Wild Pigment Project promotes ecological balance and regenerative economies through a passion for wild color, its places of origin, and its cultural histories. The project connects visual artists to the land by providing resources, consulting and inspiration to integrate plant and mineral pigments, often hand-gathered and prepared in local landscapes, into studio practice. Our directory supports a network of independent painters, dyers, craftspeople, foragers, researchers, students, educators, and land protectors to share knowledge and experience.

What are wild pigments?

Wild pigments are colors present in plants and minerals that can be made into paints, inks and dyes. Wild pigments can be found in diverse environments all over the planet. Fields, forests, and urban landscapes are rich with trees and herbs that contain lush rainbows of color, like the rich browns of black walnut husks and the luminous yellows and greens of fennel. The earth itself is composed primarily of iron ore, a mineral that transforms through geological processes into many different hues — reds, oranges and yellows, but also, greens, purples and even blues. Anywhere where mineral earths, stones and clays are exposed, such as stream beds or riverbanks, cliff sides, pathways and road cuts, mineral color can be found.

Why work with wild pigments?

Wild pigments are a direct, tangible, and satisfying way to have a reciprocal relationship with a place.  Working with a plant, collecting small quantities of minerals, or simply understanding the material origins of color can increase sensitivity to local ecology and encourage community involvement, not to mention reduce the use of toxic petroleum-based pigments.

People with sensitivities to synthetic pigments may benefit from eliminating exposure to these colors altogether, though care should always be taken with wild pigments because they are not all free of toxicity.

Where to begin with wild pigments?

Wild Pigment Project offers a compilation of resources, including books and useful links, for artists and color enthusiasts who wish to learn to ethically forage, prepare, and work with plant and mineral pigments themselves. Our listing of events, classes and workshops currently available in the U.S. and Canada, as well as a directory of artists and educators who teach pigment-related courses makes it easy to locate local sources of pigment education. 

Small-batch pigments gathered with sensitivity to the land and local cultural contexts can also be obtained from Wild Pigment Project or directly from artists and craftspeople listed in the directory.


Wild Pigment Project is coordinated by Oregon-based artist Tilke Elkins. Elkins has been researching and painting with botanical and mineral pigments since 2008, with particular focus on the magic that happens when plant and stone pigments are combined.