Artists use pigments and apprehend colour in a subjective way. The way artists perceive variations in colour and tone can define their entire artistic approach. Some artists can be defined by their recurring colour palette while others are constantly looking for new tones that will best express the concept of their new creations.

In the infinite palette of colours available today there are a handful of shades and pigments that are significant. Some are inimitable, sometimes controversial and highly prized by the creative industries. Here are four special shades with peculiar stories.

The Klein Blue

Architectural sculpture by Yves Klein. Image via Minimalismo Architectural sculpture by Yves Klein. Image via Minimalismo

One of the most famous colours in art history was created by the artist Yves Klein. The International Klein Blue (IKB) is a deep blue shaded developed by the artist in collaboration with Edouard Adam, a Paris-based paint store located on Boulevard Edgar-Quinet in Montparnasse.

The visual impact of IKB emerged from the strong ultramarine blue shade but also in the consequent excessive use by the artist.

The uniqueness of the IKB does not derive directly from the ultramarine pigment, but rather from a matt binder developed by Edouard Adam in which the colour is suspended allowing the pigment to retain its original intensity and luminosity. This binder is now called “Medium Adam 25”. Klein never patented the IKB, however, he deposited a Soleau envelope, a sealed envelope assuring the date of the invention, idea or creation, at the Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle (INPI) in May 1960.

Blue Man Group, image via Blue Man Group, image via

The IKB has appeared in numerous films, several pieces of literature and recognized by most as the colour of the painted faces of the Blue Man Group.

The Vantablack

Some may remember the acquisition of the Vantablack by the artist Anish Kapoor in February 2016, something that brought on waves of protests throughout the art world.

Vantablack, image via Pinterest Vantablack, image via Pinterest

The Vantablack with its extraordinary qualities is the darkest colour in the world and has an absorption coefficient of 99.965%. The deep black is composed of carbon nanotubes whose vertical arrangement is similar to that of a very dense forest. The name of the colour includes the acronym “Vertically Aligned NanoTube Arrays”.

Vantablack, image via Vantablack, image via

In 2012 the British company Surrey Nanosystems developed the Vantablack. The light is diffused by the nanotubes instead of reflected and remains in the dense formation of tubes before turning into heat.

Four years after its conception, the British artist Anish Kapoor makes the Vantablack pigment his own. Buying the exclusive rights for artistic use he leaves the rest of the art community behind. He had realized the creative potential of the material after having worked with it since 2014. He says that the pigment is very technical, extremely difficult to handle and to apply in sufficient quantities.

Anish Kapoor, image via Trey Speegle Anish Kapoor, image via Trey Speegle

Artists around the world started revolting against Anish Kapoor. It wasn’t so much the new owner himself that fuelled the tension but rather the fact that a color would be prohibited to use for anyone who would like to.

Christian Furr said in an interview with the Daily Mail: "I have never heard of an artist monopolizing a material. All the best artists have something for a pure black (Turner, Manet, Goya). This black is dynamite for the world of art. We should all be able to use it. It's not fair that it belongs only to one person."

Image via CB Insight Image via CB Insight

The PINK pigment

The response to Kapoor’s act did not wait. In November 2016 the pink of pinks entered the market, with a real peculiarity: it is available to all… except for Anish Kapoor!

Pigment PINK, ©Stuart Semple Pigment PINK, ©Stuart Semple

The PINK pigment was sold and marketed by Stuart Semple for only 3 pounds. It is considered to be the most intense pink pigment and Semple never hid his intention to answer Anish Kapoor for depriving the art community such an exceptional commodity. He said he had been dying to use the Vantablack in his own work and was terribly disappointed when he heard the news. The extra-concentrated pink pigment reflects the light in such a powerful way that once applied, the paint creates a fluorescent effect.

Pigment PINK, ©Stuart Semple Pigment PINK, ©Stuart Semple

The purpose was, of course, to return the favour by publicly refuse Kapoor access to the material. Online shoppers were even required to sign a sworn statement that they were not Anish Kapoor, does not relate to him and promise that the pigment would not end up in his hands.

But it didn’t last long until Kapoor’s subtle response appeared in social media. The insulting image of the British artist in possession of the pigment, or rather his middle finger dipped in the pink pigment, in a subtle pose addressed to Stuart Semple was posted on the artist’s Instagram in December 2016. The public's reactions to Kapoor were virulent and this little war of colours took on a new dimension, which some calling it ridiculous.

Anish Kapoor's Instagram Anish Kapoor's Instagram

Semple's response was almost instantaneous: he published a video in which he does the victory sign with his fingers covered in a substance strangely resembling the Vantablack. The artist’s colleague, Emily Mann, stated that she could not “for obvious reasons” deny or confirm that the pigment was authentic. The legendary peace symbol confirms that Semple did not want to stir up any tension. He simply replied to Gizmodo magazine that "Anish is the one who robbed the artist community of the black, who stole our rose and made us a finger of honor, we just had fun creating cool, colorful and glittery things" A statement that seems to close the debate since there were no new public attacks between the two artists since.

Stuart Semple's Instagram Stuart Semple's Instagram

Prince Purple Love Symbol #2

We end with a colour whose more positive story takes root this time in the music industry. We had already told the story last year, when the Pantone Color Institute announced in August 2017 the release of its new colour purple Love Symbol # 2 dedicated to the singer Prince.

Violet Love Symbol #2, image ©Pantone Violet Love Symbol #2, image ©Pantone

The Estate of the legendary Purple Rain singer makes it its official colour, to keep a consistency in the representation of memory and the "brand" Prince after his death. The nuance is now a certified colour and is inspired mainly by his Yamaha piano, but also his guitar and eccentric outfits that have made purple his trademark for decades.

Piano Yamaha de Prince. image via Jelliottco Piano Yamaha de Prince. image via Jelliottco

The tribute is accompanied by Prince's famous hieroglyph, which mixes the symbols for man and woman and is found on many of his clothes and accessories.

"When there’s blood in the sky: red and blue equals purple…" - Prince