Finding The Perfect Yellow Ochre (oil paint)

Finding The Perfect Yellow Ochre

Finding The Perfect Yellow Ochre (oil paint)

This is the story of yellow ochre, how important to it is in my paintings, and just how far I’ll go to get the perfect color I want!

Even though I paint often, I actually don’t go through too much paint. You see, I have come to realize that oil painting is actually quite economical. I paint with fairly thin layers of paint made from oils and they really spread out over a great distance.

I occasionally hear people boast about acrylics and how they are cheaper to use when compared to oil paints. These folks are completely wrong. I have digressed a bit so let’s get back on topic.   We’re talking pigments here!


My Yellow Ochre Finally Runs Out

So I finally ran out of one of my staple colors: yellow ochre. Having been in the painting business for over 20 years I have amassed a rather large collection of supplies. Everything from over purchases, abandoned colors, donations, and by whatever means I seem to have loads of extra paint tubes in storage.

When I run out of an oil paint, before ordering any paints online or driving to the art store I check my storage cabinet. This time was no different.


I had been clinging onto two tubes for at least a decade. One tube was one of the huge Winsor & Newton tubes of paint though.

After searching around my surpluses I noticed an ancient tube of yellow ochre. With a smile on my face I put some on my palette.

The smile quickly turned to a look of chagrin.

Dang it!

What is this color I just put on my palette? This doesn’t look like yellow ochre at all, I thought. I quickly turned the tube around and looked for the pigment declaration.

PY43? What the? I always thought yellow ochre was made with PY42? What’s going on here?

Okay, no big deal. It was just a single tube of yellow ochre I needed.

Let me just take a ride over to my local art supply store.


Know Your Paints

For the longest time I’ve been intrigued by the ingredients that go into making paint.  Kind of like the way people read ingredients and nutritional facts on the food they eat!


You see, paint tubes list what pigment is being used to give the paint its color. This is very important to pay attention.


On my shopping trip I was looking for a tube of yellow ochre that was made with pigment #42. You’ll often read on the paint tube something like “pigment: PY42”.

So I knew exactly what I wanted: A tube of yellow ochre oil paint manufactured with the pigment: PY42.

The first tube I picked up was Winsor & Newton’s Artists’ series. I flipped over the tube and couldn’t believe it. This yellow ochre was made with pigment #43. I took off the cap to look at the paint directly.

Yuck, this paint was just like the non-yellow variety I put on my palette just before my journey to this store.

The next brand I went to was Gamblin. I made my way to the stack of organized paints, all organized so nicely. I figured I would just grab their tube of yellow ochre, pay for it and be on my way.


Gamblin’s yellow ochre was also made with PY43.

Man, what the heck was going on here? I checked a few more brands and sure enough they were all made with pigment #43 not #42.

So what’s the big deal?


Why Did I Want a Yellow Ochre Oil Paint Made With PY42?


It has to do with hue. I have come to realize that PY42 is very much yellow in hue. Being an earth color it is naturally less saturated when compared to cadmium yellow but it’s yellow nonetheless.

PY43 on the other hand is a yellow-orange hue and it tends to be not only darker, but slightly less saturated then the yellow hue created by PY42. My raw sienna oil color already exhibits these qualities perfectly.

There’s absolutely no need to duplicate my existing palette.

PY43 is a naturally occurring iron oxide and PY42 is a synthetically created iron oxide. Until you see the two pigments side by side it’s hard to notice the difference in color.


Fine enough talk…here’s a photo of two types of yellow ochre.  The image on the left is yellow ochre oil paint made with PY42 and on the right is yellow ochre oil paint made with PY43.

Yellow Ochre Oil Paints: PY42 vs. PY43 -



By the way, I talk about these kinds of nerdy, in-depth, technical aspects of painting in my newsletter. It’s totally free, comes out once a month and will help you understand how to paint better. I think you should check it out.



Meanwhile Back in the Art Supply Store…

I searched through nearly all of the oil painting brands they had: Gamblin, Winsor & Newton, Old Holland, Williamsburg, pretty much all my go-to brands when buying quality oil paints.

Finally I found what I was looking for!

It turns out that Winsor & Newton’s student grade oil paint which they call Winton has a yellow ochre that is made with synthetic iron oxide PY42. Yes! The color is such a beautiful yellow. It was exactly the color I was looking for.


So my mission was over but I thought I’d go through all the paints and see if I could find any more…


Yellow Ochre Oil Paints Made With PY42:

  • Daler-Rowney Georgian Oil Color
  • Winsor & Newton Winton
  • Check the comments below as folks have been adding to this list!


Why Fuss Over Color?

Ahhh only a painter really knows the feeling. I use many earth colors in my paintings. They are fast drying, lightfast colors that have been around since the dawn of painting.

Earth colors do come in a limited range though. They exist in the yellow through red spectrum. If I keep the extremes of that range on my palette I have a lot more options to mix the color I need. When I speak of options here I’m really referring to color gamut, or in other words the range of hues possible by mixing existing colors.

I tend to paint many things that require colors right around this hue. That’s precisely why I made such a fuss over finding a yellow ochre that was made of PY42!


If you know of any other brands of yellow ochre oil paint made with py42 please leave a comment below.



  1. Linda Schultz says:

    Hi John, I found your article very interesting and educational. I think learning the history and science of color is very important to every artist. Colors are unique in how they are made and if one wants just the right look on their painting, they would benefit by learning what the numbers on the tube and the ingredients are for the specific color they want to use.

    1. John Morfis says:

      Well said Linda, I agree!

  2. Linda Schultz says:

    When I studied art in college, I made the point of touching all basis of studying color. I took a physics class studying the dynamics of light and how it affects color by way of the spectrum. I took a psychology class on how color affects the eye and how the eye interprets color to our moods and feelings. The last is actually learning to use color in painting. I chose in my own style of doing things to use complementary colors for shadows and shading things. It is fun to try to not use black or white and I think makes a painting more interesting. I used the impressionist painting style in explaining the very dynamics of what a piece of art is and how we see art for the beauty that it portrays.

    1. John Morfis says:

      That’s great you delve into the scientific aspects of color. I’ve learned a ton about painting by doing the same thing. I used to be against the use of black paint (for 15+ years) but completely changed my opinion on it and use it in almost every mixture now. I wrote about my transition a long time ago here.

  3. Hi, I have been using Gamblin Yelow Ocher and it is PY43. I just bought a tube of WN Yellow Ocher and it too is PY43. However, laid out next to each other on the pallet the Gamblin is lighter than the WN. This difference is strongly expressed when titanium white is mixed into each sample. The Gamblin is noticeably yellower.

    1. John Morfis says:

      Yeah Jerry, they’re all a wee bit different for sure. The ones made with py42 are even yellower which was what I was after.

  4. Olaf van der Linden says:

    Winsor Newton artists nr 746 Yellow Ochre Pale is PY 42 too.

    When you click on the colours on the colour chart on their website, you see all the technical information.

    1. John Morfis says:

      Yep, Blick’s website is quite helpful.

  5. The following companies make yellow ochre with PY42
    Maimeri Blu, and
    Daler Rowney Artist

    1. John Morfis says:

      Good to know, thanks for adding. I’ve used the Daler Rowney yellow ochre in the past.

  6. Melusine Leigh says:

    Interesting hunt. I’ve been doing the same search today as a watercolourist as I find yellow ochre Py 42 indispensable but loathe Py 43. I am glad to find I am not being as weird as several art stores regarded me ! Thanks.

    1. John Morfis says:

      No, not weird at all!

  7. Melusine Leigh says:

    Just to add to the list, here in the U K Michael Harding oil paints produces three different shades of PY 42 yellows in his range. Two are listed as ochres and one as a yellow oxide.

    1. John Morfis says:

      Awesome thanks for adding to our list here Melusine!

  8. If you look at the Winsor Newton ochres you will see that their regular YO is PY43. It is much darker than the WN YO Light which is also PY43. However WN YO Pale is PY42 and a bit darker than WN YO Light. I like the Holbein YO which is a combination of PY42 & 43. So is the Grumbacher YO.

    The important lesson here is that no matter what the pigment may be named, the actual color coming out of the tube is very much influenced by the maker’s method of production: particle size, vehicle, fillers (if any), and temperature used in the processing, etc.

  9. Hi John
    Thanks for this very interesting article. I had just bought YO pigment to make my own oil paint but it is also PY43. I’ll look closer before I buy the next one.

    In the meantime, this web site seems to analyze the various paint brands. It may be helpful to you, as it has been to me:

    1. John Morfis says:

      Nice. I stumbled across that site years ago…the navigation is frustrating/nonexistent but the information is interesting. Thanks

  10. Another artist recommends Winsor & Newton Artists’ oil colour “Gold Ochre”. It also says PY42 on it. He claims that it is a purer version of Yellow Ochre and lasts longer than the Winsor & Newton Winton version of Yellow Ochre.

  11. Daniel Smith also makes a PY42 color, but it’s called Transparent Yellow Oxide. Although their Yellow Ochre looks a lot like your sample on the left.

  12. Bob Ross Landscape Oil Colors…. PY-42

  13. Christina says:

    Gamblin’s ‘Transparent Earth Yellow’ is made with PY42. 🙂

    1. John Morfis says:

      Yes indeed good catch. Beware though, see it in person before buying it, it’s a very dark yellow-orange…nothing like yellow ochre! I started experimenting with it this past year. It’s a great color for darkening raw sienna. The tubes I have seem to be very close in hue, but separated by value.

  14. Yellow oxide aka Mars Oxide is what you want. It is also stronger mixing and more opaque. Earth colors have a tendency to be non standardized, but the produced pigments are very standard.

  15. Informative very. I believe you will enjoy the web site vast aray of pigment info and loads of other art related goodie. A whole lot easier than back and forth on blicks site. Signed up for newsletter looking forward to it. Thanks

    1. John Morfis says:

      Thanks Claude, I have checked out that site it’s fairly helpful, some of the information is outdated though – many of the links don’t go to where they are supposed to. I wish that resource was easier to read too, golly it’s ugly and difficult to navigate.

  16. MIKE JUHASZ says:

    I found the the manufacturers show PY42 Yellow Ochre as Opague and PY43 Yellow Ochre as Transparent or Semi-Transparent.

    1. John Morfis says:

      Interesting find. But I would take all that tube-label guidance with a grain of salt! I’ve been baffled with some companies labels in the past!

      1. MIKE JUHASZ says:

        Thank you John. Yes it is a minefield out there regarding information given and standardization. Especially brush sizes. Think its a sales marketing ploy to get you to spend more especially on line where you cannot see the product.

  17. Deborah Damgaard-Hansen says:

    I have a LeFranc & Bourgeois yellow ochre PY 42. Pretty widely available in EU at least

  18. Hi… what is the difference between yellow ochre and golden ochre. I have Gamblin 1980 yellow ochre and was hoping they were similar enough to not have to buy golden ochre.
    Also I cannot find a color called blue ombré is Charvin’s blue shadow similar? Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

    1. John Morfis says:

      It looks like Gamblin’s 1980 yellow ochre is made with py43. That usually makes the yellow lean a bit towards yellow orange compared to a py42. I find the synthetic pigment y42’s to be of higher chroma and closer to yellow compared to other earth yellows.

      1. Thank you John. I ended up ordering the golden ochre and blue shadow.

  19. Graham I Lock says:

    Rembrandt Yellow Ochre by Talens is PY42 … and I like it. I think a lot of the Mars Yellows are also PY42.

  20. rohan daithankar says:

    Use gold ochre. It is PY42

  21. I just bought a tube of Pebeo Venetian Yellow Orange (PY42). I like it much better then Windsor and Newton Artist series Yellow Ochre. Good bye yellow ochre for skin tones!

  22. Clare Moon says:

    Hello, great article, thank you!
    Blockx Artist Oil Color Yellow Ochre is made with PY42, also. It’s the one I use and I get great results.

  23. Martha Turner says:

    PY42 is synthetic yellow iron oxide. It stands some chance of being a standardized item.
    PY43 is natural yellow ochre. That is, it is yellow mineral stuff (mostly iron oxides) dug out of the ground, with varying amounts of also natural minerals naturally present. It has been used since prehistoric times. Its color depends on the source.
    Some of the higher end brands/lines favor the natural and historic pigment (PY43). Many of those brands also sell the PY42 you want, but (accurately) call it yellow iron oxide.
    Next time you go shopping, you might want to try an artist quality yellow iron oxide (= PY42).

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