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. 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.

  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!