With restrictions lifted we have been able to welcome visitors to the factory once again. A group of 16 staff and students from Bath Spa University took advantage of our open door policy and arranged a factory tour in November. Student and gifted oil painter Nahraine Abid (1st year Painting student at Bath School of Art, Film and Media) encourages others to increase their understanding of how ink and paint is made by arranging a visit too!

‘Last month I was part of a group of students who visited the Cranfield in South Wales. This was the first time any of us had been in a paint factory and we were almost as excited as the university staff who came with us! We were instantly amazed by the array of colours and smells as the Cranfield staff, who were very friendly and hospitable and toured us around the factory.

The tour was incredibly informative. The machinery and manufacturing processes involved in the production of oil paint and printmaking inks, and the roll mills especially were especially interesting to me. It involves three rollers that grind down the oil paint pigment particles between the rollers moving at different speeds. This affects the viscosity as well as the transparency of the paint. Once the process is complete, the paint maker fills the paint into large tubs by hand or into tubes my machine. This was all really satisfying to watch!

We were then given a tour of the laboratory where they test, research, develop and experiment new ideas. The Cranfield staff showed us how chocolate is used to check the odour (called taint) of the oils used. It’s a way to check if the oils used in paint are spoiled. If you’re still able to smell the pleasant aroma of the oil along with the smell of chocolate it means it’s good to use. However, if the smell of chocolate and oil are unpleasant or rancid, the oil cannot be used. We enjoyed using a light box filled with printed and painted samples. Using the different lighting settings and wavelength we saw a phenomena called ‘metamerism’; colours appear to change caused by the wavelength of the light source being different from the wavelength of the pigment. It was amazing how much difference light makes to colour.

Overall, this was a very memorable experience that has given me a closer look at how paint is made behind the scenes. And now when I squeeze a tube of paint onto my palette I think of how it’s been made.’

If you are a member of the teaching faculty of an art college or university or involved with an art club who you think would benefit from a visit to the factory in Cwmbran South Wales, please do get in touch. We look forward to welcoming you! An understanding of the processes involved in the manufacture of colour and the limitation and potential of various pigments is more than ‘interesting’. For many artists, it can change the whole way of working.