The Power of Natural Pigments: Issue 3 | Edward Bulmer Paint

The Power of Natural Pigments: Issue 3

It's all about the 'not so mellow' Chrome Yellow.  Discover its provenance and find out more about selecting the perfect yellows from our range.

For centuries, finding a bright yellow that remained stable eluded artists and pigment makers and so they tended to adopt the commonly occurring Yellow Ochre or accept the deficiencies of the brighter pigments obtained from sulphur, orpiment and lead antimony.

In 1804 this changed with the creation of a lead chromate pigment by the French chemists Berthollet and Vauquelin which, though expensive, became generally available. It still had a tendency to dis-colour on its own but it allowed the creation of bright hues, not least Turner's Yellow, famously used by Sir John Soane to decorate his Drawing Room on which he hung his Turner paintings (not the same man - the former was just a pigment seller then known as an artist's colourman).

Turner painting, yellows
Earth and mineral pigments

Chrome Yellow pigment is today made from spinels or mixed oxides of magnesium and aluminium, which avoid the toxicity of the so called 'heavy metals'. It is still nevertheless expensive and so we use it sparingly to give our big yellows, like Naples or Brimstone, some oomph; but also to give a vital 'je ne sais quoi' to Duck Egg and Jonquil!


The addition of the Chrome Yellow pigment within our range takes you from the lighter lemons to the deep yellows like Naples Yellow, Persian, Brimstone and Patent Yellow. We thought you might like to hear where these names derived from and learn more about the tonality of the colours from the 'colourman' himself, Edward Bulmer.

New 'Naples Yellow' is an eruption of colour – literally, as this name came about through a belief that it originated in the volcanic area around Naples. It is a strong colour for those brave enough to couple it with other gutsy colour tones and individually designed pieces. It will wake up the senses and lift the spirits, appealing to the architect designer as well as the confident home owner.

Our other new yellow is 'Persian', this is a strong brown yellow that will work well with polished timbers and high contrast trim colours/whites, seen below on the right. It is warm but bold and will stand up to eye-catching furnishings. The name comes from the use of Persian buckthorn to create strong yellow dyes many centuries ago, although often it was superseded by other names when processed into pigments – even Dutch Pink.

Naples Yellow
Persian yellow paint at Oka

Our classic 'Brimstone', evocative of the fiery tone of sulphur, is pure sunshine in a tin. Edward felt the need to offer a bright, clear, yellow - less dependent on yellow ochre and more on chrome yellow. This colour will brighten up any shaded room and we have seen a similar shade used by the Prince of Wales at Highgrove on outdoor seats set against a yew hedge, to stunning effect. Edward has paired this with 'Dove' in his beautiful conservatory breakfast room at his home, below left.

The pigment Montpellier yellow was also known as Patent Yellow in the late 18th century and was one of a small number of fashionable bright yellows that only a few could afford to use as a wall paint. This did not deter John Soane who famously used it to decorate his Drawing Room. Our take on our 'Patent Yellow' colour is softened and greyed just a little to make it a frankly, more useable colour.

Brimstone & Dove at the Court of Noke
Patent Yellow kitchen


These colours can bring light and energy to a room, if you are not a massive lover of yellow do re-consider it teamed up with other colours, from greys to pinks and blues, they can lift a scheme and look superb.

Brimstone study


The vibrant Chrome Yellow helps create some other colours which may surprise you, see a selection below; 'Red Ochre' & 'Invisible Green', 'Duck Egg' & 'Pea Green', 'Olympian Green' & 'Jonquil' and the beautiful  'Aquatic'.

Red Ochre on the walls by Oka
Invisible Green study
Duck Egg drawing room
Pea Green drawing room
Olympian Green and Whiting
Jonquil sitting room
Aquatic natural paint fireplace


We hope you are staying safe during these tricky times.  We are working safely and separately at Court of Noke and so are delighted to take your calls and answer emails.  We are giving lots of FREE colour consultancy so do please email us any questions with photos and videos of your rooms and we will get back to you. As long as the courier will collect and we have stock we shall do all we can to deliver to you whilst respecting all Government guidelines.

For inspiration do follow us on Instagram @EB_naturalpaint and @edward_bulmer and Pinterest @EBNaturalPaint 

Our social network has never been more important. A safe place where we can all support and inspire one another. We will continue to share our gorgeous colours in your wonderful homes. Watch this space for more design tips from Edward and brilliant creative ideas for your home.

Please keep in touch and keep sharing all your painting and rooms #edwardbulmerpaint​

Posted: April 2020

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