Cross-sectional analysis (or stratigraphic examination) is a standard technique for looking at the layers in a micro sample. In particular it is used in the examination of paintings where it can allow us to look at the layers of priming, paint, varnish, dirt and restoration in the order they were applied. It is also possible to begin visually identifying the contents of each layer before passing the sample on to other specialists for further analysis if necessary.
By dispersing the contents of a micro sample of paint, it is possible to look at the pigment particles under a polarised microscope. Individual features of the pigments enable us to identify a number of the most commonly used paints.