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In biology, pigment is any material resulting in color in plant or animal cells which is the result of selective absorption. Some biological material has so-called structural color, which is the result of selective reflection or iridescence, usually done with multilayer structures. Unlike structural color, pigment color is the same for all viewing angles. Nearly all types of cells, such as skin, eyes, fur and hair contain pigment. Butterfly wings typically contain structural color, although many of them contain pigment as well. Creatures that have deficient pigmentation are called albinos.

Because pigment color is the result of selective absorption, there is no such thing as white pigment. A white object is simply a diffuse reflecting object which does not contain any pigment.

In the coloring of paint, ink, plastic, fabric and other material, a pigment is a dry colorant, usually an insoluble powder. There are both natural and synthetic pigments, both organic and inorganic ones. Pigments work by selectively absorbing some parts of the visible spectrum (see light) whilst reflecting others.

A distinction is usually made between a pigment, which is insoluble, and a dye, which is either a liquid, or is soluble. There is no well-defined dividing line between pigments and dyes, however, and some coloring agents are used as both pigments and dyes. In some cases, a pigment will be made by precipitating a soluble dye with a metallic salt. The resulting pigment is called a "lake".


List of pigments

Heme/Porphyrin based

Light emitting




Painting pigments

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