Dried iron ore pigments gathered near the Umpqua River in Oregon.

Dried iron ore pigments gathered near the Umpqua River in Oregon.


What does Wild Pigment Project offer?

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

What are wild pigments?

Wild pigments are color-making materials present in a variety of 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 of wild sorrel. 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, pinks, 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 certain pigments can increase sensitivity to local ecology and encourage community involvement, not to mention reduce the use of toxic petroleum-based pigments. 

Are all wild pigments non-toxic and safe to use?

No. People with sensitivities to synthetic pigments may benefit from eliminating exposure to synthetic color altogether, and instead using wild pigments, many of which have no or low levels of toxicity. However, care should always be taken with wild pigments because some can be quite toxic. Anyone using wild pigments should research the chemical composition of what they use and wear lung protection and gloves when necessary.

Where can I buy plant and mineral pigments?

Small-batch pigments gathered with sensitivity to the land and local cultural contexts can be obtained from Wild Pigment Project or directly from artists and craftspeople listed in the directory. Wild Pigment Project supports individual, small-scale pigment-makers who hand-gather their materials. 

More questions?

We love to provide helpful answers when ever possible! Please write to us at info@wildpigmentproject.