Zinc Sulfide Pigment

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Zinc sulfide (or zinc sulphide) is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula of ZnS. This is the main form of zinc found in nature, where it mainly occurs as the mineral sphalerite. Although this mineral is usually black because of various impurities, the pure material is white, and it is widely used as a pigment. In its dense synthetic form, zinc sulfide can be transparent, and it is used as a window for visible optics and infrared optics.

Zinc oxide is one of the principal white pigments developed in the 18th century but became popular in art only until after the 1850s. It was more commonly known as zinc white or Chinese white.

Pigment Names
Common Names:English: zinc oxide, zinc white
French: oxyde de zinc, blanc de zinc
German: Zinkoxid, Zinkweiss
Italian: oxido di zinco, bianco di zinco
Russian: цинковые белина
Spanish: oxido de cinc, blanco de cinc
Alternate Names:Chinese white, calamine, philosopher's wool, Chinese white, flowers of zinc

Origin and History

Zinc oxide, more commonly known in the art world as zinc white, is one of the three white pigments -- lead, titanium, and zinc -- used extensively for artistic and decorative paints. Although known since ancient times, zinc white was not seriously considered an artist's pigment until after the 1850s. The most comprehensive application of the pure pigment has been in watercolors, sold under the name Chinese white, but it is often found in mixtures with other pigments in oil and acrylic paints.


Zinc oxide is widely available today, manufactured by numerous companies. The manufacturing process of zinc oxide is designated in commerce as the "indirect" or "French process" zinc oxide made from the metal and the "direct" or "American process," which is zinc oxide made from the ore and, hence, traditionally somewhat less pure. The terms nodular and acicular are used to describe the particle shapes.

Permanence and Compatibility

Zinc oxide paints tend to retain their original whiteness during aging, not only in watercolor but also in oil paint. Compared with other white pigments ground with oil, zinc oxide often exhibits the slightest tendency to yellow. The pigment tends to react with fatty acids present in drying oil, leading to the formation of zinc soaps. A soap is a metal salt of an organic acid. The particle size and morphology affect the reactivity of zinc oxide, with smaller particles being more reactive. In the case of linseed oil, the formation of zinc soaps from zinc oxide tends to harden the paint film. A 28-year study completed in 2007 by Mecklenburg and Tumosa of the Smithsonian Institution shows that zinc oxide can cause brittleness and delamination of oil paint film even when zinc oxide is used in small amounts. Zinc oxide tends to catalyze the formation of hydrogen peroxide when irradiated by near-ultraviolet light. This reaction and the formation of zinc soaps can cause chalking and embrittlement of oil paint films. Given these recent findings, we do not recommend using zinc white in the ground or underlayers of an oil painting and caution against its use in all oil paint.

Zinc white is compatible with all inorganic pigments. It is stable toward light in the sense that it does not discolor. However, owing to its photochemical reactivity, zinc oxide will affect the fading of various organic pigments. Zinc white will accelerate the light fading process of artists' paint that contain organic pigments, such as madder lake, alizarin lake, and Prussian Blue.

Oil Absorption and Grinding

Zinc oxide absorbs a moderate amount of oil. The oil absorption ratio varies considerably, at least from 20-25%, depending on the particle size and shape. Specific manufacturing procedures make it possible to produce pigment grades that demand less oil, 14-15% oil in paste.


Zinc oxide is not considered hazardous, but care should be used in handling the dry powder pigment to avoid inhaling the dust.

Rublev Colours Pigment: Zinc Oxide

Rublev Colours Pigment: Zinc Oxide Pigment

Pigment Information
Pigment Type:Synthetic Inorganic
Colour Index:Pigment White 4 (77947)
Chemical Name:Zinc(II) Oxide
Chemical Formula:ZnO
CAS No.1314-13-2
EC No.215-222-5
ASTM Lightfastness Rating
Physical Properties
Specific Gravity:5.4–5.7
Density:5.6 g/cm3
Refractive Index:ε=2.02, ω=2.00
More Information
BrandRublev Colours
VendorNatural Pigments
Processing TimeOrders ship on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Pigment TypeInorganic, Synthetic

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Zinc Sulfide Pigment
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