hard work in comparing colors and companies.
      I am inquiring about the initials prior to the pigment number; what do they mean?
      For instance, does NR9 mean Natural Red 9 or something else?
      Does PO mean Pyrrol Orange or pigment orange?
      What is the difference between PBr and PB? Since they both are in the brown family, does PBr mean pigment/pyrrol brown red and PB mean pigment/pyrrol brown?
      Does PR mean Pyrrol Red?
      Does PV mean Pyrrol Violet?
      Does PY mean pyrrol yellow?
      Lastly, is there an initial to indicate whether something is a dye or a pigment?
      Thank you!

    4. It's an excellent question and one I cover in depth when teaching but perhaps haven't on my website or blog...
      PW = Pigment White for example PW6 is Titanium White
      PY = Pigment Yellow
      PO = Pigment Orange
      PR = Pigment Red
      PV = Pigment Violet
      PB = Pigment Blue
      PG = PIgment Green
      PBr = Pigment Brown
      PBk = Pigment Black

      NR9 = Natural Red 9 - which is Rose Madder Genuine.

      Pigments take many forms, but the main thing is that they are more UV stable and resist fading. For example I'd only use a pigmented ink rather that the usual dye-based inks for a fountain pen if sketching before applying paint.

      The tricky part is the numbering - the oldest pigments in the world are earth pigments such as yellow ochre and red ochre so one might think they would be PY1 and PR1, but they are PY43 and PR101 respectively. And more confusing than that - PR101 could be anything from a transparent burnt orange colour to an opaque Indian red colour.

      There is excellent (and very detailed) information on the website, and also the Pigment Database (

  2. Ah I have just received the rose madder genuine from WN from Jacksons today - surprisingly its the old packaging tube they are sending me. I love the old WN tube packaging but will worry if paint quality might have changed in the tube.

    At the same time, I have also bought the potter's pink from Schmincke and WN (for comparison)haha. Honestly, the first pinkcolor I've tried are the pinkcolors paint I made myself. It's my new favourite to sketch with the pinkcolor and pinkcolor deep together and I'm still waiting for pinkcolor pigment from another supplier - I wonder which hue it will be closest too :D.

    1. I have W&N tubes from the 1970s which are "as new" still - they don't degrade over time. Even if they go hard, just cut the tube off and cut the block into a piece the size of a half-pan and you can just use it like new.

    2. W&N Tube Paints are based on Glycerine,when they dry,the glycerine is gone.The Quality is heavy reduced need to add new Glycerine,Honey or Gum Arab

  3. W&N Rose Madder does indeed smell lovely- I used to use it as part of my set (I do comic illustration, so permanence isn't the first priority). The Schminke Potter's Pink is lovely!

  4. I've just sniffed my W&N Rose Madder and I can't detect any smell but I may be desensitised as I use it quite a lot because I enjoy the colour.

    Potter's Pink is naughty in mixes and tends to climb back out so e.g. a nice orange-y peach suddenly becomes yellow with pink blobs by the time it is dry. I love the colour but hate the extreme granulation - I think it works better in acrylics and oil as then you get the colour without that issue.

  5. I just love the name Rose Madder, ever since I read of it as an old-fashioned dress color in the Mapp and Lucia stories. So I think one should buy it from Winsor & Newton. It must come from England. I like W&N the best here.
    (Now I wonder if those dresses faded.)

    1. Such a delightful story. It made me smile.😊

  6. I wonder if rose dore madder lake from Sennelier is close to quin red? is it more cool side or warm? thanks

  7. BEWARE Winsor & Newton's Rose Madder Genuine. I have a very old tube of it which I love, even though it has poor lightfastness. It is a beautiful soft pink with lovely granulation and smells heavenly, and mixes exquisite violets with Cerulean Blue (PB35). As I was coming to the end of the tube I decided to treat myself and buy a 14ml tube. Well, what a disappointment! I don't know when they did it but W&N have changed the process for making this paint. They used to have a "special" process that no one else had. The "new" paint is nothing like the old lovely version. I did swatches of the "old" and "new" to compare them. The new one is a different colour - not the lovely rosy pink of the old version, and it has none of the beautiful granulation. The paint dries to an uninteresting flat colour. I was very disappointed and quite annoyed given this paint is at the pricier end of their range. I checked the label and my new tube was made in France. Perhaps they ditched the special process which made the paint so unique in the move from England to France.

    1. Oh no! I have some from an older tube. I was hoping to buy more!

  8. Unknown Don't bother buying the new version of W&N Rose Madder Genuine. It's a thoroughly uninteresting colour and not worth the money. The best thing you could do is see if you can hunt around for a tube with the old W&N label and made in England. Some of their old label tubes pop up now and again in sales or clearance - this should be the "genuine" article, though I don't know when they degraded this particular paint. It seems more likely it occurred when they moved to France. For instance, I used to love their Transparent Yellow (PY150), it was a lovely paint. I bought another tube of it last year and found the paint has changed - not half as nice as it used to be. Some of their paints are still the same. Their two Cerulean Blues (both PB35) are still the nicest you can get, as is their Cobalt Blue Deep (PB74) Their Magnesium Brown (PY119) is a gorgeous paint with terrific granulation. Because the quality of some of their paints has changed I'm now disinclined to continue exploring their paints.

  9. Jane - I know this is an older post, but I wanted to say that I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for all the information you have imparted on your blog. I come back time and time again to remind myself of some fact or look at your swatches as I try to gauge something.
    Such a fantastic resource you have put together. Thanks so much.

  10. I am SO GRATEFUL for all the info you provide. Thank you.

  11. I would also like to echo Kristi’s comment and thank you for your invaluable work and analyses. It is always a pleasure consulting your posts!

  12. Just for an update from 2023.
    This is what Winsor and Newton say about their products:
    Rose Dore: Rose dore is a light rose pigment with a subtle yellow undertone. It is a transparent watercolour with staining properties.
    Pigment index - PV19, PY97 Transparency - Transparent Colour lightfast - Good

    Rose Madder Genuine: Rose Madder Genuine is a rose pigment only made by W&N. Made from the Madder plant found in Asia and Southern Europe, Rose Madder is an extremely valuable pigment.
    Pigment index - NR9 Transparency - Transparent Colour lightfast - n/a
    I haven’t tried them but the lightfastness colour rating for Rose Madder Genuine speaks for itself! I think, on reflection, that I will stick to Quinacridine Rose.
    Try them for yourselves. Juli