Natural pigments


Natural pigments are naturally occurring colored substances obtained from plant or mineral compounds. They can be mixed with oil, water, or any other liquid to create coloring products such as paint. Some natural pigments can be used as food colorants while others are used to create art.


Plants contain colored molecules that account for their unique colors. The colors may range depending on the species of the plant and the environment that the plant is in.


There are four main types of plant pigments. The color of each plant is determined by the type of colored molecules that are in the leaves. Also, the intensity of these colors may vary depending on the amount of molecules in each plant.

Plant pigments can be classified into four main groups:

Chlorophylls are naturally occurring pigments that give plants their green color. These molecules are essential during photosynthesis. Chlorophylls aid in the conversion of light energy into chemical energy.

Anthocyanins are colored glycosylated pigments that give fruits and flowers the colors blue, yellow, red, and purple. The pigments are water-soluble meaning they can dissolve in water.

Betalains are nitrogen-containing plant pigments that are exclusively found in fungi and plants of the Caryophyllales order. Like anthocyanins, betalains are water-soluble.

Carotenoids produce rich orange, red, and yellow colors in plants by absorbing indigo and blue light.

There are two sub-groups of betalains;

Betaxanthins account for the yellow-orange pigments in different parts of certain plants.

Betacyanins give fruits and vegetables a red-violet pigment.

By using plant pigment chromatography, you can safely separate and identify different categories of plant pigments.



Most plants have a characteristic green color. The pigment that brings about this unique and beautiful coloration is chlorophyll. It can achieve this because it does not absorb green wavelengths when light strikes the surface of the leaves.

  • Chlorophyll is not only present in the leaves but can also be found in the stems of plants.
  • In plants, chlorophyll is found in specialized cell organelles called chloroplasts.


Photosynthesis is the process through which green plants and phytoplanktons make their own food by transforming light energy into chemical energy.

  • Certain conditions must be met for photosynthesis to occur in plants. There must be chlorophyll, water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide.
  • In plants, photosynthesis occurs in the chloroplast. Cholorapalsts have two membranes that enclose the organelles.
  • Plant cells contain hundreds of chloroplasts. The number may, however, vary from one cell to another.
  • During photosynthesis, plants break down carbon dioxide and water to form oxygen and glucose.
  • Plants use glucose during the absorption of nutrients from the soil. On the other hand, the oxygen that is produced is released into the atmosphere. This allows plants to sustain life on earth.
  • Plants that can manufacture their own food through photosynthesis are known as autotrophs.


Aside from keeping green plants healthy, chlorophyll has therapeutic properties and can improve health. It contains powerful antioxidants and vitamins that can boost the immune system.

The structural and chemical properties of chlorophyll are similar to that of hemoglobin, a special blood protein that carries oxygen. And that is one of the reasons why chlorophyll is used in detoxifying blood.

Chlorophyll can also be used for cleaning the intestines.


Using plants to make natural pigments is a unique form of art. You can easily derive colors from different types of plants. Green plants like spinach will provide you with green pigments. Blueberries and golden beets can also be used. The former will provide you with a rich dark purple pigment while the former delivers a yellow pigment.

You can use just about any type of plant when making natural pigments.

The five simple steps below can help you extract pigments from different types of plants:


Choose a plant that has the color that you need.


Put the plant material in a cooking pot and fill it with water.


Boil the water until it changes color.


Allow the water to cool and sit for up to 3 hours.


Transfer the colored water into the container that you intend to use when painting.

You can also make dyes and paints using natural earth pigments. Like chlorophyll, these pigments occur naturally. They are exclusively found in mineral compounds.

Earth pigments are insoluble, meaning they cannot dissolve in water or any other base.

Natural earth pigments can only adhere to surfaces with the help of binders.


Pigments greatly improve the aesthetic appearance of the natural world. Different parts of the body are made of natural pigments. All natural hair color is the result of a pigment called melanin.

  • The color of each individual’s hair is determined by the amount of melanin in the hair.
  • Melanin distribution may vary from one person to another depending on each person’s genetic makeup.
  • The skin also gets its color from this pigment 

Pigments create the beautiful and rich colors that we see in different organisms and plants. Some pigments play a special role in biological processes. Without chlorophyll, plants cannot trap the light needed for photosynthesis. As a result, we won’t have oxygen.

Plants also extract the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, thus purifying the air that we breathe.

Both plant and earth pigments can be used in making paints and dyes. Most of these pigments can easily be extracted, so you can make your own homemade pigments. Some pigments are water-soluble while others are not.

Earth pigments can be found in areas where the earth is exposed through mining or corrosion. These pigments make excellent dyes that you can use for painting. The color of the dyes may vary depending on the geological makeup of rocks in a specific region.

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