Nontoxic Printmaking, Safe Painting & Printed Art

Domestic Paints / Francesco Clemente: Sun, 1980 
/  tubes of Water-Miscible Oil Paint /
Roberto Parada: Amy Winehouse / Jackson Pollock’s Studio (Namuth)

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Safe Painting Guide                                    

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This section of nontoxicprint / includes safety-conscious and innovative practice, research, and resources from the vast and complex subject area of Paints and Painting. We are offering writings and resources especially about artist paints for fine art studio use, such as artist oils, acrylics, or the new water miscible paints, and their application. 

There also is information on advances and new developments made in domestic and industrial paints. Many of the issues and topics in both fields are linked, and to some degree interchangeable. Intriguingly, contemporary artists from Jackson Pollock to Damien Hurst made conscious use of household or 'trade' paints (wanting to make less 'academic' artworks). 

As the paint industry makes chemical advances these trickle down into the more refined, highly pigmented, and more lightfast artist paints, which share most of the base ingredients. Potential health issues from toxic pigments, VOCs, PAHs, thinners, and other ingredients are shared across both areas. 
So called 'nontoxic' materials and paints are currently gaining a strong foothold in the market, –– and often are not as safe as it seems –– but artists and users of paint need some specialist knowledge to make informed choices; we are hoping to aid this process. For example, recent studies confirm that many of the worlds great artists suffered from lead poisoning (Caravaggio, or Rembrandt, among them).

The potential health hazards of paints, binders, thinners, and pigments continue to be underestimated by users. Largely unnoticed by the public, it is still common for professional artists to contract various kinds of diseases, asthma, brain disease, and various kinds of cancer, often linked to solvent exposures, especially in graffity artists working with spray paints, or heavy metal poisoning from cadmium use. 

Jackson Pollock in his studio, © Hans Namuth Estate

There are many health related aspects that are relevant to both areas, and these are discussed in our pages on Pigments, Solvent Toxicity and Safe Solvent Alternatives, Reproduction Risks, and Legal Aspects. Some of the information on solvent hazards and solvent safety is based on toxicological  research and writings originally published by Art Hazard News and the  Health in the Arts Program, University of Illinois at Chicago; additional advice on current research was given by Michael McCann.

The Fine Art Painting Section includes a comprehensive essay by Merle Spandorfer on all the painting media available to artists, including acrylic painting, oil painting, gouache, pigments, mediums, etc., which was first published in Making Art Safely by Van Nostrand Reinhold, NY.

Safe Painting for Art and DIY:           Safety of domestic and DIY paint products
                                                                   in Fine Art and Interior Decorating 
                                                                    (gloss/matt | wall paints | varnishes)

Safe Painting for Artists:       Artist Paints & Studio Art

Safe Painting and Drawing:   Health in The Arts Compendium

Solvents and VOCs:      Health in The Arts Compendium

Painting with Radium:     The Radium Girls

The Art of Roberto Parada: Staying well as a Professional Artist

Safe Oil Painting: Goodby to Turpentine:   Robert Maynord

Oil Painting - nontoxic   Mike Bergen

Spike Lavender Washes and Glazes:    Robert Maynord   

Eco Friendly Paint:      Sarah Houlton, PhD

Pigments:      History, Toxicity & Alternatives

Safer Spray Painting and Airbrushing:    An overview

The Chemistry of Acrylics    Polymerization and Hazards

Solvent Toxicity:      Health Hazards and Medical Evidence

   Safe Solvents:      Non-VOC Alternatives

   Reproduction Risks:      VOCs, Paints, Thinners, and Pregnancy

   Health & Safety     Exposing Ourselves to Art and H&S Compendium

   The “Green" Art School:      Art schools moving towards safer practices

   Artmaking & The Law:      A Selection of Essays

   Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety:     An advisory and consultancy service

   UIC  Health in The Arts Center:
  A scientific compendium, 
                                                              resource and advisory service

   Instructional Videos:    A selection of relevant YouTube videos

    Starch-based Serigraphy     making ink and binders from starch, Maurice Kahn

Color-field painting, freedom, and Art

article by Friedhard Kiekeben and Willy Richardson 

  Oil Painting Hazards in Classrooms        Michael McCann

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'Painted Trees', Chicago Park District, 2011


 a nonprofit publication   2004 - 2019

The information on this website is based on what we - the individual authors - believe to be
current safety-conscious practice. Progress in the field is ongoing, opinions vary,
and new findings emerge frequently.

Please feel free to use the information from this site for your research and practice.

This is not an official safety site: we publish suggestions, research,
and recommendations about good practice and new developments, both by experts
and by informed authors and lay persons. Please let us know if you feel additional information
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