Woad, Ultramarine, Cobalt and Lapis, but no Ochre

Woad, Ultramarine, Cobalt and Lapis, but no Ochre 0

I was looking up blue pigments and found there are a lot of natural substances that have been used to create blue. I’m not going to go into the different substances just yet because after reading about some of these I wondered what was used in blue tattoos. They (any tattoo) are more popular than ever (makes me wonder if I’m in the minority). It seems that blue ink chemistries can vary and it looks like various forms of heavy metals are used. Cobalt is one pigment in blue tattoos. Cobalt is an element that is gray colored when pure (that’s not how we find it in nature) but in the oxide form it’s blue. Other blue inks in tattoos might have copper or iron oxides. Along with reading about blue ink in tattoos I found that the vehicle used in the injection can increase the systemic absorption of these metals. I believe a waiver is supposed to be signed before getting a tattoo? Good idea.

There are a lot of different things that were used and may still be used to make blue pigments and dye. The plant commonly called woad has leaves that can be boiled and then through certain steps a blue residue will result. Another plant dye, Indigo, also comes from a few different types of plants and was considered a luxury product by Greeks and Romans. These days our blue jeans are dyed with a synthetic indigo but I found there is a brand of denim called Momotaro in Japan that uses natural indigo dyes…and is quite pricey.

Other blue dyes and pigments come from mineral forms like ultramarine and lapis. Ultramarine was given it’s name because it was imported from over seas. Grinding the lapis into a powder and then combining it with another product can make blue paints or printing inks. Ultramarine can be found in cave paintings and Renaissance art and may have been used sparingly in some art because of it’s cost to produce. Synthetic ultramarine (aka, Prussian blue) may be found as a bluing agent in detergents which is interesting. The resultant effect of bluing is to make whites whiter through a subtractive coloring effect with the yellowing that occurs with white clothes. Azurite is another mineral with copper in it that was substituted for ultramarine because of it’s lower cost.

What about ochres? Well, they aren’t blue in color but they were and still are the basis for a lot of paintings. I live by a lot of red rocks in Colorado. That color and the variations of it is due to the iron content that has oxidized….rust basically. Ochre colors can be yellow, orange, red and somewhere in that range and can be found in modern paints and in cave paintings as long as 75,000 years ago.

By no means have I covered or could possibly cover all the blue pigments and dyes, nor the other basics used in making paint colors. But, I will pursue my education further in this area because….I can’t stop reading about all these fascinating things.

And you know why blue is blue, right? Well, if we’re not talking about blue sky and blue eyes and the Tyndall effect or emotion, we’re talking about about the physical effect of how the blue wavelength is reflected off the material. You could say the material isn’t blue, that it only reflects blue wavelengths….but then someone would look at you crazylike.

Momotaro jeans

Momotaro jeans


ochre in the arch

ochre color in the arch

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Do you want blue eyes?

Do you want blue eyes? 0

I’ve written about why blue eyes are blue. It has to do with the smaller amount of pigment in the iris and the Tyndall Effect. Pigment is not blue. It’s brown or yellow. And there are all kinds of color contact lenses that can change eye color and those are pretty easy solutions. Sometimes those color contact lenses can look pretty realistic.

But there are a few other ways and specifically I’m going to mention a way to change your eye color surgically using a laser. It’s not approved yet but if it does get approved this might be a huge thing! The company trying to get approved is called Stroma Medical Corp. They say that their laser can remove the outer layer of pigment cells and leave the rest of the iris alone. That I guess would then allow the Tyndall Effect to occur since the front layer of pigment would no longer absorb light rays.

Their website goes over a few of the concerns people have had with destructing pigment in the eye and the regulatory hurdles they need to get over before it’s approved. I admit, it sounds plausible and interesting. You might need about $5000 to do this and willing to only have 1 eye done at a time with a year wait before the other eye could be done. At least that’s how the procedure would work now.

They also say than they have a method that can predict what your eye color might look like before the procedure. Because there’s a mix of yellow and brown pigment and the amount of those can determine how much green there is in an eye, they must be saying that the results could be slightly different than what you might be expecting. They’ll have to sell some of you to believe a hazel colored eye is just as good as a blue eye. Maybe that’s true. Remember my post about that Afghan girl and her eye color?

Here’s the website below for that company. What I’m going to do is put a google alert on this company so if google gets any news on this I’ll put something in the comment section.

Just a note….I’m not implying that blue eyes are all that. It’s just interesting how we get blue color from our eyes and now this company wants to give brown-eyed people blue eyes while taking your $5000. Would it be worth it?



heterochromia, part brown, part blue



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