Ancient Color

Ancient Color

Creating Using Investigating

Pink Pigments

Rose madder

Rose madder
Rubia tinctorum roots
Rose madder
Rose madder pigment
  • What is it made of? Rose madder dye and pigment are derived from the root of the Rubia tinctorum plant, a relative of coffee and gardenias. It is also known as dyer’s madder.
  • Where does it come from? In antiquity, these plants were grown in India, the Middle East, and Egypt, and they were used throughout the Mediterranean region.
  • How is it made? To produce the dye, madder roots were steamed in pits, then dried and crushed in pounding mills. Like indigo and Tyrian purple, rose madder could be used as a pigment by chemically adhering the dye to a metallic solid, such as alum.
  • Fun fact! Both the dye and pigment forms of madder fluoresce orange-pink under UV light.

Dilute Tyrian purple

See Purple.

Panel painting under visible and UV light Close×
Traces of rose madder on a Roman Egyptian panel painting, KM 88617.