So where do you find rocks that can be processed down into fine pigments to make paint and stains? And what rocks to look for?
Here's the thing. Any rock that you can grind down finely can be used. Some rocks are much, much easier to grind down finely than others so that's the only trick there is. If you had the ability to grind diamonds into fine dust you could use diamonds. It's really this simple.
My mortar and pestle that I use for initial smashing of rocks is a cast iron mortar and pestle and then once pea sized, I switch to my granite mortar and pestle. This means that I am only able to grind down rocks that are softer than granite. Granite is pretty darn hard. It is a 6-7 on the moh's hardness scale. So really, the main limiting factor is whether or not you can grind it down to a fine powder.
Just another reminder to use dust masks, people. Please.
The short answer to where to find rocks for pigment is anywhere. The long answer is that it depends on where you live.
Here is an example of a bunch of rocks and dirt revealed when a construction crew came through and dug an area up. Road cut outs (where hills are cut away for a road to pass through) are often excellent places to check.
Another place to check is where land meets water - river, lake, ocean shores and even tiny creek beds.
Below is a perfect example of a river source. Just looks like a bunch of brown stones, right? Any color here?
These are sandstone - I talk about how to process rocks for wood stains in a different post that features sandstone.
The rocks pictured at the very top of this post ground down finely and easily into these colors:
These are mostly ochre colors, near the site of an abandoned iron mine. If you happen to have iron mining history in your area (time to dig out the local history books) it can be an excellent place to search.
Sometimes, following clues like the names of towns or roads can lead you to interesting places.
In some areas of the world, exposed rock and land formations have bands of colors or there can be entire mountains of color (think colorful desert areas that include names like "painted" or "red" for starters) so it really depends on where you are.
Every handmade rock or earth based color I use is also tested for lightfastness directly on wood samples like these above. I have yet to find a single earth based pigment that fades in the slightest...which is why I am so enamored with them and why they have replaced plant colors for me (with the exception of beloved indigo here and a few others). More on using indigo on wood here.
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