Transparent Red Oxide is an “Oh, wow” sort of color. If ever the phrase ‘drop dead gorgeous’ could be applied to a color, this is it. Transparent Red Oxide’s mass tone is a rich color similar in tone to Burnt Sienna but redder and less brown. But it is in the undertone that this pigment really shines. It is a glowing orange red that could be argued to be the most beautiful of all the earth colors. This beauty comes from the transparency, which was never possible to this degree in natural red oxides. The transparency is due to the tiny size of the pigment particles. When the red color is being developed in the manufacturing process it is natural for the particle size to increase as the color deepens. Therefore it requires special techniques to keep the particle size small enough while the correct color is obtained. This manufacturing process was developed as a result of demand from the automotive industry for new colors that were attractive, “new”, and were sufficiently lightfast to last for years in full sunlight, as cars are likely to do. As much as artists like to use beautiful pigments, we are a very minor part of the pigment industry since the mid 19th century we have hung off the coat tails of the printing ink industry, house painting, plastics, textiles, and especially, the car industry. But we can’t complain. Without those other huge industries injecting large amounts of money into research we would have only a small portion of the colours that we do have and a colour like Transparent Red Oxide wouldn’t even be in our dreams.
Transparent Red Oxide has the perfect hue that could easily replace Burnt Sienna in the palette, but there is sufficient difference between the two that it is preferable to use both colors. While Burnt Sienna lacks the clean glow of Transparent Red Oxide; it has an attractive brownish mass tone that is ideally suited to the landscape. The precise way that Transparent Red Oxide differs from Burnt sienna can be seen as soon as it is put onto white canvas without mixing it with another colour. It has a darker mass tone that Burnt Sienna while the undertone is lighter, cleaner, and more of a true orange-red. It should be generally noted that in mixtures with opaque pigments such as Titanium White or Unbleached Titanium it behaves much like Burnt Sienna, but in mixtures with very transparent pigments such as Primary Red its very clean transparent undertone makes for jewel-like brilliance of colour, which can be very beautiful. Artists tend to be very attracted to beautiful colours but Transparent Red Oxide is not just a pretty face. Like Burnt Sienna it is an ideal colour for working with flesh tones to make them a little warmer in a gentle sort of way, or to modify other earth colors when painting landscapes. When used to soften greens, its great transparency works very well with the very transparent green pigments such as Matisse Emerald or Phthalo Green and creates greens of great beauty as well as permanence.