Unlocking the Secret of YInMn Blue: The Revolutionary New Pigment Redefining Vibrancy and Innovation

By Jeff Dillon | April 12, 2024 | All Posts

I’ve finally successfully secured four tubes of the sought-after and remarkably pricey new “YInMn Blue” pigment—a colour so uniquely vibrant and scarce, it’s become a symbol of exclusivity. Let me take you on a journey to explore the allure and mystery that surrounds this extraordinary shade. Which I’m really looking forward to incorporating into some of my upcoming artwork.

This breakthrough pigment by scientist Mas Subramanian, and commercialized by The Shepherd Color Company under an exclusive license, represents the first introduction of a new inorganic blue in more than two centuries. The scarcity and high cost of YInMn Blue are due to the need for rare and costly earth elements in its production, alongside its exclusive manufacture by a single supplier in very limited quantities. YInMn Blue distinguishes itself within the vast colour spectrum not only through its striking vibrancy and allure but also by its transformative influence on both the art world and colour science.

This remarkable colour, YInMn Blue (Yin-min’ Blue), owes its existence to an accidental discovery as intriguing as the shade itself. Deriving its name from the elements it comprises—yttrium (Y), indium (In), and manganese (Mn), also known as Oregon Blue or Mas Blue, it was uncovered in the laboratories of Oregon State University in 2009 by Mas Subramanian and his graduate student, Andrew Smith. Interestingly, their discovery wasn’t the outcome of a deliberate search for a new pigment but rather an unexpected find during experiments aimed at developing materials for electronic applications.

Behind the scenes of Golden Artist Colors Custom Lab as they make the first batch of Heavy Body YInMn Blue

The Unparalleled Hue of YInMn Blue

What sets YInMn Blue apart is not just its breathtaking shade but its unique properties that make it a standout in the world of pigments. Its vibrancy and near-perfect blue colour are due to the unique crystal structure, where trivalent (A common word for “trivalent” is “three-valued” or “having a valence of three.” This term is often used in chemistry to describe atoms or elements that can form three bonds with other atoms.) manganese ions in the trigonal bipyramidal coordination are responsible for the intense blue hue observed. This structure not only contributes to its colour but also to its unusually high near-infrared (NIR) reflectance, making it cooler to the touch under sunlight and offering energy-saving properties when used in coatings and paints.

The scarcity and high cost of YInMn Blue are due to the need for rare and costly earth elements in its production of this uniquely vibrant new colour.

Beyond Color: The Impact of YInMn Blue

Since its inception, the influence of YInMn Blue has transcended beyond the confines of the art palette. The pigment’s discovery has spurred extensive research into the fundamental principles of colour science by the Subramanian research team at Oregon State University. This exploration has led to the development of a wide range of novel pigments in shades of green, purple, and orange, all designed through the intentional addition of a chromophore in the same unique coordination environment as YInMn Blue.

The applications of YInMn Blue are as varied as they are groundbreaking. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the pigment’s high NIR reflectance offers potential for energy-efficient solutions in buildings and vehicles, reducing cooling costs and energy consumption. In the realm of art, YInMn Blue offers artists a stable, non-toxic option, free from the fading and health hazards associated with some traditional pigments.

YInMn Blue Heavy Body Paint by Golden Artist Colours. YInMn Blue, one of the most expensive paints, owes its high price to the rare, costly Earth elements needed for its production and its limited manufacture by a single supplier. One tube is often six times more expensive than the standard expensive paint.

A Personal Journey with YInMn Blue

Securing four tubes of the highly sought-after and expensive YInMn Blue pigment felt like an unattainable dream. Just a few years ago, it was a marvel I could only read about, never imagining it within my grasp due to its scarcity. The introduction of YInMn Blue marks not just the addition of a new colour but embarks on an extraordinary scientific odyssey. Its vibrant intensity and profound depth promise to revolutionize my art, offering a medium for expressions and creations previously out of reach. Using YInMn Blue feels like grasping a piece of magic, illustrating how science uncovers astonishing discoveries and underscores the limitless potential of human creativity along with our relentless pursuit of innovation. Pablo Picasso, particularly during his Blue Period, would have been captivated by this vibrant new colour, seeing it as a perfect addition to his palette.

The YInMN Blue colour exists in the space between Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue, adding a depth and warmth of colour combined with opacity that extends the range of blues from which to choose. 

The Future Illuminated by YInMn Blue

The discovery of YInMn Blue is a reminder of the unexpected treasures that lie in the pursuit of knowledge and exploration. As we continue to push the boundaries of science and art, YInMn Blue stands as a beacon of innovation, inspiring a future where colours not only capture our visual senses but also contribute to a sustainable and vibrant world.

YInMn Blue’s story is not just about the discovery of a new pigment; it’s about the journey of curiosity, the intersection of science and art, and the endless possibilities that emerge when we dare to explore beyond the known. It’s a vivid reminder that in the palette of science, every discovery paints a new horizon.

Unveiling the Elements: Yttrium, Indium, Manganese, and the Genius of Mas Subramanian


Yttrium: The Backbone of Vibrancy

Yttrium, a silvery-metallic transition metal, stands as a testament to the pigment’s enduring vibrancy. As a rare-earth element commonly found in combination with lanthanides, yttrium’s incorporation into YInMn Blue contributes to the pigment’s stability and luminosity. Historically significant in various applications, from phosphors in LEDs to red phosphors in television displays, yttrium’s role in YInMn Blue showcases its versatility and importance in enhancing the pigment’s visual appeal and durability.


Indium: A Touch of Transparency

Indium, with its silvery-white sheen and softness, plays a crucial role in the pigment’s unique attributes. Primarily used in the production of flat-panel displays through indium tin oxide (ITO), indium’s chemical properties lend YInMn Blue its exceptional NIR reflectance. This not only enhances the pigment’s colour but also contributes to its energy-saving potential when used in architectural and vehicular coatings. Indium’s role exemplifies the bridge between aesthetic beauty and functional innovation.


Manganese: The Colour Catalyst

Manganese, a hard, brittle metal, is the key to unlocking YInMn Blue’s intense colour. Its transition metal characteristics, particularly when found in minerals with iron, make it an essential component in steel alloys, glass making, and as an oxidizing agent. In the context of YInMn Blue, manganese ions in a specific crystal structure configuration are responsible for the pigment’s deep, vibrant blue. This not only highlights manganese’s versatile industrial uses but also its capacity to inspire and redefine artistic expression.

Created by chemist, Dr. Mas Subramanian and his team at Oregon State University, YInMn Blue is exclusively licensed to and brought to commercialization by The Shepherd Color Company and is the first new inorganic blue in over 200 years. He received the prestigious Perkin Medal from the Society of Dyers and Colourists in 2019.

Mas Subramanian: The Architect of Colour

At the helm of this elemental confluence is Mas Subramanian, whose expertise in solid-state chemistry and inorganic compounds catalyzed the birth of YInMn Blue. His work at Oregon State University has not only expanded the boundaries of materials science but has also led to the discovery of novel functional materials with wide-ranging applications. Subramanian’s dedication to exploring structure-property relationships in inorganic compounds has paved the way for the development of YInMn Blue and its siblings in various shades, underscoring the limitless potential of scientific inquiry and innovation. In recognition of his exceptional work in the field of inorganic colour pigment chemistry, Subramanian received the prestigious Perkin Medal from the Society of Dyers and Colourists in 2019.

For more information, please check out these links: 


The new “YInMn Blue” in powder form

And if you love colour as much as me, I highly recommend this book: 

“The Secret Lives of Color” by Kassia St Clair

The Secret Lives of Color tells the unusual stories of seventy-five fascinating shades, dyes and hues. From blonde to ginger, the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, Picasso’s blue period to the charcoal on the cave walls at Lascaux, acid yellow to kelly green, and from scarlet women to imperial purple, these surprising stories run like a bright thread throughout history.

In this book, Kassia St. Clair has turned her lifelong obsession with colours and where they come from (whether Van Gogh’s chrome yellow sunflowers or punk’s fluorescent pink) into a unique study of human civilization. Across fashion and politics, art and war, the secret lives of colour tell the vivid story of our culture.

Previous PostNext Post