Safety in the studio: decoding hazard symbols

Studio image depicting safe use of artist materials in the studio

Small tubes of paint may only contain the pictogram and signal word. For all products with these symbols, a safety data sheet is available from our product pages. The pictograms you are now most likely to see on artists’ material packaging are:


Avoid contact with heat, sparks or any open flame, and do not smoke while using. You will see this, for example, on a can of Winsor & Newton Professional Fixative, which should be used in a well-ventilated space to lower the risk of ignition.

Exclamation mark

hazardous material sign

This symbol is used for less serious health hazards, like skin irritation. It indicates that a material can cause irritation to the skin or eyes, or sensitisation. It also includes acute toxic effect that might arise through ingestion, dermal contact or inhalation. This appears on the packaging of Professional Fixative, along with a statement about first aid treatment if irritation does occur.

Health hazard

health hazard warning sign

This symbol relates to longer term health hazards, such as respiratory sensitisers, and could be on dusty materials such as charcoal. You will also find this symbol on the packaging of oils, mediums, varnishes and solvents, representing an aspiration hazard. When using such products, avoid inhalation and wear suitable protection, such as a face mask.

Environmental hazard

environment hazard sign

This symbol will appear on materials that contain substances such as turpentine and zinc oxide (which is found in Artists’ Oil Colour Zinc White). Any packaging with this symbol needs to be disposed of responsibly and should not go in mixed municipal waste collection such as household and garden waste. In some cases, your local council may be able to collect the waste from you.

Alternatively, you may be able to deliver it to a household recycling or civic amenity site free of charge. Your local council will be able to advise you on where to take all types of hazardous waste in your area.


When our products contain a chemical that could cause an allergic reaction in someone who already has a known shown sensitivity to a chemical, this will be written on the label as follows: Contains NAME OF SUBSTANCE. May product an allergic reaction. We always try to reformulate away from allergens, however in some cases it is not always technically possible.