Naples yellow was historically made from lead-tin yellow (PY41), a toxic pigment that has fallen out of favor since the late 19th century when synthetic replacements began to overtake it. Presently, watercolors sold as Naples Yellow are either mixes (usually involving cadmium orange and white), or they’re made from PBr24. That’s what I’ll be looking at today. It’s an opaque, butter-yellow pigment that looks to me like a brighter version of Yellow Ochre.
Pigment Stats for PBr24
Chemical description: Chrome Antimony Titanate
Lightfastness: Excellent (I) per ArtIsCreation
Toxicity: Non-toxic (A**) per ArtIsCreation. There is an asterisk because it was found to be a mild irritant to the skin and eyes in studies with rabbits. Although antimony is toxic, antimony in rutile pigments is not water- or acid-soluble and not bioavailable.
Note that in some formulations, colors named Naples Yellow Deep are mixes, which may or many not contain toxic ingredients. For example, Da Vinci’s Naples Yellow Deep has a Prop 65 warning because it is a mix of PBr24 and Nickel Titanate Yellow (PY53).
Cost: Daniel Smith’s version Chrome Titanate Yellow is Series 2 (with 1 being cheapest and 5 being most expensive).
Observations of WN Naples Yellow Deep (PBr24)
Gradient: Super smooth.
Opacity: Very opaque.
Comparisons: Brighter and more “primary” than yellow ochre or MANS.
Quin Red (PR209)
Interesting oranges that are slightly dull in some ways – like, not neon orange – yet still look super bold and intense. I don’t get it, but I like it! I think these are great sunset colors.
Quin Rose (PV19)
Quin Magenta (PR122)
Just a touch of Naples Yellow Deep turns Quin Magenta into a neat Quin Rose hue. This also give us a range of subtle peaches.
Indanthrone Blue (PB60)
Dulls Indanthrone, making gray rather than green. Mostly-Indanthrone is an interesting stormy blue.
Ultramarine Blue (PB29)
Slightly less dull, but still not green.
Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15:1)
The mostly Naples part is pretty ugly, but I like the way it doesn’t go too green for use cases like sunsets where the blue-to-yellow sky may sort of go green but not really green.
Phthalo Blue Green Shade (PB15:3)
This is one of the most striking mixing differences between Phthalo Blue RS and Phthalo Blue GS I’ve seen. These are really much more green. (In real life, they look even greener, especially the ones with more of the blue pigment, which always seems to scan more royal blue and less turquoise than it is in real life.)
A touch of Naples Yellow Deep adds a smoky/smoggy warm tone to the Indigo; more makes a dull sage green, just on the muted side of Chromium Oxide Green.
Phthalo Turquoise (PB16)
Opaque, slightly dull teals/greens, including a dusty cactus green just on the bright side of Chromium Oxide Green.
Phthalo Green (PG7)
The Naples Yellow slightly dulls and warms and the green.
Transparent Red Oxide (PR101)
Although the NYD is smooth, the granulation of the TRO comes out on top of it, creating a nice sandstone appearance.
Venetian Red (PR101)
What Others Say
This is a very beautiful, pale golden yellow, lighter and slightly less saturated than (but exactly the same hue as) hansa yellow deep (PY65). It retains its glowing character from full strength to tints. It has naturally whitened color and can be used as a weak bodycolor for any mixtures requiring an opaque yellow. I prefer it to raw sienna, which in modern formulations may have permanency problems. Definitely worth trying for florals, botanicals, and warm landscapes; also mixes very interesting, intense flesh tones.Bruce MacEvoy, handprint.com
Naples Yellow is a very opaque paint, and not normally something that I would have imagined keeping on my palette. However I have found that it is really nice and glowing when extremely diluted. It’s useful for natural colors, beaches, and mixing into skin tones to give a little more weight to transparent colors.Sadie Saves the Day, A Look Inside My Palette (2017)
My Review of Naples Yellow Deep
I thought I would hate this color because it’s opaque, but… I loved it! It’s a very flexible color that can function as an earth or bold yellow, and quickly became my yellow of choice in sunsets.
My initial use case for this color was as an earth yellow, and it did not disappoint. I have always found Yellow Ochre kind of dull, and Naples Yellow Deep serves the same function but in a brighter, more cheerful, butter-yellow kind of hue. It’s a similar hue to MANS but smooth and opaque, without granulation. It’s great for mixing up those earth yellow sand and wheat shades, dull sage greens, etc.
I also surprised myself by using NYD in situations where I’d previously used a primary/middle yellow or even a lemon yellow, notably sunrise/sunset. Light yellows can look garish in the sky, but earth yellows can look too dull and/or granulating. NYD is the perfect balance, adding a bit of subtlety and mutedness to the coral mixes but still being very bright and intense. In a sky context, NYD reads as a bold yellow. In fact, using NYD has made me realize that sky yellows are much less saturated and more reddish than I had previously perceived them to be. Making skies too bright and cool is always the way I err, and NYD saves me from myself.
The opacity does not bother me as I thought it would; I just avoid using NYD as a glaze. As an underglaze or first-layer color, the opacity doesn’t matter.
In my palette? Yes!
Favorite version: I’ve only really tried WN, and I like it! I avoid Da Vinci because it contains Nickel Titanate Yellow and I didn’t love it in dot cards.