Earth and Mineral Pigments

Earth Pigments

Earth pigments are naturally occurring minerals, principally iron oxides, that people have used in paints for thousands of years for their natural color. These natural pigments are found in rocks and soils around the world, where different combinations of minerals create vibrant colors that are unique to the regional landscapes.  Some earth pigments are roasted in order to intensify their color.  Earth pigments include ochers, sienna, and umbers. 

Earth pigments produce soft, earthy hues that create uniquely vibrant, naturally harmonious interiors.  Color that is straight from nature.  

Natural ocher pigments for no-VOC natural paint


    Ochers come from naturally tinted clay containing mineral oxides.  Among the oldest pigments known to humankind, ochers have been used by Aboriginal people in Australia for thousands of years for painting, body decoration, ceremonial practices, and the preservation of animals skins. Ochers are available in a range of yellows, golds, and reds.


    Sienna is a form of limonite clay.  The pigment was first used in Italy in prehistoric times. The unique color is derived from ferric oxides.  The name refers to Sienna, Italy, where the pigment was originally extracted.  Today the pigment is found in Tuscany, Sardinia, Corsica, and Germany (in Bavaria, Palatinate and the Harz Mountains).  

    Sienna comes in a rich, earthy red.  

    natural earth pigments, umber pigments, natural paint


    A clay pigment that contains iron and manganese oxides.  The name is said to be derived from the Latin word umbra (shadow) or from the mountainous Italian region of Umbria, where umber was originally extracted.  Unearthed umbers are harvested from Italy, Ardennes, and the island of Cyprus.   

    Darker in color than ochers and sienna.  Colors range from cream to brown, depending on the ratio of iron and manganese compounds. 

    Mineral Pigments

    Mineral pigments are pigments that are created by combining and heating naturally occurring elements. They include ultramarine and spinel pigments.  


    Historically, ultramarine blue was derived from the precious stone lapus lazuli.  During the Renaissance, the price of this rare pigment exceeded the cost of gold, and artists often reserved it for the robes of Christ and the Virgin.  Used by Michelangelo, da Vinci, and Raphael, Europeans called the expensive imported pigment “ultramarine,”  which means “over the sea.”  In 1824, the French Societé d'Encouragement offered a prize of six thousand francs to anyone who could produce a synthetic variety of the pigment.  In 1828, the prize was awarded to Jean Baptiste Guimet who submitted a process he had secretly developed. Today, ultramarine is made by heating soda, clay, and sulfur.  Use ultramarine pigments to create deep blues and violets that are fit for a work of art.  


    The word “spinel” is thought to come from the ancient Greek word for “spark” (spinos).  Spinels are hard, crystalline minerals of volcanic source.  Pure spinels are colorless.  Naturally colorful spinels are extremely rare, and are coveted gemstones. Color occurs when spinel is combined with mineral impurities inside a volcano.  Bold and vivid, the Unearthed spinel colors are created by exchanging certain ions in the minerals by heating and combining them with other minerals.  Spinel pigments provide vibrant colors with spark.  Available in yellow, orange, green, turquoise, and blue.