YInMn Blue

Imagine inventing a color. Not a new shade or tint or blend made from others on the palette, but an entirely new pigment with a novel chemistry. For most artists that thought alone can instill a strong sense of wonder, of something magical and mysterious being coaxed into being from an alchemical mix of ingredients. And of course our imaginations immediately race ahead to the potential of new possibilities and perceptions.

Something similar to this has animated the excitement over the discovery of a new blue in 2009 by chemist Mas Subramanian and his team at Oregon State University. Since then, we have received many inquiries and questions: Have we heard about it? Will we make it available to artists? What does it look like? Below we try to provide some answers as well as images of the color in both acrylics and oil.

First, what exactly is this new color? Named after the elements it is made from, YInMn Blue is a complex inorganic pigment created from a mixture of yttrium, indium and manganese oxides. By altering the amount of manganese in the crystal, the color can run from a bright blue all the way to black. In addition, the Oregon team continues to explore how swapping various minerals in place of manganese might lead to additional colors. For example, by using combinations of zinc, titanium, iron, and copper, among others, they have managed to create a variety of purples, yellows, browns, as well as a green and orange. While these additional possibilities remain a ways off, it still seems likely that the initial discovery of a singular blue might lay the groundwork for an expanded range of future colors.

Some unique properties of YInMn Blue can seem fairly exotic, although even these might eventually benefit artists as well. Two of the most noted features include being a strong reflector of NIR (near infra-red), which allows it to remain cooler than similar colors in strong sunlight, along with being an effective UV absorber, which could help limit polymer degradation in various binders. At the same time, other testing has addressed the usual concerns and shown that it has excellent lightfastness, chemical resistance, and physical durability in outdoor conditions.

In terms of color, the excitement around YInMn Blue is more about nuance than carving out a dramatically unique color space. As you can see in Image 1, where we compare YInMn Blue to both the Cobalt and Cobalt Blue Deep in our Williamsburg line, the YInMn Blue is definitely deeper with a distinctly reddish bias, which is easiest to see in the undertone and tint.

Comparison of Williamsburg's Cobalt Blue Deep. Cobalt Blue, and a trial batch of YInMn Blue

Image 1: Comparison of Williamsburg’s Cobalt Blue Deep,  Cobalt Blue, and a trial batch of YInMn Blue.

In Image 2, we compare YInMn Blue in acrylic to both our Heavy Body Cobalt Blue and Ultramarine Blue, with the three masstones grouped together on one card.  The contrast with the much redder but more transparent Ultramarine helps locate YInMn Blue within that range, where it shares the opacity of Cobalt while leaning towards Ultramarine Blue in warmth.

Comparison of GOLDEN Heavy Body Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, and a trial batch of YInMn Blue

Image 2: Comparison of GOLDEN Heavy Body Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, and a trial batch of YInMn Blue.


Given all of the above, where do things stand on making this color available? At the time of this writing the color is still waiting to be listed on TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) and until then, cannot legally be sold. Once that hurdle is past, which we hope might be in the coming year, the pigment would still remain prohibitively expensive and a challenge to add to our regular line. That said, we could certainly make it available on a custom basis for anyone interested in ordering it; just contact us at and let us know. In the meantime, know that we remain highly aware of the developments taking place both with this new discovery as well as any other innovations occurring in the world of pigments.

Finally, for those of you wanting more information about the crystal structure and how it was discovered, the following links are good places to start:

A Chemist Accidentally Creates A New Blue. Then What?

Accidently Blue

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15 Responses to YInMn Blue

  1. Tracey Adams October 24, 2016 at 5:07 pm #

    A new blue! Can’t wait until it gets the okay to sell!

    • Sarah Sands October 24, 2016 at 5:09 pm #

      When it is we will let folks know. Thanks for your interest!

  2. Mike October 24, 2016 at 7:27 pm #

    I’ve heard this is going to be crazy expensive. Do you know if the price compares to something out there now, or could a 37ml tube of oil be $200 ? It’s a nice blue tho.

  3. Égide Leblanc October 24, 2016 at 8:47 pm #

    Once again a miracle of Chemistry and dedication of Chemists to their work. If this new color becomes popular with industry -automobile, for one- the price for artists might decrease. Think of all the colors developed for the car industry -among other industrial needs- and their availability for artistic purposes… and the price got lower. No doubt GOLDEN is carefully looking to this new color. Thanks for letting know.

    • Sarah Sands October 25, 2016 at 8:51 am #

      You are quite welcome – and yes, we will continue looking at this new pigment, any of the potential variations, and of course any other new offerings that arise elsewhere. And as you suggest, if the color finds a market in any of the large commercial coatings industries, then its price should come down.

  4. Pat Reynolds October 24, 2016 at 9:37 pm #

    All I want is a blue that DOES NOT turn towards mauve or pink when mixed with white!!

    • Sarah Sands October 25, 2016 at 8:53 am #

      Hi Pat – thanks for the comment. Have you tried Cerulean Blue, in terms of something in the cobalt family that has a decidedly green bias, or of course the ubiquitous Phthalo Blue?

  5. Holly Nelson October 25, 2016 at 10:41 am #

    Thanks for this! Also, we need to remember this is a manganese blue which is safer to produce, safer to use, and very permanent. I predict the price will come down, just as ultramarine did when a process for synthesizing it was developed.

    More science-y stuff here:

    • Sarah Sands October 25, 2016 at 11:59 am #

      Thanks Holly – glad you enjoyed it! As much as we might lament the loss of many pigments, its good to have things like this to remind us that we actually live in a period of tremendous options and increasingly interesting discoveries, so we stay optimistic that we have not heard the last about this particular one, or other new pigments that will certainly be developed in the years ahead.

  6. Ivan October 26, 2016 at 7:23 am #

    Hi Sarah

    I’ve been plannig for some time to ask about Williamsburg’s plans for tis pigment. I found this thread: So Gamblin offers limited edition, but 37 ml for 195 USD… well, the only more expensive thing I can think of is probably this:

    Have you examined the oil paint based on this pigment thoroughly? Apart from hue, lightfastness and opacity, What are other properties?
    For example:
    1. What is its oil absorption and density? Does it make relatively lean or fat paint?
    2. What is the grind? Seeing the picture I suppose it is very fine or fine.
    3. When the simplest possible oil paint is made, i.e. just pigment and oil with no additives (stabilizers, driers), how fast does it dry?



    • Sarah Sands October 26, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

      Hi Ivan –

      Unfortunately we have not done much in the way of quantifying oil absorption, grind, drying rate, etc. Those will all be part of the things we will need to do in the coming rounds. For now we just wanted to share what the color looked like and the news around its eventual availability. In terms of cost, we believe it will be extremely expensive, at least for some time, so unless one felt a very strong reason to prefer it over Cobalt or a blend of Cobalt and Ultramarine Blue, it will not really add much in the way of color space.

  7. Lou R Houlemarde November 6, 2016 at 1:08 am #

    Waiting for this! Any chance of limited beta runs? As I understand, if it reflective of NIR it actually should feel like a “hot” blue and therefore may make an uncanny sky blue.

    • Sarah Sands November 7, 2016 at 9:42 am #

      Hi Lou – Thanks for the interest. As the article points out, right now we are waiting for it to get listed in accordance to TSCA (Toxic Substance Control Act) at which point it will be legal to sell. Until then we really cannot make anything available. Once that process is complete, then we should be able to figure out next steps to make this available on a custom basis. As for its reflectance of near infra-red (NIR), as you likely realize that will not really impact how it appears visually, and given the NIR levels indoors, likely not a large practical impact on surface temperature, but certainly it might play a role in the movement to find colors in exterior applications that can assist in keeping surfaces cooler, and might have a role in other higher end technological applications.

  8. Richard March 6, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

    Good luck trying to get this pigment. I’m a professional artist and an ajunct professor of art, and I’ve been trying to get a sample directly from Mr. Subramanian and Shepherd Paints in OH for almost a year, and they won’t even return my emails or phone calls.

    I’m starting to think that this whole “new blue” thing is a hoax…

    • Sarah Sands March 7, 2017 at 8:33 am #

      Hi Richard –

      Sorry to hear of your frustrations. We were able to obtain samples of the color, so can attest to it being quite real, however I believe the pigment might still be in the final steps of meeting TSCA requirements, as mentioned in the article, and so not truly available for broader commercial use. Not sure if that is the reason for the difficulty you are having, or simply that Shepard is not set up to sell directly to individuals. Your best bet going forward might be to see if someone like Kremer Pigments eventually carries it, as ultimately you will likely need to work with someone set up to sell pigments to an end user. And of course whether it will live up to its allure as a new color is still to be seen.

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