Early New Mexican Santeros used native (and some imported) vegetable and mineral pigments such as micaceous clay, chamisa, vermillion,indigo, black walnut, and madder root Black was made by using charcoal or soot. Once the Santo was painted, a homemade varnish made of piñon sap and grain alcohol was applied.
Santos were very important to early New Mexicans, who were largely isolated, and were incorporated in daily life as well as in ceremonies and feast days in which the whole community was involved. After a period of decline, the tradition of New Mexican Santos is going strong today. Many traditional artists participate in the Spanish Market in the Santa Fe Plaza every summer.