As of 6 Dec 2018, KIK-IRPAs Raman spectral library of synthetic organic pigments has moved to

This old website is depreciated and will not be updated any more.
About the project

The introduction of synthetic organic pigments and binders mainly during the 20th century has caused a revolution within the art of painting. The choice of pigments has increased enormously and also polymeric binders -most notably acrylic, alkyd and polyvinyl acetate- have claimed their place in the artistic world. Even more than for traditional paintings, the knowledge of the constituents of modern materials is essential prior to any conservation treatment and to develop long-term preventive conservation strategies. Technical studies concerning the painting technique of modern paintings also require the identification of the materials used. Material identification can also provide information on the restoration history of an art object, or can be useful to answer questions regarding authenticity issues.

In a first phase of the project the focus was placed upon the identification of modern synthetic pigments which are generally organic compounds. Therefore techniques frequently used for the identification of inorganic pigments, like X-ray fluorescence (XRF) or scanning electron microscopy (SEM), are often not applicable. Especially spectroscopic techniques come to the front: micro-Raman spectroscopy (MRS) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). Both vibrational techniques require specific databases, that are commercially not available, to allow a correct and quick identification of modern pigments. As a part of this 4-years research project a spectral library of synthetic organic pigments has been created, that is made available to the conservation science community through this website.

More information on the on-going project can be found here.


Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK/IRPA)
Laboratories Dept. - Paintings Section
Jubelpark 1
BE-1000 Brussels

T +32 2 739 68 46
F +32 2 732 01 05


W. Fremout, S. Saverwyns Identification of synthetic organic pigments: the role of a comprehensive digital Raman spectral library,
J. Raman Spectrosc. 43 (2012) 1536ΓΆ€“1544

S. Saverwyns, W. Fremout, Genuine or fake: a micro-raman spectroscopy study of an abstract painting attributed to Vasily Kandinsky, Proceedings, Int. Conf. on non-destructive investigations and microanalysis for the diagnostics and conservation of cultural and environmental heritage (ART 2011), 13-15 April 2011, Florence, Italy (PDF at

S. Saverwyns, Russian avant-garde. or not?
A micro-Raman spectroscopy study of six paintings attributed to Liubov Popova
J. Raman Spectrosc. 41 (2010) 1525-1532