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Azurite — Blue emotions

Here is a short article on azurite: a blue pigment which, combined with carbon black, will allow you to create a series of rich blue shades. It is a blue-green pigment with a slightly grainy texture, which, unlike lapis lazuli, a natural ultramarine pigment, has a violet tint.

See the sample below.

Vinciane Lacroix, Azurite paint on coated MDF and black background (see text)

Making your own paints

Making your own paints gives you real satisfaction.

Forget about saving money; in fact, in addition to buying the raw materials (pigments, binders, fillers, etc.), you will have to invest in equipment to grind the pigments, to heat the glue, to weigh the ingredients, etc.

But if it’s for a project of a certain size, and you don’t mind mistakes, go for it!

On the other hand, if you’re looking for new avenues for your personal creations or if you’re in a creative slump, exploring ancestral techniques and the direct manipulation of the raw material can only enrich you.

Learn alone …or not

If you’re the cautious type, before taking the plunge, sign up for an afternoon workshop or an art course where paint making is part of the program.

When I bought my house, I did most of the interior decoration with lime, even though I knew nothing about it. A lucky meeting with a fresco specialist, a willingness to get involved and a desire to learn were enough. Twenty years later, the lime stucco is still beautiful and continues to enhance some of my personal creations. Note that this blue is more purplish than the one produced by the azurite presented above.

Vinciane Lacroix, a photograph highlighted on a blue stucco wall.

Youtube videos and online programs offer an interesting alternative, even if attending a workshop in person is always more effective to learn, especially when it comes to gestures to acquire.

For this article dedicated to azurite, I share with you what I learned in a workshop led by Violette Demonty, a specialist in polychromy techniques. Of course, I’ve added some other sources from my library and from the internet.


Crystallized azurite (source)

The exploitation of azurite dates back to 3000 BC; the oldest mine was located west of Sinai but was not intended for pigment production. Indeed, the Egyptians prefer the Egyptian blue.

The Babylonians and Persians loved it for their decorative paintings. The Greeks and Romans used it in their paintings. But its cost was so high that the client had to provide it himself to the artist. In China and Japan, azurite is also used in wall decoration.

In the West, azurite was widely used in the Middle Ages; between the 15th and mid 17th century it was even the most widely used blue pigment. According to Violette Demonty, it was highly prized in combination with gold; artists appreciated its velvet look and used it to give warmth and richness to clothing.

Today, although less expensive than lapiz lazouli blue pigment, azurite is still very expensive; its cost is comparable to that of gold: you will pay almost the same amount for 50 gr of pigment as for 25 thin sheets of gold of 8 cm2.

Let’s get to work!

Be aware that since it is a natural pigment, its color may vary from one supplier to another and even from one batch to another.


Material needed

Raw materials: powdered azurite pigment (see for example here), black pigment (for example carbon black), rabbit skin glue (see here), water.

Preparation of the glue: a scale, a pan, a jar and a stove.

Grinding the pigments: a glass or marble plate, or even a mirror and a glass muller (see here).

To draw and mix the pigment: a palette knife and a mask to protect against fine particles.

Support: paper or MDF coated with an undercoat or coated wall, etc.

Finally to spread the paint: brushes and brushes according to your own taste.

Preparation and realization

Prepare the glue the day before by diluting it to 8%: 8 gr of rabbit skin for 92 gr of water. Put it in the fridge and warm it up in a bain-marie just before starting your work.

The color of the azurite depends on the granulometry of the pigment. The finer the pigment, the lighter the blue. Also the pigment has little coverage, so the ancients prepared a lighter undercoat with finely ground pigment. They also used carbon black as an undercoat; it gives more depth to the azurite applied as a second layer. The interest of these undercoats is to multiply the shades thanks to the superposition while using the pigment sparingly.

Take a small amount of pigment with the palette knife and place it on the glass (or marble, or mirror) plate. Dip the wheel in the water and with your wrist, draw “figure eights” on the small pile of pigment. At first you will hear the pigment crunch. The mixture will then appear lighter. Five minutes should be enough.

With the palette knife, bring the crushed pigment to the center. Add skin glue to get the right consistency. And that’s it, the underpainting is ready!

Spread it on the surface and wait for it to dry before applying the second coat. Violette Demonty recommends that you don’t go back on the first coat when you spread it.

For the black undercoat, proceed as for the blue undercoat: replace the azurite with black pigment.

No need to grind the azurite for the second layer: you will get a deeper blue by mixing it directly with the glue.

It’s up to you!

Take the plunge and share your experience in the comments.

For me, I find azurite particularly interesting with the black undercoat. If I decide to introduce it in a personal work, it will be in this form.

However, I would also like to use it in “scraffite” on gold, that is to say as a second layer on a gold leaf with hollowed out parts that make it appear very fine.

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