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Paint-Maker's Notes: Vivianite (#104000)

Our vivianite is a rare blue mineral sourced by scuba divers in Australia. It is an aqueous iron phosphate that yields a blue-grey color when ground, but the particles remain translucent under closer inspection. Many people refer to this pigment as Blue Ochre.

Vivianite is a special mineral that requires significant labor to extract, clean, and purge of impurities.  For this reason a small amount can be a bit costly, but there is nothing quite like the blue that it achieves.  Like so many minerals, vivianite can grow in a wide range of shapes and transparencies. Some forms of the mineral are round, opaque, and stone-like in appearance, while other others take the form of transparent crystals of blue or green.  Some are completely clear, but darken when exposed to light. 

Vivianite is suitable in acrylic, oil, watercolor, and tempera, and exhibits unique variations from one binder to the next.

In watercolor it appears dark in cake form but when brushed out dries to a pale powdery blue similar to the dry pigment.

In acrylics it can appear dark and translucent in glossy films or pale and milky in matte films.  Here we will discuss its qualities in oil, specifically Swedish cold-pressed linseed oil.

A microscopic image of Vivianite at 40X magnification (shot on an iPhone 6) →



Because we are working with a 10 gram jar of this pigment and mulling this pigment by hand, the ratios are not going to be so precise.  Instead, it would be helpful to think about this process like cooking or baking.  I often find that when cooking I tend to think about paint making.  There are so many overlaps.  

*To start, scoop out the pigment onto a glass palette and make a well in the center. It’s always a good idea to save some dry pigment in case you need to add more to your mix later on. Using a pipette, pick up about 3 ml of Cold-Pressed Linseed oil and slowly added it drop-wise into the center of the well, gently folding the pigment into the oil with a palette knife until you achieve something like a slightly dry mud.  If you reach the consistency of toothpaste you have added too much oil and may need to add more dry pigment. 

*When your paste is soft enough, begin to spread it with a palette knife and scoop it back into a pile again.  Repeating this process gives the pigment time to soften as it absorbs the oil.  At this pointit will feel slightly gritty. 

*Next you can take a small 1 inch portion of your paste and place it under your muller.  Begin mulling in a circular motion occasionally twisting the muller when it feels like the paste is too stiff.  If you feel like the paste is not allowing you to move the muller at all you may need to add a few drops of the oil to thin it out.  If the paste is too thick your muller will simply glide over the top of the paste and you will not achieve proper friction. Once you feel your muller is making contact with the glass continue making circular motions occasionally switching directions and wiping the paste off the sides of your muller and scooping it back into a pile to be mulled again.  

There is no rule for how long to mull your paint, but I have found that this pigment, like many others, only gets better the longer you mull it. After about 20 minutes, the sandy texture will be gone and the paint film will take on a glossy appearance.  The paint will also become a bit more stringy and spreadable. Because this is a mineral pigment with a micron range of 0-120µ it will not be as smooth as a phthalo or cobalt.  It will however, capture the light in a way that only mineral pigments can.  

Chalk is a mild abrasive, so adding a pinch of calcium carbonate will help grind the particles of vivianite more evenly, resulting in a smooth and creamy paint. This will also push the paint closer to the appearance of the dry pigment.  Adding a touch of white will bring out the subtle warmth of vivianite's undertones.  Adding a dab of sun thickened oil will add body and allow the light to shine through the translucent particles in your paint film.  Ultimately, the mix is up to you, so enjoy!