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How to Read the Label on a Tube of Paint

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The Fundamental Information on a Paint Tube Label
How to Read the Label on a Tube of Paint

How to Read the Label on a Tube of Paint

Image: ©2006 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

How much information appears on the label of a paint tube (or jar) and where it is on a label varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but good artist's quality paints will typically list the following:

  • Manufacturer's name or common name for the color.
  • Names of the pigment(s) used and the color index name/number(s).
  • The vehicle the pigment is suspended in (e.g. acrylic polymer emulsion for acrylic paint, or gum arabic for watercolor and gouache).
  • The manufacturer's lightfastness or permanence rating.
  • The volume of paint in the tube or jar.
  • Manufacturer's name and address.

Paints made in the USA have information regarding conformance to various ASTM standards e.g. ASTM D4236 (Standard Practice for labeling Art Materials for Chronic Health Hazards), D4302 (Standard Specification for Artist's Oil, Resin-Oil, and Alykd Paints), D5098 (Standard Specification for Artist's Acrylic Dispersion paints), as well as the required health warnings.

Another common piece of information on a paint tube label is an indication of the series it belongs to. This is the manufacturer's grouping of colors into various price bands. Some manufacturers use letters (e.g. Series A, Series B) and others numbers (e.g. Series 1, Series 2). The higher the letter or number, the more expensive the paint.

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