Ochre is a natural pigment created from clay and sediment deposits, in colors ranging from yellow to dark red and brown. Minerals such as hydrated iron oxide give ochre its distinctive and varied earth-tone colors.
The colors of ochre are determined by the minerals that settled with the sediments that led to its formation. The mineraloid limonite gives ochre a yellow color and is the base for all ochre types. Altering the properties of the limonite changes the color due to the iron oxide present in the material. It is roasted, heated and dehydrated to achieve certain colors.
Ochre has been used as a cosmetic and an art medium since prehistoric times. Paintings using ochre have been found in caves, drawn by early man. It was also used as a cosmetic by the Egyptians and in modern times by the women of the Himba ethnic group as a skin coloring.