This article will cover some of the the main “special” pigments that can be found in acrylic paint. Special pigments are those that do not fit into the standard rainbow of colours. The combine special minerals or characteristics that are not possible with standard paint. Most of these characteristics involve the way that the pigments reflect light, in the case of iridescent and interferent paint. Or how how they absorb UV radiation in the case of glow-in-the-dark and fluorescent paint. Many of these paints were initially developed for commercial or industrial applications, especially automotive ones. The technology was then adopted by fine art paint manufactures and made available to artists.
Metallic and Iridescent Paint
Metallic and iridescent appear to have a metallic sheen. Generally metallic paints simulate another material and don’t actually contain any of the material. For example there isn’t any actual gold in iridescent gold paint. This is because instead of gold. the have tiny reflective particles inside them that act like miniature mirrors and reflect light back to the viewer. The particle that is commonly used is mica. Mica is a mineral that is commonly found in many commercial and industrial applications. It is ground into very fine particles that are used as the pigment in an acrylic paint. Particles can be coated to simulate different types of materials. Some of the commonly found colors of iridescent paint include gold, silver, copper, bronze, steel, and pearl. Iridescent paints can be combined with each other to make other shades, or even combined with standard acrylic paints. It should be noted though, that if they are combined with standard pigments, they may lose much of their iridescence. This is because the more opaque pigments can block some of the reflective properties of the iridescent paint.
A good example of the use of iridescent paint is my piece Dripping in Gold. The dress, umbrella, and woman combine iridescent gold paint with various other metallic and non-metallic pigments. When is is viewed at the right angle the iridescent pigments reflect the light. This gives the woman and her umbrella a dramatic, golden glow.
Glow in the dark paint is also known as phosphorescent paint. It absorbs invisible light waves, also known as UV radiation. It then slowly releases this absorbed energy as visible light. This means that even if the lights are totally shut off, the paint can still appear to glow in the dark. Glow-in-the-dark paint is closely related to fluorescent paint, which will be examined further down in the article. The only difference between these two types of paint is the speed that the light energy is released back into the environment. Fluorescent paint releases it immediately, while phosphorescent paint emits it much more slowly. This means that if the light source is removed, fluorescent paint will immediately stop emitting visible light, while phosphorescent paint will continue to emit it.
Interferent or Color Shifting Paint
Interferent paint is incredibly unique in that it can appear to change colors depending on the viewing angle and lighting. This is a type of paint that is often seen in automotive applications. There it goes by the names Color Shift, Chromaflair, or Chameleon paint. In a fine art application it is very similar to iridescent paint. This is because it also contains mica particles that can reflect light. These particles are combined with other minerals to create a prism effect. This similar to the rainbow created by light that is refracted through a prism, except only a specific colour of light is allowed to come through. This means that when the paint is viewed at the right angle, this reflection and refraction is turned “on” and the colored light is visible. If viewed from a different angle it is not visible and the paint appears semi-transparent.
Fluorescent paint creates colors that are extra luminous. Oranges, reds, pinks, and greens can seem to almost glow. This is because this type of paint is able to absorb invisible light waves in the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum. This is light that our eyes can’t see. The pigments then emit the light back in the visible spectrum. This means that they will appear to emit more light then they are taking in. This is what gives fluorescent paint its luminous glow.
Used on there own or combined together these unique pigments can create very unique visual effects. They are relatively new technologies and are still only beginning to be utilized by artists.