Nickel Titanate, the Coolest Yellow


As any of my students will tell you, I’m a big fan of the pigment nickel titanate yellow. Nickel who? Yes, it’s the most luscious pigment you’ve never heard of, but its temperature makes it an essential color on my palette.

Nickel titanate is a cool yellow. Many painters’ palettes include a cool and warm version of each primary. (See Expanded Primaries Landscape Painting Palette.) For example, alizarin permanent (cool red) and cadmium red (warm red). Nickel titanate is the cool version of yellow, as compared to cadmium yellow or hansa yellow, which lean toward the red side of the spectrum. Titanate serves as a substitute for lemon yellow which is the traditional cool yellow. What I like about titanate is that its cool attributes are more distinct than those of lemon yellow. As compared to lemon, titanate is not as intense, and has a slightly greenish cast. It is very opaque and holds up well in mixture.

Cadmium yellow and nickel titanate yellowHansa yellow on the left, compared to nickel titanate on the right, clearly demonstrates the temperature differences between these warm and cool yellows. Cadmium or hansa yellow are closer to the orange or red side of the color wheel, while titanate sits slightly closer to the green side of the wheel.

Not all manufacturer’s have nickel titanate in their lineup. However, these do: Gamblin, Daniel Smith, Old Holland, Sennelier, Blockx, Williamsburg, and Grumbacher.

For a more detailed explanation of cool and warm pigments, see Expanded Primaries Landscape Painting Palette.


About Author

Mitchell Albala is the author of Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice (Watson-Guptill, 2009). A best-seller with over 35,000 copies in print, it has been called the "new classic of landscape." A respected teaching artist for more than 25 years, Mitchell currently teaches at Gage Academy of Art in Seattle, Pacific Northwest Art School, Winslow Art Center, and Arte Umbria in Italy. He has also lectured at the Seattle Art Museum and written for International Artist and Artists & Illustrators magazines.


  1. Have a tube of this yellow but now need to experiment with it. Initial try seems to be not as “strong” in tinting nor covering power but might be nice in subtle landscapes.

  2. Mitchell Albala on

    Nickel T is not as strong and opaque as, say, cadmium yellow medium, but it is by no means a pigment with extremely low tinting strength, like terre verte. Essentially, I reach for it whenever I want a yellow that is cooler and will not overpower the mixture the way a cadmium or hansa can. I also find it very helpful when trying to inject some warmth into blue skies. It is less disruptive to the mixture than a cadmium because it is cooler.

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