Color Spotlight: Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150)

Daniel Smith – Nickel Azo Yellow

Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150) is one half of the mix that makes up one of my favorite colors, Quinacridone Gold. Amongst the various Yellow Ochre options in the Daniel Smith Dot Cards, Nickel Azo Yellow stood out for its bright, vibrant, yellow glow.

Experiment Results

Hue: Darker in mass than a traditional yellow, bordering on ochre, it dilutes to a lovely, cool, pale lemon yellow.

Graded Wash: Extraordinarily smooth gradient. Disburses like anything in water. Perfect for sunbeams, but not for anything where you want to keep the paint in one place.

Opacity: 100% transparent.

Glazing: Glazes to a dark brownish ochre.

Bonus: Here’s the original “Color Spotlight” page I made for this in January 2022, before I finalized the format. (Redid in April 2022.)

Daniel Smith Nickel Azo Yellow – original format.

Comparison to Other Brands

Da Vinci – Nickel Azo Yellow

Da Vinci Nickel Azo Yellow

I got much a darker, more textured color in masstone from this one. Another weird thing, aside from the switch between warm and cool in masstone and dilute, is that it seems to switch from granulating to non-, with the masstone having lots of texture and the dilute end being really smooth. The mixes also look wonderfully granulating and I know it’s coming from the Nickel Azo Yellow because many of those mixers are non-granulating to a fault. Look at the granulating, muted green foliage color in the mix with Phthalo Blue Red Shade (mislabeled ‘PGRS’).

As with all the Da Vinci paints I’ve tried, I found this very easy to work with and to get deep and vivid without overdiluting.

The problem with this exact paint is that I found it very stinky. I’m not sure if this is characteristic of DV Nickel Azo Yellow or if I got a bad batch. DS’s Nickel Azo Yellow did not stink, nor did any of the other DV paints I’ve tried.

Mission Gold – Green Gold

Mission Gold – Green Gold (PY150)

Despite the name, this really is a PY150 Nickel Azo Yellow and not a green. This one had no smell and got a nice granulating masstone like the DV one. I found it more runny (easy to overdilute) but less dispersive (didn’t run all over the page.) Like Da Vinci, it got warm/brownish and dark in masstone, but like many Mission Gold paints, it has a tendency to go shiny in masstone which drives some people nuts.

Lightfastness

Lightfastness test for Mission Gold Green Gold (PY150). Left: window swatch, exposed to western light in Boston, MA, from July 22-December 9, 2023. Right: Protected strip.

No perceptible difference between these.

Multiple Brand Comparison

This comparison is based on Oto Kano’s Patreon dot card; I added Mission Gold’s Green Gold.

Nickel Azo Yellow PY150 comparison

Quick impressions:

  1. Daniel Smith – Nickel Azo Yellow: A nice version
  2. Schmincke Horadam – Transparent Yellow: A bit weak or maybe just not very brown in masstone
  3. Sennelier – Yellow Lake: Got some cauliflowering in this one, but I think it was user error. Like many Sennelier paints, it’s easy to rewet but a bit sticky.
  4. Winsor & Newton – Transparent Yellow: A warm version. I think this hue is my favorite, it resembles Quin Gold.
  5. Qor – Nickel Azo Yellow: Intense & low texture
  6. M. Graham – Nickel Azo Yellow: Similar to Schmincke
  7. White Nights – Indian Yellow: Quite dull in hue
  8. Rembrandt – Aureoline: A bit weak
  9. Da Vinci – Nickel Azo Yellow: Bold, but I think I caught a hint of an acrid nickel odor even in the dot card
  10. Mission Gold – Green Gold: Nice version, perhaps a bit less deep in masstone than DS

Commercial Mixes Made from PY150

As I mentioned above, one major mix typically made from Nickel Azo Yellow is Quinacridone Gold (at least, the hue version, ever since the original PO49 pigment ran out). Some companies make it with Quin Burnt Orange, others with a PR101 red oxide or another earth orange, but most of them involve PY150 as the yellow component.

Color Mixes

Behaves very much like a transparent middle yellow in mixes. A bit more of a glowing quality than most yellows. A bit thinner feeling, less “substantial” than Hansa yellows. More dispersive than almost any other color.

Transparent Orange

Transparent Pyrrol Orange + Green Gold
Daniel Smith Transparent Pyrrol Orange (PO71) + Mission Gold Green Gold (PY150)

Fiery goldenrod mixes.

Quinacridone Burnt Orange

DS Quinacridone Burnt Orange (PO48) + Mission Gold Green Gold (PY150) on Stilman & Birn Alpha

This mix of PO48 and PY150 is used to make the Quin Gold hue mix by several companies, including Daniel Smith. You can see how glowingly orange and lovely it is! DS also offers a “Quin Gold Deep” which uses the same pigments, but more of the PO48 than the basic Quin Gold.

Transparent Red Oxide

DS Transparent Red Oxide (PR101) + Mission Gold Green Gold (PY150) on Stilman & Birn Alpha

Some companies, such as Schmincke Horadam, make their Quin Gold hue with PY150 + PR101, like this mix. It’s very similar to the PO48 mix, but duller and more browny/less orangey.

Indanthrone Blue

Mission Gold Green Gold (PY150) + Daniel Smith Indanthrone Blue (PB60)

Because DS’s Indanthrone Blue is so purpley, these green mixes are fairly muted. It was difficult to keep the PY150 from overwhelming the blue, but you can see right at the end of the page there I managed to get one that was mostly blue and very dark – a lovely near-black Perylene Green clone!

Cobalt Turquoise (PG50)

Nickel Azo Yellow + Cobalt Turquoise
Mission Gold Green Gold (PY150) + Schmincke Horadam Cobalt Turquoise (PG50)

Bold range of yellow-greens to mint greens that never get dark. Cobalt Turquoise granulation floats in dilute.

What Others Say

The hue is interesting. It appears to be a dull golden brown in its masstone or in a pan, but lightens to a very bright, almost cool yellow when you tint it with water. It should be noted that pigments containing nickel are considered a potential health and environmental hazard since they contain heavy metal.

Denise Soden, Color Spotlight: Nickel Azo Yellow

PY150 seems to me to be a superb botanical yellow. Applied full strength, it is a yellow just on the border of brown, and makes a beautiful series of vegetable yellows, oranges and reds when mixed with a dull red or dark red violet paint. Mixed with a phthalo green, nickel azo yellow creates beautifully varied, natural yellow greens resembling the color of spring leaves and new lawns. (It works very well with most blues, too: try it in particular with iron blue [PB27] to get an excellent “hooker’s green”.) And in tints it is a gentle floral yellow, close in hue to aureolin, the hue of many varieties of flowers. Overall, I strongly recommend you try it.

Bruce MacEvoy, handprint.com

Conclusion

Nickel Azo Yellow just wows me with how glowing it is and how beautifully it mixes with other colors, both qualities it grants to Quin Gold. There is nothing else like it; it has a perfect sunbeam quality, grading easily and almost yearning to stretch and run all over the page. That’s also what makes it difficult to use for anything else; it’s so dispersive.

Another double-edged sword: it gets much darker than a traditional yellow in masstone. The good part is that it has a larger range, which makes it more versatile and useful in more situations. But it also has the quality of changing color in masstone to dilute, and even changing quality (granulating to non), which I find confusing and hard to work with.

If you learn to work with all those quirks, you could use it quite happily as a primary yellow. It mixes so easily with other colors.

On my palette? I’m still pretty married to Quin Gold on my main convenience palette and this feels reduplicative, but I have it on my “B team” for studio mixes and special effects.

Favorite version: Currently rocking the Mission Gold because I found it relatively easy to use, not as wildly dispersive as other brands, has a nice deep masstone, not stinky, and cheap. I also like Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton.

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