How to Read Paint Labels

Learning to read paint labels will help you to figure out the opacity of the colour, what pigments were used to make the particular colour, and its lightfastness and permanence.

Below is an example of a label that is found on a tube of Winsor & Newton watercolour paint. The essential information can be found on most brands and lines of paint in various locations on the packaging.

Opacity is rating uses squares on the labels. A fully black square means the paint is opaque. This colour used on it’s own will never be transparent. It will always block out what is underneath it. You’d have to dilute the colour with a lot of medium in order for it to become transparent.
A square with a black triangle and a clear triangle is semi-opaque. These colours will block out most of what is underneath. You’d still have to dilute the colour with medium in order for it to become totally transparent.
A clear square with a diagonal line through it means the colour is semi-transparent. Some paint companies do not distinguish between semi-opaque and semi-transparent. These colours are more transparent than semi-opaque but they still have some coverage abilities.
A clear square means the colour is completely transparent. You will never be able to get the colour to completely cover and block out what’s underneath. You’d have to add an opaque colour to it in order for it to become more opaque, such as titanium white.

Pigment codes are a game-changer. Learning how to distinguish pigment codes will allow you to mix your own colours using a limited palette.
PB = Blue pigment
PG = Green pigment
PR = Red pigment
PV = Violet pigment
PY = Yellow pigment
PO = Orange pigment
PW = White pigment
PBR = Brown pigment
PBK = Black pigment
For example: PB29 is ultramarine blue. And PW6 is titanium white. When they are mixed together you get a lighter ultramarine blue. A tube of paint will read PB29,PW6. This paint colour combination is available in the Golden Heavy Body line as Light Ultramarine Blue. Whereas the same combination of colours would also give you Light Blue Violet or Cobalt Blue Hue in the Liquitex Soft Body line. The amounts of each pigment gives you the different resulting colours. So in effect, you’d only need Ultramarine Blue and Titanium White to make the various blue shades as mentioned above.
There is a handy paint mixer app that’s available on the Golden site. Knowing what pigment combinations make these colours will help you create them no matter what medium of paint you use:

Lightfastness and Permanence are the last key parts of a paint label. Basically these two types of ratings measure the same thing. How fast the colours will fade or change colour over time.
For lightfastness the ratings are as follows:
Degree I: High resistance to light
Degree II: Medium resistance to light
Degree III: The colour fades easily, and is not to be used outdoors.
Some manufacturers use the permanence system instead:
AA: Extremely permanent
A: Permanent
B: Moderately permanent
C: Fades easily

We hope this helps you pick out the paints you need!

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