Product Profiles: Animal-Free Art Supplies

Q: I am a vegetarian watercolorist who istrying to eliminate animal-based productsfrom my studio. I know some makers ofwatercolor use ox gall- do you? Are therevery many animal-based pigments? Do youraise rabbits for your Rabbit Skin Glue? Anyinformation you can share would be muchappreciated!

A: We're always happy to help artists who aremigrating away from animal-based art materialsand seeking out substitutes!

Both Utrecht brand watercolor and gouache are100% free of ox gall across the entireassortment. We used to include it in one item inthe watercolor line, but that was eliminated withthe reformulation several years ago. Vegans willbe glad to know we don't use honey either. It'simportant to note, however, that not all pigmentsin these lines are animal-free. Ivory Black andPayne's Gray both contain an animal-derivedpigment, so you'll want to avoid those. (IvoryBlack is derived from animal bone as a byproductof the meat industry)

In other paint lines, mixed grays often includeIvory Black so make sure to check the label.Also, you'll want to be aware that the binder in some traditional Asian watercolors and inks ishide glue.

Most of the other animal-based pigments havebeen out of use for a long time. The insectderivedcolor Carmine/Cochineal is notcommonly used for artists' colors these days,having been replaced by synthetic-organicpigments. Real carmine pigment is not includedin our gouache assortment, but it can still befound in some foods and cosmetics.

Rabbits are not raised exclusively for glueproduction, but Rabbit Skin Glue is an animalderivedproduct. Many artists who are migratingaway from animal-based art materials are nowusing the modern replacement Acrylic CanvasSizing, which offers many of the advantages ofthe traditional glue in a more convenient, moredurable product.

With some of the synthetic chemicals used in artmaterials, it's not always possible to be 100%sure whether they are made from animal fat.(The synthetic paper sizing AKD is oneexample.) For this reason, unfortunately thereare not very many European-style watercolorpapers we can be absolutely sure are animalfree. Ones which have a non-gelatin, starchbased sizing (like Canson 100) are reliablyanimal-free. Many Asian papers are producedwithout sizing, so you may discover some goodoptions in that category as well.

Couldn't find an answer? Ask the Experts here