Editor’s Note 3/8/21
With YInMn Blue having been out for a while now, and with a lot of questions received and answered since this piece was published, we wanted to briefly provide an update:
As noted in the article, the pigment has some unique strengths, being considered extremely lightfast, durable, and chemically resistant, as well as absorbing very little radiation in the near infra-red, allowing it to stay cool even in strong sunlight. And these things could make it a good choice for some specialty applications, especially outdoors.
However, we also want artists to be aware that this initial shade of YInMn Blue does not offer a particularly unique color space, landing somewhere between Cobalt Blue Deep and Ultramarine Blue. And for most painters a blend of other pigments could offer a fairly good approximation, while also being far less expensive. We mention this in particular because a lot of artists have noted the high costs for the paint, which are almost entirely driven by the extremely rare and expensive elements (yttrium and indium) needed in the production of the pigment. So the natural question arises – is the color truly worth it?
As colors go, its strongest appeal will be for the connoisseur who loves adding to a collection of rare and subtle nuances among pigments. Or the person who prizes having a piece of history, similar to owning a rare first edition of a book. After all, it can be exciting to be in on something from the get-go, especially when it holds a lot of promise of launching a whole new universe of other colors*…..in time. Which is what we all hope. Even if the current color is not dramatically different from ones you could mix yourself, the fact remains that this discovery is still the first new platform for color chemistry in a very, very long time, and that alone is worth celebrating. And so we remain happy to be playing a small part in its first introduction.
*If you are interested in seeing examples of the colors that might one day be possible, take a look towards the bottom of this article: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/chemist-mas-subramanian-on-the-incredible-discovery-of-yinmn-blue-973700
Imagine inventing a color. Not a new shade or tint or blend made from others on the palette, but an entirely new pigment with a novel chemistry. For most artists that thought alone can instill a strong sense of wonder, of something magical and mysterious being coaxed into being from an alchemical mix of ingredients. And of course our imaginations immediately race ahead to the potential of new possibilities and perceptions.
Something similar to this has animated the excitement over the discovery of a new blue in 2009 by chemist Mas Subramanian and his team at Oregon State University. Since then, we have received many inquiries and questions: Have we heard about it? Will we make it available to artists? What does it look like? Below we try to provide some answers as well as images of the color in both acrylics and oil.
First, what exactly is this new color? Named after the elements it is made from, YInMn Blue is a complex inorganic pigment created from a mixture of yttrium, indium and manganese oxides. By altering the amount of manganese in the crystal, the color can run from a bright blue all the way to black. In addition, the Oregon team continues to explore how swapping various minerals in place of manganese might lead to additional colors. For example, by using combinations of zinc, titanium, iron, and copper, among others, they have managed to create a variety of purples, yellows, browns, as well as a green and orange. While these additional possibilities remain a ways off, it still seems likely that the initial discovery of a singular blue might lay the groundwork for an expanded range of future colors.
Some unique properties of YInMn Blue can seem fairly exotic, although even these might eventually benefit artists as well. Two of the most noted features include being a strong reflector of NIR (near infra-red), which allows it to remain cooler than similar colors in strong sunlight, along with being an effective UV absorber, which could help limit polymer degradation in various binders. At the same time, other testing has addressed the usual concerns and shown that it has excellent lightfastness, chemical resistance, and physical durability in outdoor conditions.
In terms of color, the excitement around YInMn Blue is more about nuance than carving out a dramatically unique color space. As you can see in Image 1, where we compare YInMn Blue to both the Cobalt and Cobalt Blue Deep in our Williamsburg line, the YInMn Blue is definitely deeper with a distinctly reddish bias, which is easiest to see in the undertone and tint.
In Image 2, we compare YInMn Blue in acrylic to both our Heavy Body Cobalt Blue and Ultramarine Blue, with the three masstones grouped together on one card. The contrast with the much redder but more transparent Ultramarine helps locate YInMn Blue within that range, where it shares the opacity of Cobalt while leaning towards Ultramarine Blue in warmth.
Given all of the above, where do things stand on making this color available? At the time of this writing the color is still waiting to be listed on TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) and until then, cannot legally be sold. Once that hurdle is past, which we hope might be in the coming year, the pigment would still remain prohibitively expensive and a challenge to add to our regular line. That said, we could certainly make it available on a custom basis for anyone interested in ordering it; just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know. In the meantime, know that we remain highly aware of the developments taking place both with this new discovery as well as any other innovations occurring in the world of pigments.
Finally, for those of you wanting more information about the crystal structure and how it was discovered, the following links are good places to start:
A Chemist Accidentally Creates A New Blue. Then What?
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31 thoughts on “YInMn Blue”
A new blue! Can’t wait until it gets the okay to sell!
When it is we will let folks know. Thanks for your interest!
I’ve heard this is going to be crazy expensive. Do you know if the price compares to something out there now, or could a 37ml tube of oil be $200 ? It’s a nice blue tho.
Once again a miracle of Chemistry and dedication of Chemists to their work. If this new color becomes popular with industry -automobile, for one- the price for artists might decrease. Think of all the colors developed for the car industry -among other industrial needs- and their availability for artistic purposes… and the price got lower. No doubt GOLDEN is carefully looking to this new color. Thanks for letting know.
You are quite welcome – and yes, we will continue looking at this new pigment, any of the potential variations, and of course any other new offerings that arise elsewhere. And as you suggest, if the color finds a market in any of the large commercial coatings industries, then its price should come down.
All I want is a blue that DOES NOT turn towards mauve or pink when mixed with white!!
Hi Pat – thanks for the comment. Have you tried Cerulean Blue, in terms of something in the cobalt family that has a decidedly green bias, or of course the ubiquitous Phthalo Blue?
Thanks for this! Also, we need to remember this is a manganese blue which is safer to produce, safer to use, and very permanent. I predict the price will come down, just as ultramarine did when a process for synthesizing it was developed.
More science-y stuff here: http://chemistry.oregonstate.edu/content/story-yinmn-blue
Thanks Holly – glad you enjoyed it! As much as we might lament the loss of many pigments, its good to have things like this to remind us that we actually live in a period of tremendous options and increasingly interesting discoveries, so we stay optimistic that we have not heard the last about this particular one, or other new pigments that will certainly be developed in the years ahead.
I’ve been plannig for some time to ask about Williamsburg’s plans for tis pigment. I found this thread: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1411089 So Gamblin offers limited edition, but 37 ml for 195 USD… well, the only more expensive thing I can think of is probably this: http://www.kremer-pigmente.com/en/pigments/kremer-made-and-historic-pigments/63/lapis-lazuli-pure
Have you examined the oil paint based on this pigment thoroughly? Apart from hue, lightfastness and opacity, What are other properties?
1. What is its oil absorption and density? Does it make relatively lean or fat paint?
2. What is the grind? Seeing the picture I suppose it is very fine or fine.
3. When the simplest possible oil paint is made, i.e. just pigment and oil with no additives (stabilizers, driers), how fast does it dry?
Hi Ivan –
Unfortunately we have not done much in the way of quantifying oil absorption, grind, drying rate, etc. Those will all be part of the things we will need to do in the coming rounds. For now we just wanted to share what the color looked like and the news around its eventual availability. In terms of cost, we believe it will be extremely expensive, at least for some time, so unless one felt a very strong reason to prefer it over Cobalt or a blend of Cobalt and Ultramarine Blue, it will not really add much in the way of color space.
It is not especially hard but YInMn blue is very granular.
37mL for almost $200 seems outrageous to me. Based on how much it cost me to make a few dozen grams of YInMn blue at home, it would need to be nearly pure pigment for that to be close to a reasonable price. For a paint making firm that would have the needed tools already, the cost to grind it down to a ultrafine powder can’t be very much.
Hi Michael –
The costs that Ivan was responding to are not ours, so just wanted to make that clear. While prices change, we have been selling 37ml YInMn Blue in Williamsburg Oils for far far less than that. For current pricing please contact our Customer Service Department at 800-959-6543. And as for the coarseness of the pigment, it comes to us already ground to a fine particle size, so our production costs are not about any need to grind it further. Rather we are simply dispersing the pigment in oil via a three-roll mill.
Waiting for this! Any chance of limited beta runs? As I understand, if it reflective of NIR it actually should feel like a “hot” blue and therefore may make an uncanny sky blue.
Hi Lou – Thanks for the interest. As the article points out, right now we are waiting for it to get listed in accordance to TSCA (Toxic Substance Control Act) at which point it will be legal to sell. Until then we really cannot make anything available. Once that process is complete, then we should be able to figure out next steps to make this available on a custom basis. As for its reflectance of near infra-red (NIR), as you likely realize that will not really impact how it appears visually, and given the NIR levels indoors, likely not a large practical impact on surface temperature, but certainly it might play a role in the movement to find colors in exterior applications that can assist in keeping surfaces cooler, and might have a role in other higher end technological applications.
Good luck trying to get this pigment. I’m a professional artist and an ajunct professor of art, and I’ve been trying to get a sample directly from Mr. Subramanian and Shepherd Paints in OH for almost a year, and they won’t even return my emails or phone calls.
I’m starting to think that this whole “new blue” thing is a hoax…
Hi Richard –
Sorry to hear of your frustrations. We were able to obtain samples of the color, so can attest to it being quite real, however I believe the pigment might still be in the final steps of meeting TSCA requirements, as mentioned in the article, and so not truly available for broader commercial use. Not sure if that is the reason for the difficulty you are having, or simply that Shepard is not set up to sell directly to individuals. Your best bet going forward might be to see if someone like Kremer Pigments eventually carries it, as ultimately you will likely need to work with someone set up to sell pigments to an end user. And of course whether it will live up to its allure as a new color is still to be seen.
9 years after it’s discovery, and 5 years after Shephard Color started their process to get TSCA approval, and it’s stoll nowhere to be found.
Vanta Black was on the market in less than 2 years after it’s “discovery”. And both NTP Yellow and RTZ Orange hit the market in a similar time frame.
I’ll believe that YInMn Blue is actually real when I have it on my palette–but I’m not holding my breath… 😉
Hi Richard –
We share some of the same frustrations with the slow pace that things like this can take, but there are some points that are good to keep in mind. While Shepard had an initial licensing agreement for YInMn Blue back in the spring of 2015, it took another year, 2016, to work out production issues, at which point they sought EPA approval for commercial use and that was only just approved in late September 2017. So each step so far is taking about a year, more or less. Also, the approval this last Fall was just for a “low volume exemption (LVE), applicable for certain new chemicals manufactured in volumes of ≤10 000 kg/year”. From what I have read, they have since filed a full pre-manufacturing notice (PMN), and then once that is approved, it can finally be listed with TSCA. Whether this is requiring more steps or taking longer to complete than for other new pigments of unique chemistries I do not know, but we are certain that Shepard has as much interest as anyone in getting this approved. Another thing to realize, just as a way to temper some of the expectations, this will ultimately be an extremely expensive pigment as the two main constituents – Yttrium and Indium – are quite valuable and expensive in themselves. Shepard’s own projection of pricing was ~$1,000 kg, or a little under $500 a lb! But we’ll see. It is hard to know at this point where everything will end up and are waiting to learn, along with the rest of you, what the final pricing and promise of this pigment will be. So fingers crossed.
Also, just want to mention that concerning Vanta Black, it is not an actual ‘pigment’ as we normally think of it but a process for depositing carbon nanotubes in a particular vertically aligned array onto aluminum. So its approval is a completely different process than the use and manufacturing of a powdered pigment dispersed into a binder.
Anyway, again, we share your frustration and once we know it is approved we will certainly look to make it available, at the very least, as a custom paint.
Hello from VERY northern Vermont. YInMn Blue was discovered in 2008. It’s now 2020 and several companies continue to say it’s on the way. I’m sticking with Yves Klein’s IKB – International Klein Blue. It’s expensive, amazing, unique – and you can actually buy it!
I, too, would love to try some YInMn Blue. Especially in pigment or acrylic, for icon writing. I emailed a couple years ago when I first heard about it, any chance yet?
Hi Mary. We checked with the supplier and they are still working through the process of getting it approved for commercial sale. So nothing available at the moment but perhaps in a few months would be or best guess. Thanks for the inquiry though and please feel free to check back to see if anything has changed in the months ahead.
When is this going to come out as an interior paint? And… do you know why Bristol’s Majorelle Blue is not sold in the U.S.? That is the same color but WAY less expensive.
Hi Michelle –
Hi Michele –
Thanks for the comment. We do not anticipate this making its way into an architectural interior paint anytime soon as it is extremely expensive and really its main allure is less about a unique color space than its limited IR reflectance and strong UV absorption. As you rightly point out, other blues or blends that are available can emulate this color very closely and are far cheaper. That said, we do recognize there is a natural curiosity whenever a new pigment is invented, so we will continue to monitor its availability and, once approved for sale by the regulatory agencies, offer it to artists who might still be interested.
Not that it helps much but turns out YInMn blue isn’t that hard to make. Anyone with a kiln that can reach and hold at 1200C, even a little tabletop RapidFire (what I used) can do it. The oxides needed are easily sourced though the yttrium and indium oxides are a bit expensive at one to couple dollars a gram. And you need to make manganese (III) oxide from cheap manganese dioxide which just means heating it at 600C for a couple hours). You need to know enough chemistry to get the stoichiometry correct (hint: if you know what stoichiometry means you probably know enough to do it). And being able to reach and hold 1200C (about 2200F) is essential.
Of course, then you have to turn it into paint which is the step I’m at.
Hi Michael – Well, that is always one approach! And while we applaud your interest in taking hold of the process and doing it yourself, we would NOT recommend anyone trying this without a lot of training and safety precautions due to the risks involved. Ultimately pigment manufacturers are better able to handle these processes safely and in a way that is controlled and reproducible.
Really dumb question, but when and in what quantities and costs would this be available for an exterior paint and as a dye for an awning?
Hi Scott – As we are focused almost exclusively on artists’ paints, we really could not tell you – house paints and textile dyes are just very different industries from our own. My own guess, given the extremely high cost of the pigment, is that it will take a long time before this would be affordable enough for those uses. One short-cut on the housepaint would be to purchase a small amount of the YInMn Blue, paint a swatch of it, then take that to a commercial paint store to locate the closest match among the pre-printed cards, or have them use their machine to generate a custom blend.
Hope that helps!