All About the Production of Pearlescent Pigments

May 31, 2023
All About the Production of Pearlescent Pigments

When making an arts and crafts project, you can choose between various supplies. One unique supply that many people like to use is pearlescent pigment powder. Despite its popularity and unique visual effect, these people don’t know about the production of pearlescent pigments. Learning all about this production process and the science behind these pigments will give you a greater appreciation for your craft supplies.

Production Process: Adding Titanium to Natural Mica

Mica is a natural silicate mineral occurring in igneous rock, often in crystal form. Igneous rock comes from layers of volcanic material, which people can then mine through for the crystallized mica.

We can make mica powder from this crystallized mica. Grinding mica turns it into a versatile powder that contributes color and shine to various craft projects. However, some people don’t want to use plain mica powder. They want something more visually interesting.

One way to make mica more interesting is to add titanium dioxide or iron salts to the crystallized mica. Calcinate these layered minerals to create pearlescent pigment, a translucent yet shiny material. Calcination refers to heating the solid minerals to either remove volatile substances or oxidize the mass of the materials. In this case, the calcination process oxidates the mica, which helps it expand and create the unique pearlescent material we love.

Alternatives to Natural Mica: Silica and Alumina Flakes

While most manufacturers prefer to use mica as the base of their pearlescent pigment, there are other options. Silica and alumina flakes are two popular alternatives to mica.

Silica, which scientists call silicon dioxide, is oxidized silicon. We can find it in nature, often as quartz rock formations or sand, and we can produce it artificially. Layering titanium dioxide or other metal oxides on silica can still create the colorful, shiny effect of pearlescent powder. But without the colorful mica underneath, the color isn’t as vibrant.

Alumina, otherwise known as aluminum oxide, is a crystallized combination of aluminum and oxygen. The crystallized form makes it an excellent alternative to mica since it can contribute to the shine of pearlescent powder. However, it is colorless, meaning manufacturers compromise on the color properties when they use alumina instead of mica.

Types of Pearlescent Pigments: Layered and Substrate-Free

As we mentioned above, the production of pearlescent pigment involves adding titanium dioxide to mica. This creates layers of metal oxides. After the calcination process that we described and grinding these calcinated materials down into a powder, we have pearlescent pigment powder. This powder appears white or translucent at first glance but can seemingly change color as light changes.

You can find a pearlescent effect in natural materials without layering mica with other metal oxides. Natural pearl luster and white lead are two examples of these pearlescent materials that are substrate- or layer-free. However, humans are unable to replicate most of these naturally pearlescent materials. This makes them rare and expensive. While some manufacturers who buy these materials crush them into pearlescent pigment powder, this powder is often an ingredient in high-end products such as makeup.

Why Pearlescent Pigments Work: Reflection and Refraction

No matter what material is the base of the pearlescent pigment or whether it’s layered, the pigment appears colorful and shiny. This occurs because of a combination of reflection and refraction.

Reflection refers to light bouncing off a surface without absorbing it. Refraction refers to light changing direction as it moves from one medium to another. Light changes mediums as it goes through pearlescent pigment, but it also bounces off its surface. This means that at first glance in certain lighting situations, pearlescent powder is just a shiny material. However, as the light or the viewer’s perspective shifts, the pearlescent powder can take on a colorful effect.

Pearlescent Pigment Crafts: Ideas for Using Pigments

Now that you know all about the production of pearlescent pigments, you can start using these pigments in your arts and crafts. Like traditional mica powder, pearlescent pigments are versatile, so there are lots of options.

Color-Shifting Cards

Many people are starting to make their own cards instead of buying them mass-produced. One way to make your custom cards even more unique is with pearlescent pigment powder. If you paint your cards, you can add this powder to white or clear paint. Paint whatever you want with this material and once it dries, you’ll see that color-shifting effect. If you stamp your cards, you can press your stamp into clear ink before imprinting it onto your paper. Brush pearlescent pigment powder over the clear ink mark for the color-shifting effect.

Homemade Bath Bombs

Pearlescent pigment powder is safe to use in body products, not just traditional paper arts and crafts. This makes it an ideal ingredient in homemade bath bombs. You can mix this powder with the rest of your bath bomb ingredients so the color emerges when it hits the water. Alternatively, you can brush your bath bomb mold with the powder. This creates a shiny, colorful effect on the exterior of the bath bomb for a unique presentation.

Resin Jewelry

Another way you can use pearlescent pigment powder is in epoxy resin. Epoxy resin sets best with powder colorants, and pearlescent pigment powder provides color and shine. Follow the directions for mixing the epoxy resin, add a small amount of pigment powder, and mix to thoroughly combine. Pour the epoxy resin into your desired mold and let it set. We suggest using jewelry modes to create unique necklaces, earrings, or bracelets.

Understanding pearlescent pigments and the many craft options you can use this pigment in allows you to let your creativity loose. If you need pearlescent pigment powder to start any of the crafts we mentioned or contribute to another project, Eye Candy Pigments can help. Our high-quality pigments will look great in any creative project and are safe for use on skin and nails. Select from one of our many color options to create whatever effect you want. If you can’t decide on one color, we offer a variety pack with 15 color options included.

All About the Production of Pearlescent Pigments