What is Ocher?

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What is Ocher?
Ocher or “ochre” is a type of clay that is used as color pigments. This material comes in a variety of colors like yellow, white, pink, red, and blue. This clay-type material or substance is usually put through a grinding process until they become powdery. The clay powder is then mixed with some form of liquid like water, eggs, or animal fat to form paint.

Though the source material comes in different colors, the term “ocher” or “ochre” is synonymous with a golden type of yellow or yellowish brown color. This pigment may also come in other hues like “red ochre” or “purple ochre” which makes it necessary for some to label the yellow pigment as “yellow ocher” or “gold ocher” and not just “ocher”.

Ocher clays are said to organic and non-toxic. These clays have been used in the past for its medicinal properties. Today, ochres are mainly used as color pigments and can be found abundantly in many parts of the world. Cyprus is said to have the best quality brown ochres. France meanwhile is the site for high-quality yellow and red ochres. Blue or purple ochres also exist but this hue is quite rare.

And since ochres come in different hues, prehistoric cultures also use them to color paintings and pottery. Some cultures use them in making tattoos on the skin. Others also use ochres as part of their rituals and cultural activities. One such ritualistic activity is a burial rite for a dead person. It has been recorded that civilizations of the past used red ochre pigments to color burial ceremonies. Egyptian women used ochres as lip gloss while the Maori natives of New Zealand painted their canoes with ochres mixed with fish oil.

Today ochres are still used as coloring agents and many other materials may be mixed with them to produce different shades and hues. Sand, charcoal, and ash may be mixed with existing ochres to come up with a preferred color.

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