- Chemical Description: Bismuth vanadate
- Pigment Number: PY184
- Lightfastness Rating: ASTM I
- Pigment Opacity: Opaque
- Paint Opacity: Opaque
- Series 5
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There was excitement when Bismuth Yellow was introduced a few years ago that it might be a safer alternative to the Cadmiums which were under suspicion as carcinogenic substances and might therefore be banned eventually. Bismuth Yellow is not just safer but also has the advantage that it is opaque like the cadmiums. It is a beautiful cool light yellow very similar to Cadmium Yellow Light and has the same uses for the artist.
It does have an advantage over its Cadmium cousin in lightfastness. Cadmium Yellow is naturally a very warm yellow and to get the cool primrose color it is co-precipitated with zinc sulfide. The zinc component reduces lightfastness compared to other cadmium pigments. Bismuth Yellow avoids this problem by having lightfastness that equals or exceeds that of the pure Cadmium Yellow and is superior to the Cadmium Yellow Light.
While more golden yellows are popular because we like their warm hue, it is the cooler lighter yellows that are the most useful yellow colors to the artist. While a warmer yellow is better for mixing oranges, the cooler yellows are better for mixing greens and we tend to use more green than orange in artwork since so much of the natural world is full of greens. If I were forced to choose just one bright yellow color for my palette I would choose Bismuth Yellow due to its opacity, permanence, and versatility as a color mixer.