Alizarin Crimson

Alizarin Crimson or Madder Lake belongs to one of the oldest known pigments and has been used for over 3000 years in the production of artists’ colours. Originally the pigment was obtained from the root of the madder plant. Since the middle of the 19th century, however, Alizarin has been synthesized from organic chemicals as a first natural dye. The pigment is mainly used in the oil, tempera, acrylic and water-colour painting techniques. The definition is quite different, sometimes it is called Alizarin Madder Lake, Madder Light or Madder Deep or Madder Lake or Alizarin Crimson, which is very common in English speaking countries. Apart from the different names the shade is always related to the same colour field, depending on the variant of a lighter or deeper, cold or translucent red – in any case a typical traditional pigment!

Why are there so many different names?

The description Alizarin Madder Lake or Alizarin Crimson is not established through a standard, this means that the colour manufacturers choose one of the names often related to their own history. The different descriptions mean the following:

  • Alizarin = alizarin (synthetic form of madder), madder red
  • Madder = colour formerly obtained from the madder plant
  • Madder lake = madder red
  • Crimson = carmine, purple
  • Used as adjective: blood red, deep red, purple red, carmine or crimson red


In the past, Schmincke has used the names Alizarin Madder Lake or Madder Deep and now Alizarin Crimson in the new series Finest Artists’ Acrylic PRIMAcryl®. Other manufacturers use names like Alizarin Carmesin, Alizarin Crimson or Permanent Alizarin Crimson as well as Alizarin Crimson hue for the same or similar shades.

That means that the colour Alizarin Crimson is listed in the Schmincke range under Alizarin and/or Madder Lake as you can see in the following: