Pigment Identification

Course Details


This is a course in paint materials identification in paintings and architecture for conservation professionals. The focus of this course is the identification of pigments using polarized light microscopy (PLM). A practical introduction to PLM methods is taught using many examples from the world of pigments. A more thorough treatment of PLM theory and principles is covered in the Polarized Light Microscopy course.

This course also introduces students to other analytical methods used as confirmatory methods; these include microchemical methods, elemental characterization using XRF or SEM/EDS, Raman, and infrared spectroscopy. Students examine and sample paintings and architectural artifacts, prepare specimens for analysis, perform PLM analysis, and direct or perform further confirmatory analyses. Methods for characterization of binding media and support canvas materials are also discussed.

  • Basic principles of stereomicroscopy including coaxial, oblique, and ring light illumination techniques used for inspecting and recording paint samples. Students use the Olympus SZX10 stereomicroscope
  • Examining and sampling paintings and architectural materials, specimen preparation for PLM, and other analytical techniques
  • Mechanical and optical microscope alignment for optimal illumination considerations and a micrometry exercise. Students use the Olympus BX51 polarized light microscope
  • Determination of particle morphology, color absorption, and other characteristics
  • The principles of plane-polarized light with hands-on exercises on how to perform refractive index measurements, observations of color, and pleochroism
  • The principles of crossed-polarized light with hands-on exercises determining isotropic vs. anisotropic, birefringence using the Michel-Lévy interference color chart, and qualitative extinction positions of particles
  • Survey of artist’s pigments
  • Introduction to canvas fiber analysis
  • Sampling architectural materials
  • Confirmatory methods: microchemical tests, EDS, FTIR, and Raman
  • How to sample paintings and architectural materials
  • How to identify artist’s pigments
  • Polarized light microscopy (Olympus BX51 microscopes and SZX10 stereomicroscopes)
  • Canvas fiber analysis

Everyone with the need for problem solving using polarized light microscopy, including:

  • Conservators
  • Archaeologists
  • Color scientists

All instrumentation, materials, and supplies necessary for successful completion of this course will be provided onsite by Hooke College of Applied Sciences.

“This was a thoroughly enjoyable course and I am thrilled I could take it. I learned a lot about all the different pigments, papers/fibers, and the difference between the many analyses.”

“The various samples/specimens provided at the end of the course allowed us to immediately apply what we learned, and this was a very good way to validate and reinforce the concepts we learned.”

  • Familiarity with paints and pigments
  • Familiarity with polarized light microscopy concepts is helpful

Students are expected to successfully complete a variety of tasks in the form of hands-on exercises, laboratory exercises, identifications of unknowns, and quizzes. In addition, the students are required to have 100% attendance during the course, participate in class, complete a student evaluation form and pre- and post-course assessment forms.

The student is notified at the end of the course whether or not they have successfully completed the requirements of the course based on:

  • 100% Attendance
  • Class participation
  • Completion of all course material
  • Completed and signed student evaluation form

Upon successfully meeting these requirements, a student is awarded a certificate of completion and CEU credits, if available. Those who have not successfully passed the course requirements do not receive a certificate or CEU credits.

Upcoming Dates


August 19, 2019 - August 23, 2019
$1595 | 3 credits
M - TH | 8am - 5pm F | 8am - 12pm
Instructor: Joseph G. Barabe
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