Metallic pigments consist of tiny flat pieces of aluminum, copper, gold, silver, zinc and other metals which reflect light the way a mirror does.
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These pigments are two-dimensional. Interference pigments consist of various layers of a metal oxide deposited onto mica, a natural mineral. Light striking the surface of these pigments is refracted, reflected and scattered by the layers that make up the pigment. Through a superimposition or interference of the reflected rays of light, a changing play of color is created, with the most intense color seen at the angle of reflection.
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The colors produced by interference are dependent on the angle of observation and illumination, and they will alternate with their complementary color as the angle changes. As a result, interference pigments are considered three-dimensional. Conventional absorption and metallic pigments display their individual colors even in dry powdered form.
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But interference pigments, made as they are from two nearly colorless substances — a metal oxide and mica — all have a white to gold appearance in dry form, depending on the metal oxide utilized. So, the obvious question arises, where does the color come from in interference pigments? Again, the answer lies in the way the human eye sees color. One approach is to study the formation of color in its natural counterpart, mother-of-pearl.
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Natural mother-of-pearl shell consists of alternate layers of lime CaCO3 and protein. The luster of the pearl is produced by the reflection of light on these thin layers and the superimposition or interference of the various reflected rays. The sensation of color results solely from the interference of light rays, and not from any pigments or dyes present in the shell.
The latter are made by coating mica particles with extremely thin layers of either titanium dioxide TiO2 or iron oxide Fe2O3 — both of which have high refractive indexes see box on useful terms. The color of the reflected light varies, depending on the thickness of the metal oxide layer.
By applying increasingly thick coatings of titanium dioxide, a spectrum ranging from silver through yellow, red and blue to green is produced, as diagrammed below. Colors ranging from bronze through copper to red result from increasing the thickness of iron oxide coatings onto mica particles.
When interference pigments based on titanium dioxide are given an additional layer of iron or chrome oxide, or combined with a conventional absorption pigment, additional three-dimensional effects result and the range of colors increases.
By immersing interference pigments in a surrounding vehicle e. Since the refractive indexes of all the components are known, the interaction of transmission, refraction and reflection can be calculated in advance by the laws of optics.
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