This is the "Paints" page of the "Health and Safety Considerations in the Arts" guide.
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Health and Safety Considerations in the Arts  

Last Updated: Sep 27, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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How Watercolor Paints are Made
A thorough explanation of the different ingredients in watercolor paints, including the purpose of each and some alternatives. There is also a recipe for making and mixing your own watercolor paints. 


      Encaustic painting uses wax as a vessel for the pigment. As a result, the wax must be heated so that it can melt and be applied to the painting surface. It is crucial to know the melting point of the wax that is being used. Over-heated wax can result in smoke and toxic fumes including forming formaldehyde. A fact sheet by TURI on formaldehyde can be found here.
Wax Temperature Chart 
A temperature chart is available for download (located at the bottom of the page) that lists the commonly used waxes and their melting temperature and the highest, safe temperature to heat them to.
Encaustic Safety 
A brief description of the four major concerns when working with encaustics: fumes, burns, pigments, and solvents. 

General Painting Resources

      The main concern associated with painting is the solvents used. Most modern pigments are synthetic; however, many traditional pigments such as cadmium (of which a fact sheet from TURI can be found here), pose serious health concerns. Resins and other additives are also often added to the paint for better stability and consistency. When dealing with pigments, powders have a much higher level of exposure because they can easily be inhaled; therefore, liquid pigments are always preferred. 

Best Management Practices for Fine Art Painting Studios

This is a guide to help you better understand how to have a safe and less-toxic studio. Also includes some good information on health and safety of solvents and metals.
Color of Art Pigment Database
Extensive and detailed online database on different paints and their chemical makeup. Includes common names, CAS number, health concerns, performance notes and more.

Oil Paints

A guide to non- toxic painting 
A narrative article on better ways to make and mix your own paints. 

The Secret of Oil Painting Without Solvents
This website describes different methods of painting without the use of solvents.  Includes information on water mixable oils, and alternative oils.


Natural Earth Paint
Earth Oil Paints and other art supplies, all made from clay and earth (not heavy metals). If you are intrigued by natural pigments but don’t want to gather your own, purchasing them online can be an easy way to experiment with them.



Painted with madder root and goldenrod pigments, by Lindsay Mercer

Toxics Use Reduction Institute - University of Massachusetts Lowell
600 Suffolk St. - Wannalancit Mills - Lowell MA 01854

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