Colorlab

From 2016 up until 2019 an initial research project is being conducted at the lab focusing on new ways of creating colours: The Color Biolab.

The Color Biolab is a transdisciplinary research project approaching the color field from different perspectives: from sustainable production and application, to the use of color as a common language between art and science. Starting from traditional coloring, to living organisms or waste, this project aims to reflect about the possibilities of new coloring sources, and the implications involved.

Most of the work has been developed in LABORATORIUM, the experimental lab for art/design and biotechnology at KASK. In LABORATORIUM microorganisms have been cultured, pigment extraction has been performed and applied as well as microbial visualization or chemical reactions.

In this page you can find a database of coloring materials used in the laboratory. To see the projects developed from this research, you can click here.

Some of the results generated of this research have been exhibited and presented in national and international conferences and art spaces. Knowledge generated is transferred by workshops, presentations and a seminar, in and out of the art academy.

This project is led by María Boto together with Kristel Peters and explores different approaches to the production and application of living, sustainable and/or open colors at KASK / School of Arts of University College Ghent.

"The Color Biolab" project is funded by the Arts Research Fund of University College Ghent.

Chlorociboria aeruginascens

Small green-blue mushroom with a turquoise mycelium. It is able to change the color of the wood that infects, making it a valuable material for decorative woodworking (green oak).

Type: Fungi Color: blue-green Pigment production: xylindein Growing conditions: forest on decaying wood Applications tested: wood

Pleurotus

Mushroom genus that can grow in different colors, pink (Pleurotus salmoneo), grey (Pleurotus ostreatus) and yellow (Pleurotus citrinopileatus). They are all edible.

Type: Fungi Color: yellow, grey, pink Pigment production: Growing conditions: mushroom substrate Applications tested: spores on paper

Bradyrhizobium sp

Gram (-) soil bacteria which many may fix nitrogen, living in symbiosis with leguminous plants. It takes atmospheric nitrogen and fix it into ammonia. The nitrogen not used for the plant enriches the soil.

Type: bacteria Color: yellow colonies Pigment production: -- Growing conditions: nutrient agar Applications tested: --

Streptococcus agalactiae

Gram (+) aerobic bacteria, facultative anaerobe.Commensal bacteria of human and animal microbiota.

Type: bacteria Color: red/orange Pigment production: Granadaene
Growing conditions: Nutrient agar +glycerol Applications tested: --

Alchemilla mollis

Known as Lady’s mantle, it flowers from May to September with small, yellow-green, chartreus colors. It grows in a wide range of habitats from stream banks to meadows and wind-swept plains and mountainous areas.

Type: flower Color: mustardy yellows, brownish green Part: leaves and flowers
Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Alkanna tinctoria

Alkanna tinctoria is a small, soft hairy perennial herb growing between 20 till 30 cm height, flowering from June to July with small blue flowers and grey green leaves.A red dye is obtained from the roots, it is used by pharmacists as well as in perfumes and to stain wood or marble. The dye is also used in thermometers and as a litmus to test for acids and alkalines. It can make wood look like rosewood or mahogany.

Type: herb Color: purple and lavender Part: roots Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Berberis aristata

A spiny bush, ranging between 2 and 3 meters in height. Cluster of yellow flowers in spring (mid-March/ April) and red to plum colored bean-shape berries (May /June).The genus Berberis has an important place in various traditional systems of medicine worldwide for their medicinal properties.

Type: bush Color: yellow Part: roots, stem Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Betula pendula

A fast-growing tree and a white colored bark papery look like. 20 meters height growing catkin flower cluster (= fruiting body) in early spring. The Betula / birch is often called a 'pioneer' species, one of the first trees to occupy suitable ground.

Type: tree Color: brown Part: inner bark, leaves Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Cladonia genus

Pale green moss-lichen. They are the primary food source for reindeer and caribou, that’s why the economic importance to reindeer-herders of Russia and Scandinavia

Type: lichen Color: yellow, green Part: whole Applications tested: wool Mordants: none

Cosmos_sulphureus

Cosmos sulphureus is a prolific seed-producing annual herb. It grows to 2 meters tall with yellow flowers from May until November. The species name sulphureus is in reference to the orange-yellow colors of the plant’s flower.

Type: flower Color: yellow, orange Part: flowers Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Dactylopius coccus

Cochineal is an oval insect that grows on cactus recovered by a white wax to protect itself from sun and water loss. Used by Mayas and Aztecs is exported to Europe by the Spanish as an expensive red dye, responsible to a great extent of its imperial economy. Once the synthetic colors appeared, the use and value of this material decreased.

Type: insect Color: red Part: whole insect Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Equisetum arvense

A prolific weed/plant with fat clusters in green ‘horse-tail’ shapes. It reproduces itself not by seeds but with spores (these spores are using ‘legs’ to walk and jump). It grows in wet places such as moist woods, ditches or wetlands.

Type: weed Color: yellow Part: leaves Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Evernia prunastri

Green lichen with a “fork” shape. The color on top is green and white on the bottom. Evernia is abundant on branches and twigs of trees (oak, fir, pine) and bushes in the countryside. Sensitive to air pollution, is usually found in clean air environments.

Type: lichen Color: orange, green, red-pink Part: whole Applications tested: wool Mordants: none

Frangula alnus or Rhamnus frangula

Buckthorn is a large, slow-growing bush that reaches up to 5 meters in height with small red berries in the spring that become black when ripe. Traditionally, the wood has been used for making nails, shoe lasts and charcoal to manufacture gunpowder.

Type: bush Color: mustard yellow / brick or cinnamon red Part: bark, leaves, fruit
Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Genista tinctoria

A perennial herbaceaius plant until 1,5m height with yellow flowers. Dyers’ greenweed contains luteolin, the same water-fast pigment as weld.

Type: herbaceous plant Color: clear yellows Part: whole plant Applications tested: Dye cotton Mordants: Alum, Iron, Titane

Haematoxylon campechianum

Logwood is a small spiny tree, height: 9-15 m, short trunk irregularly fluted and contorted. Discovered by the Spanisch and was exported to Europe as an important source for dye: black and purple textile dye from the 16th cent. The generic name of logwood Haematoxylum (often spelled Haematoxylon) means bloodwood, referring to the dark red heartwood.

Type: tree Color: purple, red and black Part: wood Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Maclura tinctora

Old fustic has been used to produce a strong color at low cost. During the WW1, fustic was one of the main dyes used to produce khaki for army uniforms. Fustic is a dye which contains the flavonoid morin, a yellow chemical compound.

Type: tree Color: yellow, khaki Part: wood Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Nannochloropsis sp

Nannochloropsis genus is distributed worldwide in marine, fresh, and brackish waters.Apart from a high fat content, Nannochloropsis has been proposed as a pigment source of chlorophyll, zeaxanthin,canthaxanthin and astaxanthin.

Type: microalga Color: grass green Pigments: chlorophylls Applications tested: printed cotton Mordants: --

Parastrephia lucida

Sipu, Tola grows in the pre-cordillera and Altiplano in the North of Chile and Argentina.It is a resinous shrub that reaches a height of up to 2 m.

Type: bush Color: green, yellow Part: branch Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Parmelia and Flavoparmelia genus

Pale grey-blue to apple green lichen that grows on a wide range of surfaces. It has a wrinkled surface with powdery spots. It grows in both polluted and clean air environments.

Type: lichen Color: green, browns, reds Part: whole Applications tested: wool Mordants: none

Persea americana

The skins and pits of an avocado can be used to dye different hues of pinks. The pinkest tones are produced from the pits.

Type: fruit Color: pale pink Part: skin, pit Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Rubia tinctoria

Madder root is one of the oldest natural dyes and has been used for many centuries in Turkey, Iran, India, South Asia, Greece, Italy and Egypte. The name comes from the Latin: herba radice rubia, the plant with the red roots Madder is an evergreen perennial, growing to 70 till 100 cm height with yellow-green flowers during summer.

Type: tree Color: brown Part: inner bark, leaves Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Sambucus nigra

Elderberry is a fast-growing bush or small tree, 8-10 meters’ height. Sambucus nigra is often utilized as valuable fruit and flower crop It is a source of anthocyanin food colorant.

Type: tree Color: lilac blue and violet, green, black Part: fruit, leaves, bark Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Senegalia catechu

Deciduous, gregarious trees, height: up to 15m. bark dark greyish-brown to dark brown, rough, about 1.3 cm thick. Bold branches and pinnate leaves compound with 9-30 pairs of pinnae, leaflets around 16-50 pairs per and white to pale yellow flowers.It is very strong, hard, durable wood and not attacked by white ants or teredos. The wood is an excellent firewood and one of the best woods for charcoal. Catechu extract is also used for preserving fishing nets and ropes.

Type: tree Color: yellow, brown, olive green and khaki Part: wood Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Solidago virgaurea

It is known as glodenrod and it produces arrays of numerous small yellow flower heads at the top of the stem.The generic name Solidago is derived from the Latin word "solidare", which means "to make" of "merging". Formerly used men's goldenrod as a wound medicine and as a remedy against all kinds of kidney diseases. The addition "virga" means "thin, green branch" and "aurea" (gold)

Type: herbaceous plant Color: mustard, orange and brown/ gold yellow Part: stem, leaves, flowers Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Sophora japonica

A medium to large tree (around 30m high), spread equals height in rounded shape. Pale yellow to creamy white pea-like fragrant flowers appear every year in August. In China and Vietnam this dye was only used to color silk, embroidery thread and hat tassels, but not for other materials because of the amount of flower buds needed to prepare a dye-bath.

Type: tree Color: yellow / granite-grey Part: unopened flower buds Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Streptomyces coelicolor

Soil bacteria responsible for organic material degradation. It has a similar structure and life cycle than a fungi, including spores formation. Actinorhodin production is pH dependant, blue/green in an alkali environment, and red in acidic mediums.

Type: bacteria Color: red, blue Pigemt: actinorhodin Applications tested: silk Mordants: --

Usnea genus

Grey-green lichen that hangs from the tree branches. It looks like a mini-bush without leaves. Distributed all aver the world. It grows on trees (conifers and non-conifers), specially in mountains and wet old forests. Sensitive to air pollution, is usually found in clean air environments. Usnic acid has been traditionally used in medicine as antibiotic.

Type: lichen Color: green, browns, reds Part: whole Applications tested: wool Mordants: none

Xanthoria parietina

Yellow, orange, or greenish yellow lobes, while the lower surface is white. It is wide distributed on forests and near the coast. It may grow on tree barks or rocks, in environments with high nitrogen content. Due to its high resistance to pollution, it has been used as biomonitor of levels of toxic elements. In the past Xanthoria parietina was to treat malaria as a substitute for the cinchona bark.

Type: lichen Color: yellow, pink, blue Part: whole Applications tested: wool Mordants: none

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Leaves of bearberry or kinninnick are rich in tannins and have been used in the process of tanning hides/leather. Use leaves to get a yellow/brown and the fruit to get a grey/brown color.

Type: woody evergreen shrub Color: yellow, grey, brown Part: leaves, fruit Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Microchaete diplosiphon

Microchaete diplosiphon is a cyanobacteria known for its chromatic adaptation: it can adjust photosynthetic receptors depending on the light and to present a green or red color.

Type: Bacteria Color: red, green Pigment production: chlorophyll Growing conditions: Applications tested:

Bolinus brandaris

Bolinus brandaris is a marine gastropod mollusk originally known as Murex brandaris. The main characteristic is the production of a mucous secretion in the hypobranchial gland that has been extensively used as a long lasting dyeing substance. The color obtained is known as Tyrian purple.

Used from pre-Roman times, the big amount of mollusk needed for a little amount of dye made this color a luxury trade, becoming a color for royalty. One of the most important habitats for Bolinus brandaris is the Mediterranean Sea, where it is commonly consumed as food.

The principal responsible of this color is the 6,6’-dibromoindigo. In its shellfish, a transparent substance reacts with the enzyme arylsulfatase when put in contact, generating hydrolyzed compounds that are susceptible to oxidative and photochemical reactions in contact with sunlight, having a deep purple as result.

Type: mollusk Color: purple Pigment production: 6,6’-dibromoindigo Growing conditions: sandy-muddy to detritic environments Applications tested: paper, fabric

Chlorella vulgaris

Freshwater unicellular green microalgae. It is used as a food supplement because it is high in proteins, lipids and other essential nutrients. These round shaped microalgae multiply rapidly through photosynthesis. High chlorophyll content.

Type: microalgae Color: blue/green Pigment production: chlorophyll, phycocyanin Growing conditions: fresh water medium Applications tested: paper, fabric

Dunaliella Salina

Dunaliella salina is a green microalga that under certain conditions is able to modify its color by carotene production, being responsible for red/pink-coloured lakes such as Hillier Lake in Australia or Retba Lake in Senegal.

Type: microalgae Color: green/red/orange Pigment production: carotenes Growing conditions: marine medium Applications tested: paper, fabric

Fucus vesiculosus

Brown alga which habitat is the intertidal zones of seashores. Worldwide distributed. Because of the sodium carbonate, it has been used as soda ash and fertiliser.

Type: brown algae Color: brown Pigment production: fucoxanthin Growing conditions: seashores habitat Applications tested: paper Picture by Kristian Peters

Haematococcus pluvialis

Haematococcus pluvialis is a fresh water microalga able to produce astaxanthin as a protection element under certain conditions such as the lack of nutrients, intense bright light or high salinity. The red appearance of lakes and ponds is because of this microalga.

Type: microalgae Color: green/red Pigment production: astaxanthin Growing conditions: freshwater medium Applications tested: paper/ synthetic Haematococcus pluvialis pigment on wool

Isochrysis galbana

Marine microalgae used in aquaculture to feed mollusks and crustaceans.

Type: microalgae Color: brown, orange Pigment production: fucoxanthin Growing conditions: marine medium Applications tested: paper

Janthinobacterium lividum

Gram (-) bacteria that produces violacein, a purple compound with anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties.

Type: bacteria Color: purple Pigment production: violacein Growing conditions: LB medium +glycerol Applications tested: paper, fabric

Physarum polycephalum

Slime mold that grows in dark and wet environments. The physarochrome A pigment is the responsible for the yellow color.

Type: Mycetozoa Color: yellow Pigment production: physarochrome A Growing conditions: wet dark enviroment Applications tested: paper, fabric

Porphyridium purpureum

Porphyridium purpureum is a red marine microalgae that contains several pigments including phycocyanin (blue) and phycoerythrin (pink) in their phycobiliproteins. This unicellular round algae is widely distributed world wide is not only interesting for its pigments but also because the possibilities of being used as biomass for biofuel.

Type: microalgae Color: red/pink Pigment production: phycoerithrin Growing conditions: marine medium Applications tested: paper, fabric

Serratia marcescens

Gram (-) bacteria that produces prodigiosin, a tripyrrole red pigment probably associated with the "blood miracles".

Type: bacteria Color: pink, red Pigment production: prodigiosin Growing conditions: NA Applications tested: paper, fabric

Spirulina

Spirulina is the common name for a food supplement made out of Arthrospira, another genus different to Spirulina with similar morphological structure (the division is from 1989). Spirulina is a cyanobacteria, which means that can photosynthesize. First considered as a green-blue alga, Spirulina is widely distributed in South America, Africa and Asia in lakes with a high pH and carbonate concentration.The most important pigments that can be extracted from Spirulina are phycocyanin and phycoerythrin, responsibles of its blue color.

Type: cyanobacteria Color: blue/green Pigment production: phycocyanin, chlorophyll Growing conditions: basic medium Applications tested: paper, fabric, wood

Anthemis tinctoria

An evergreen biennial or perennial to 0.8 m height with daisy-like yellow flowers from July to August. The compounds that give the yellow color are flavonoids and they work better on wool or silk rather than on cotton.

Type: flower Color: warm yellow till green shades Part: flowers Applications tested: dyed cotton Mordants: alum, iron, titane

Hypericum perforatum

Known as Saint John's wort this plant is worldwide distributed, becoming an invasive weed in some places. Traditionally used as a medicinal herb.

Type: Flowering plant Color: green, orange, brown Part: whole plant Applications tested: Dye cotton Mordants: Alum, Iron, Titane

Microcosmic color

Colour is a physical property of the light that we are able to perceive through our eyes and transformed by our brain in form of an experience. The significance of colour is different according to the context. The colouring in science, and specifically in microscopy, it is used to visualise organic and inorganic structures, its presence or absence. However, the aesthetic result it is generally dismissed by the viewer. In this proposal materials and methods of both fields are mixed with the objective of distort the information that we are getting from the images. The support where the colour is applied are human cells and plants cells derived from Linum usitatissimu, a plant commonly used to make art canvas. And the colouring source, fluorescence pigments used for cells research and calligraphy pigments. The result is a serie of photographies where the scale is questioned by these micro-cosmic images.

This project is collaboration between the KASK-HoGent and the Center for Microbial Ecology and Technology (CMET, UGent) with the Doctor Marta Calatayud.

Monochrome

From May 27th to July 31st 2016 Salina has been exhibited at The Société (Brussels) as part of the Monochrome exhibition.

Salina are several monochromatic glass canvasses in green and orange, with colors brought by the same living source, Dunaliella salina.

Salina highlights new color possibilities to be applied in art practice using emerging biotechnology tools as well as questioning issues in this field as stability or ownership: what would our response be to an art piece which state changes autonomously? Could a living entity become a color itself? Salina suggests the viewer new possibilities in color research, and opens new discussions around art and biotechnology.

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Neochromologism.io

Neochromologism.io is an ongoing artistic website that aims to reflect about the color vocabulary that we are using in our daily life at professional and personal level by establishing connections between a color name and a meaning or experience.

The random RGB code generated for the website background is presented as hexadecimal code, a name following the rules presented above and gives also the possibility to the user of name it by creating a new color database.

This project has been developed by Laboratorium, the experimental lab for art/design and biotechnology at KASK/School of Arts Ghent, as part of the research project “The color biolab” funded by Arts Research Fund of University College Ghent in collaboration with Juan Luis Font, digital alchemy.