Dye-Pigments Q&A

Top Frequently Asked Questions:

1. In Textiles


  • Q: How does cochineal look like?
    A: Dried cochineal looks like small silver-grey peppercorns or plant seeds.

  • Q: Originally, where does the cochineal comes from?
    A: Cochineal is a traditional natural dye for colouring textiles in South and Central America and has been used for beautiful, lightfast and permanent scarlets, pinks and reds for centuries.
    Mexican cochineal was one of the main exports of the Spanish empire.
    Peru remains the most important producer of cochineal and accounts for 85-90% of world production.

  • Q: Is there Cochineal dye in Europe?
    A: Cochineal was introduced from Mexico to Europe following the Spanish expedition to Mexico in 1518. The Spanish kept the source of cochineal secret and cochineal was thought to be a plant seed for nearly 200 years.

  • Q: What range of colours can I get from cochineal dye?
    A: A range of scarlet, pink and other red hues from the dye found in cochineal insects, carminic acid.

  • Q: Which fibre can I use for cochineal dyeing
    A: Cochineal works best with silk or wool, but cotton can also be used. Make sure the fibre is well scoured and washed before dyeing. Soak the fibres in water overnight or at least for a couple of hours before dyeing.

Q: Do I have to protect my self when dyeing?
A: While natural dyes, mordants and the other chemicals commonly using in natural dyeing are not highly toxic we recommend that you ALWAYS follow the safety guidelines.

– Protect yourself by using spectacles, gloves, apron and a mask when handling chemicals and dyes. Avoid skin contact and accidental ingestion or inhalation.
– Work in a well ventilated room, away from food preparation areas, children and pets.

*Although no chemical is entirely free from hazard, natural dyes and the chemical used with them present a low heath risk, provided that common sense is observed in their use and storage.


  • Q: What is the difference between Oeko-Tex and Organic?
    A: The simplest way to explain this is that organic certification is all about how the raw materials for your fabric is grown. Oeko-Tex certification is about how the fabric is processed, including things like dyes and finishes. Oeko-Tex textiles and fabrics are certified free of harmful chemicals and are safe for human use. Read more.


  • Q: What does zero discharge mean?
    A:Zero discharge can refer to two things. The first is that there are no harmful chemicals being discharged into the environment through a plant’s waste water. Zero discharge could also mean no discharge whatsoever from a plant into the waterways. Our ColorZen™ plant has both zero discharge of toxic chemicals as well as any other discharge. Our minimal liquid waste is completely recycled into our production process.
    Learn more:


2. In Cosmetics

Cochineal extract is a color additive that is permitted for use in foods and drugs in the United States. The related color additive carmine is permitted for use in foods, drugs, and cosmetics. These certification-exempt color additives and conditions for their safe use are listed in Sec. Sec. 73.100 (foods), 73.1100 (drugs), and 73.2087 (cosmetics) (21 CFR 73.100, 73.1100, and 73.2087, respectively). In the Federal Register of January 30, 2006 (71 FR 4839), FDA published a proposed rule to amend its requirements for cochineal extract and carmine by requiring their declaration on the label of all food and cosmetic products that contain these color additives.


Questions & Answers by FDA:

  • Q: Is the presence of cochineal extract or carmine in food products intended for human use required to be declared on the label?
    A: Yes. Cochineal extract or carmine must be declared on the label of all food products intended for human use, including butter, cheese, and ice cream, when present in the food (21 CFR 73.100 (d)(2)).

  • Q: How must the presence of cochineal extract or carmine be listed on the label?
    A: Cochineal extract or carmine must be listed on the label by its respective common or usual name, “cochineal extract” or “carmine.” (21 CFR 73.100 (d)(2))

  • Q: Where must “cochineal extract” or carmine be declared on the label?
    A: Cochineal extract or carmine must be declared in the statement of ingredients in accordance with 21 CFR 101.4 (21 CFR 73.100 (d)(2)).

  • Q: Are cosmetics containing carmine that are not subject to the requirements of 21 CFR 701.3 required to declare the presence of carmine on the label?
    A: Yes. (21 CFR 73.2087 (c)(2)).

  • Q: How must carmine be declared on the label of a cosmetic that is not subject to the requirements of 21 CFR 701.3?
    A: Carmine must be declared prominently and conspicuously at least once in the labeling (21 CFR 73.2087 (c)(2)).

  • Q: Can you provide an example of a label statement for a cosmetic that contains carmine?
    A: The presence of carmine may be declared on the label in the following manner: “Contains carmine as a color additive.” (21 CFR 73.2087 (c)(2)).

  • Q: Can color additives for which individual declarations are required by applicable regulations in 21 CFR part 73 still be declared on the label as “Artificial Color,” “Artificial Color Added,” or “Color Added?”
    A: No. These color additives must be declared by their respective common or usual names. (21 CFR 101.22(k)(2)).


3. In Art

Cochineal was used in the Americas for dyeing textiles as early as 700 B.C. Kermes is mentioned in the Old Testament and it was used as a pigment since ancient times.

  • Q: Does it has a colour Index?
    Cochineal: Natural red 4 (NR 4), C.I. 75470
    (see also) Kermes: Natural red 3 (NR 3), C.I. 75460

  • Q: What about its Chemical stability?
    A: Carmine pigment is not very stable unless it is stored in dry place.

  • Q: And its stability to light?
    A: The pigment is not lightfast and fades even under incandescent illumination.

  • Q: Is Carmine compatible with other pigments?
    A: Carmine cannot be used in acidic and alkaline conditions.

For more information identification like Microphotography, Spectroscopy and Fiber optics reflectance spectra (FORS) we encourage you to visit this site.

Examples of use:



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