Monday, 18 July 2016

Mijello Mission Gold - Pure Pigments set - a warning

DISCLAIMER: I have not used this set, I do not own this set, I have not even seen it in the flesh. I do not work for, nor am I affiliated to any paint manufacturers. These are my personal opinions and I have not been paid or given anything in return for this analysis. 

My primary concerns with this set relate to cheap dye-based pigments being used in lieu of mineral pigments such as Viridian, without them being clearly labelled with 'Hue'. When marketed as a 'pure pigments' set, most customers would assume they are actually getting the pigment-proper, not a hue. My secondary concern is that very cheap dye-based paints in this set are retailed for $20 per tube in open stock - they do have a high pigment-load but that doesn't justify the open stock prices when such cheap pigments are used. I'm not concerned by their performance, other than how many of the dyes used are light sensitive.

The Mijello Mission Gold Pure Pigments Set has been very popular recently, with a lot of artists and crafters buying it. The paints are not cheap - in open stock, some tubes are over $25 in the USA - they are not as easy to get hold of in the UK so I can't give UK prices. The incomparable Lindsay The Frugal Crafter has done a video review of this set recently and prior to doing so she asked me if I knew anything about it. I had a quick look at the composition at the time and the "Viridian" and "Cerulean Blue" both being Phthalocyanine dyes stuck out, but I didn't look at it much more. 

Since I watched Lindsay's review, I noticed some of the other colours had odd names or just looked a little unusual on the page. I've since been through all of the colours that Mijello list as being in the set. I have looked up their pigments in the Colour Index and here is a breakdown of what this set really contains. 

I am very concerned that it is mostly made up of very cheap dyes, yet the tubes retail in open stock in the USA at a very high price-point - some tubes are over $25. Mijello advertise "the finest pigments available", but they're not, by any means - they're cheap dyes in many cases, and not the typical pigments one would expect to find in a paint of that name - take a look a Viridian, Rose Madder, Cerulean Blue below, for example. I know "Viridian" is in Series C, as is "Cerulean Blue" - these are pretty expensive paints, yet contain nothing different from a cheap student line's Phthalocyanine dyes - this dye family are amongst the cheapest out there, so they're normally in the lowest priced series in any watercolour range. The ones that do use mineral pigments use cheaper ones like iron oxides etc. Some of the names are misleading - the Chinese White is a weak Titanium White, not a proper Chinese White.

What's worse is how many of the dyes are fugitive - I've noted this below. Now that is not to say that the paints are fugitive, as they may contain UV-resistant binders etc to protect the pigments, but as naked dyes, they are most certainly not lightfast. 

"Lemon Yellow" is not a typical lemon - it's Hansa Yellow 10G (PY3), which is fugitive when used very dilute, like in a thin wash. "Primary Yellow" is Benzimidazolone Yellow 154 (PY154) - this is as close to Process Yellow as you can get. "Permanent Yellow Deep" is Hansa yellow 65 (PY65) - usually in "Hansa Yellow Deep" type colours. "Red Orange" is your typical Pyrrol Orange (PO73) - nothing wrong with this. "Scarlet Lake" is Naphthol Red AS-D (PR112) - this is fugitive and will dull and go muddy. "Permanent Red" is Naphthol Red AS-D (PR112) - this is fugitive and will dull and go muddy over time - not very "permanent" is it?! [note the above are quite same-y on the page in Lindsay's review video - makes sense, same pigment] "Perm Red Deep" is Pyrolle Red (PR254) - again, fugitive - it darkens and blues over time. "Cherry Red" is Quinacridone Red (PR209 - there are two Quin Reds) - again, fugitive - it blues over time with exposure to light "Indian Red" is PR101 (Red Iron Oxide) as it should be. "Crimson Lake" is Quinacridone Crimson (PR202) - not a lake but not fugitive at least. "Permanent Rose" is Quinacridone Rose (PV19) as one would expect it to be - but this also blues with time - most Quinacridones are fugitive! "Perylene Maroon" is indeed Perylene Maroon (PR179) - this does fade a bit but it's not too bad. "Rose Madder" is made of PR176 Benzimidazolone Carmine (should be NR8 or NR9 if it's genuine or can be PR83 (Alizarin Crimson - synthetic rose madder, basically) or PR122 (Quinacridone Red) is sometimes used - PR176 is, as such, an odd choice) - this is fugitive and turns more blue as it fades so keep an eye on this one. "Permanent Magenta" is PR122 (Quinacridone Red) - this fades and neutralises - becomes less of a magenta and more of a red as it fades. "Cerulean Blue" is Phthalocyanine Blue BGS (PB15:3) - this is the blue-green Phthalo Blue - Cerulean Blue should by rights be a Cobalt Chromate mineral pigment, not a dye. "Prussian Blue" is indeed Prussian Blue (PB27) - this can brown in bright sunlight but it is totally reversible in the dark. "Cobalt Blue No. 2" is indeed Cobalt Blue (PB28) - cobalt aluminate/blue spinel - lovely granulating pigment. "Ultramarine Light" is Ultramarine Blue (PB29), as it should be. "Viridian" should be chromic hydroxide (PG18) but they have used Phthalocyanine Green BS (PG7). "Bamboo Green" is Phthalocyanine Green YS (PG36), hence why they look very same-y, they're the same pigment molecule, with slight modifications. "Yellow Ochre No. 2" is Hydrated Ferric Oxide (PY43), as it normally is. "Green Gold" - now this one is weird, they've used Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150), which is one of those grey-ish lemons - it's also a bit prone to fading but not much. Green Gold proper is Irgazin Yellow (PY129), which doesn't fade. "Red Brown" is Benzimidazolone Brown (PBr25) - this is quite nice as it's a synthetic dye brown - you should get good luminosity through it. "Vandyke Brown" is Brown Iron Oxide (PBr7) - this is usually used in Burnt Sienna, true Van Dyke Brown (NBr8) is Lignite, but Manganese Brown (PBr8) is often used instead. "Chinese White" is Titanium White (PW6) - Chinese White is usually either Zinc White (PW4) alone or mixed with Titanium White - the latter is the cheaper option, hence why I guess they have used it? Why not just call it Titanium White? Unless they made it so dilute that it is translucent and looks like Chinese White? "Ivory Black" is made from Lamp Black (PBk7) - this is not usual. PBk9 (Bone Black) is usually used for Ivory Blacks - note they are obviously all carbon but the impurities are different which impacts tone, granulation etc etc.


  1. I find the number of fugitive colors in this set of great concern and wonder at it being praised and touted, even recommended for purchase, by artists who should be equally concerned. I know crafters tend to view art materials differently than professional artists do, yet there is a responsibility surely when making recommendations to beginning painters who don't have the knowledge base to understand what they are being told or sold on, when the person making the recommendations obviously knows better. I am glad you are telling the truth about these colors, but I don't know how wide your audience is.

    I know I am merely venting, but the matter is disappointing to me that beginners are being encouraged to spend hard earned money on materials that aren't worth it.

    1. Thanks Grainne (a favourite name of mine!) - I'm trying to spread word. Crafters tend not to care about fastness as their works are ephemeral. Most artists will go by the lightfast rating on the tube - which is often on these colours reasonably ok but the dyes themselves are fugitive, I don't know how well the paints themselves last but Marty Owens or Jane Blundell will have tested it.

  2. I'm so happy you wrote this post ! When I first heard of Mijello watercolors, the art supply hoarder in me was like "WANT THESE", and then I checked the pigment list. I don't like the fact that they have, I think, only a quarter of their paints which are pure pigment (and that's including white ...). I don't like the fact that they name their watercolors very poorly, like you said, Cerulean blue being Phthlo blue, "Bamboo green" being just Phthalo green YS and not a fancy green. I think the thing that made me truly angry is when I saw that their "Burnt Sienna" is a mix of I think three different pigments, come on. I remember hearing someone on youtube saying "oh their burnt sienna doesn't look like an usual bunrt sienna", and I was like "yes it's because it isn't burnt sienna ...". Anyway, I'm really annoyed that they get such nice publicity, especially since they are not that cheap. So, thank you for this post and good luck :)!

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  4. Technically, you should be then highlighting all watercolour companies because most, if not all use the above. I looked up the first four you say are not lightfast, and went to see if these were used by schminke (considered the best) and winsor and newton professional (considered reliable and decent)
    PR 254 used by schminke and Winsor and Newton
    PY3 used by schminke
    PY154 - winsor and newton and schminke
    PR112 - winsor and newton and schminke
    I am willing to bet if I go down the list and look up elsewhere at other manufacturers, these are also used. Not only that but these are listed as lightfast and very lightfast with both companies. So I think you should mention that other top rated manufacturers also use these "dyes" in their professional sets to make your findings unbias.

    1. It doesn't matter who uses them (and Schmincke being "the best" is purely subjective - not a universally held view), the ones outlined above as fugitive as listed as such in the Colour Index (the definitive list of dye properties used by all industries and worldwide) - that is the independently verified status of the dye. Paint companies don't always rate their paints the same lightfastness as the pigment in them because 1) they use their own testing conditions - not always the CI standard ones and 2) they aren't always entirely honest - see the longstanding issue many have with Aureolin (cobalt yellow) watercolours rated as lightfast but turn brown within a few months on display. Sites like Handprint test paints to verify if manufacturers' ratings are actually correct as many are not and pretty much all manufacturers have a few paints in their line that fade. I've used W&N for decades and their Rose Madder (like all genuine ones) fades, as do Opera Rose, Aureolin, even Prussian Blue (but that comes back in the dark), many dye based yellows - they declare it on the tubes and that's fine.

      Some companies may add UV protectants to their binders (as in acrylics) that stretch out lightfastness but that isn't possible in watercolours that use gum Arabic without them ending up cloudy. I do state quite clearly above that I'm talking about fugitive *pigments*, not paints. Once in a binder, they may not be as fugitive, but it depends on the binder.

      My major gripe with Mission Gold is passing off for example Phthalo Green as "Viridian" (a mineral pigment significantly more expensive) and not clearly labelling it as a hue (which it isn't as it doesn't even look like Viridian). It should really just be labelled Phthalo Green but it isn't - it's passed off as something else and when sold at $20+ per tube at list price for a dye worth $2-5 a tube max, that is in my view wrong. This is sold in a "pure pigments" set which most people would assume didn't include hues with a name like that. I'm far from the only one who feels they're misleading and overpriced for what they are. Their own videos showing how easily they lift versus other brands use totally different amounts of brush pressure on the pans to force theirs to look better - you can see it very clearly.

  5. You are misisng my point. This article puts a warning about Mission gold due to the synthetic none lightfast dyes used. My point is even - what is comsidered - the top rated companies use these same dyes in their watercolours so why not mention it? On top of that each company sttes they are lightfast as does mission gold - so it isn't just mission gold fooling people, is it? That is my point. Even the most professional watercolours will use these/some of these/a mix of these pigments. So they should all be mentioned.

  6. I was so excited by the Mission Gold paints as they were so highly recommended and I bought the 24 set of pure pigment and then also got the 36 set! Then I went on to buy the large "bullet proof glass" mixing palette to set up the 24 "Pure Pigment" set to make the 50 color mixes. I painstakingly made all the mixes and beautiful color swatch sheets for both sides of the palette! When I went to write in all the pigment, transparency, lightfastness, etc I couldn't read the small writing on the tubes so I Google searched the info and saw your warning about these colors! Oh, how I wish I had seen this first!!! I would have stayed with my Daniel Smith, Schminke, Sennelier, M. Graham, Winsor Newton, Holbein (yes, I hoard them!)etc. and practice my color theory with them! I have Jane Blundell's book (fabulous!!!) and will refer to her and YOU for better information! Thanks, wish there were reviews with the pigment info on YouTube about these paints! I will use them in more casual fun art endeavors and not consider them archival! Thanks for sharing your knowledge! Lindsay refers to you often for the best technical watercolor information, and I see why!
    Paula in Florida


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