Friday 8 April 2016

From The Vaults: Winsor and Newton Aurora Yellow

I do love a good deal and I also love discontinued items that have an intrinsic kind of value (not monetary) because of the fact that you're one of few people who has them. I love rare books, I love antique-yet-not-highly-valuable items and I love rare paints too!

I was in my local art shop earlier this week, picking up some Winsor and Newton Professional Water Colour in 637 Terre Verte, 554 Raw Umber, 447 Olive Green and 719 Winsor Green (Blue Shade), and I spotted a colour I'd not seen before - 017 Aurora Yellow. I check Winsor and Newton's website and, sure enough, they don't make it. I emailed them and was pretty shocked to find they stopped manufacturing it back in 1997 because it didn't sell well! Not often you can find 19 year old stock being sold at the same price as new stock - it has an RRP of £8.80 but the shop have 15% off this range so it's £7.48 per tube. I went in today to get some 321 Indanthrene Blue and 190 Cobalt Turquoise and decided to pick up a tube - upon getting to the counter I asked if it was going to be ok, given it was 20 years old. After a bit of bluster, it became a "mistake" that it was on those shelves (kicking myself for not spotting this sooner - I've several tubes in the same packaging that are clearly 15+ years old from the same shop!) and lo and behold it became a mere £1.00 at which point I grabbed the remaining tubes!

I could find out nothing about 017 Aurora Yellow online - the only thing I know for sure is that it is a cadmium-containing pigment as there is a warning label on the tube. Searching The Color of Art Pigment Database, I found it might contain PY35 Cadmium Yellow (Cadmium zinc sulfide) and PY37 Cadmium Yellow (Cadmium sulfide), which, once I got it out of the tube, made perfect sense. Winsor and Newton are kindly checking their database to find out what is in it for me.

The packaging - this is 3 designs ago, so say the folk at Winsor and Newton. It could have been manufactured any time from 1974 to 1995.

The cadmium hazard warning is the text in the box on the left.

So, here it is, squirted into my new Jakar 12 well palette (I needed some more space but something small enough to stand on top of my studio palette until I can justify buying a second one of the latter). You can see the pigment has separated from the binder at some point in the last 20 years.

Here is a close-up of the above using the ×10 macro on my Olloclip 4-in-1 Lens, where you can see the pigment hasn't discoloured, and it hasn't separated too much - nothing a cocktail stick shouldn't fix, right?

Yup, I was right. Looks fine doesn't it? I didn't add any glycerol but if it doesn't dry down well over the coming days, I'll add water and glycerol then try again. So, how does it look?

It's quite a cool yellow but has the opacity and intensity of a cadmium yellow - maybe a cadmium lemon overall? The yellows to the left of it are (top down) Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolour in 016 Aureolin, 347 Lemon Yellow (Nickel Titanate), 108 Cadmium Yellow, 267 New Gamboge, and 319 Indian Yellow

Obviously, this is viewed wet but I'll add some photos one it's dry. On the whole, a good fine to get a good, opaque cool yellow for £1 at professional grade!

You can hear a bit more over on my YouTube channel:

UPDATED 10th April 2016
The paint in the palette and on the paper are now both dry so I thought I would add them for comparison purposes:

The paint in the palette has dried perfectly well - it has a few minor "gaps" - they're not cracks per se, and I'm sure it will wet fine for use - I'm going to test this along with my other haul of discontinued watercolours later in the week. 

And here it is painted out using a Number 4 Sable Round onto a scrap of Cotman Hot Press Watercolour Paper. You can get a good idea of the colour and how it looks as a wash. It's like a cooler Cadmium Yellow, in a way.


  1. Greetings. Late to the party here. But I just picked up a tube of Aurora Yellow and was delighted to find your page and video. My tube (from my old Mom & Pop art supply) is apparently older than yours because mine doesn't have a bar code OR the toxicity warning yours has. Anyway, looking forward to trying it.
    But I was even more excited to find a few tubes of the ORIGINAL W&N Gamboge (NY24) WN#069. But I had no idea there were 2 "new gamboges" (just saw your gamboge video) -- I had no idea I was looking at W&N's (old) New Gamboge today at the old art supply. I'm gonna have to run back there and get a few tubes of it. Cheers!

  2. I have a slightly older tube of 'unopened'Aurora Yellow with a bar code of 5090 2118. It also states the pigment as "Cadmium Sulphide" (note the English spelling).


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