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The Secrets Of Homemade Paint

Whether you are a parent with kids who like to be creative, a recreational or professional artist, or a DIY renovator looking to brighten up your living space, there are many fun and useful ways to employ paint in your home. However, purchasing paint tends to come with a price – both literally and figuratively. Commercial paints tend to come in one of two forms: somewhat affordable factory-produced paints containing ingredients that can be toxic to both people and the environment and very expensive natural paints that will seriously strain your budget if you purchase it too frequently.

What paint manufacturers would rather you didn’t know is that paint is essentially a very simple product. Humans made their own paints at home for thousands of years, and there is no reason why they can’t continue to do so. In fact, making homemade paint is much easier in modern times than it was hundreds of years ago, since most of the basic ingredients for a natural paint product are readily available in stores.

The Three Ingredients

All paints are made from three basic elements. First, paints need pigment for color. Second, they need a binder, or glue, to cause the pigment to stick together into a cohesive substance. Finally, paints need a thinner to make the substance less viscous and able to be applied smoothly and evenly. Some paints also contain a filler that gives the paint more bulk without affecting the color or binding.

These may sound like complicated elements, and if you were to look at a list of component ingredients in commercial paint, you would likely see an intimidating list of unpronounceable names. However, most of these elements are incredibly simple, and probably already in your home ready for use. For example, a common “thinner” in natural paints is plain, ordinary water. Oil, egg yolks, and clay are commonly used as binders.

The most complicated component of homemade paint is the pigment, but even that can be relatively simple if you want it to be. Good art supply stores will usually have natural pigments in the form of powder that can be easily added to your other ingredients to create your own custom colors. Not only can you use your own pigments to create color tones that you may not find in commercial paint, but you may also be able to create different finishes and textures.

If you are more ambitious and have a bit (or a lot) more time on your hands, you can also create your own pigments out of organic materials. This method takes dedication and experimentation to extract colors and to mix colors at the correct tone and intensity. However, this method of creating paint can be extremely satisfying and allow you to complete paint projects with the smallest possible environmental and commercial footprint.

Paint From Flour

One of the easiest mediums for paint making in terms of both the process and the availability is flour. You can make paint from any kind of grain flour that you have in your home, although it should be finely ground so that the resulting paint is smooth. Flour paint is so easy to make because the ratios of the ingredients do not need to be very exact in order to create a great product.

Flour paint can be very durable as an interior paint, although it is not as durable as some other mediums when exposed to extreme weather. Most recipes for flour paint use clay as a filler, although other fillers may work as alternative. Extremely resourceful DIY-ers even dig their own clay for use in paint or other household uses.

Flour paint tends to be relatively thick, which makes it necessary to use brushes rather than rollers in order to apply it. It is recommended that you use coarse brushes with relatively stiff bristles in order to spread the paint effectively. As a result, your initial coat of paint will have clear brush lines. To remedy this, allow the paint to partially dry before using a damp sponge or cloth to smooth the finish.

Washable Egg Paint

A paint that is easy to wash off is ideal for finger painting, face painting, or other kid-centric art activities. You can make a great homemade washable paint using eggs as your binder – particularly if you have access to freshly laid, free-range eggs. Paint made out of eggs has been used for centuries on everything from household items to religious iconography.

Apart from egg yolks and pigment, the only ingredient you need for egg paint is water to use as a thinner. A fairly small amount of water is sufficient to thin the paint, and too much will make it difficult for the pigment and yolk to stay bonded. Like tempura paints, egg paint creates a relatively weak coat of color, and you will need to paint multiple coats if you want the paint to last on any surface.

Homemade Oil Paint

Oil paint is the favored medium of many artists and is also the perfect paint to use on exterior surfaces or interior surfaces that are likely to be cleaned regularly – like the walls around a kitchen stove or walls in a child’s room. This is because oil paints are extremely water-resistant and strong enough to resist most wind-borne abrasives. Oil paints are also quite flexible (some never fully harden) which makes them ideal for exterior surfaces that may grow, shrink, or flex over time.

Homemade oil glaze can also be a terrific tool if you find it easier to make your actual paints out of flour or egg. An oil glaze can give your paint a more professional-looking finish, while also imparting many of the durability and weatherproof advantages of oil paint over other kinds of paint.

The binder for most homemade oil paints is linseed oil, with either turpentine, mineral spirits, or citrus thinner as the other main ingredient in addition to pigment. Oil paint should also contain a whiting in the form of powdered chalk. You should find linseed oil that has been heated to a high temperature but not boiled.

The first step for making oil paint is two mix your pigment and whiting together, and dissolve one teaspoon at a time into ½ cup of linseed oil. To the linseed oil combined with pigment, you should then add an additional ½ cup of linseed oil. To this mixture you should then add 2/3 cup of thinner and an additional two tablespoons of whiting.

Making Homemade Pigments

The ultimate homemade paint ingredient for truly independent and self-sustaining individuals is homemade pigments. The process of extracting natural pigments can involve a lot of work and a lot of time, so it is no small commitment. However, it also involves processes that are manageable for just about anyone who sets his or her mind to it. Furthermore, pigment tends to be very strong, and relatively little of it is needed to make a strong color when combined with the rest of your ingredients.

Dirt is one place where a variety of natural colors can be obtained. Dirt can provide you with color ranging from light grays and browns to deep reds, and all the resulting paint colors will have terrific natural tones. Earth is also relatively easy to prepare into pigment, needing only to be sifted for impurities and ground into as fine a powder as possible.

Berry juice, dried and finely ground leaves, and even old coffee can also make excellent pigments. Experiment until you find something you like!

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13 comments

  1. please refrain from referencing it as “dirt”. the words soil and earth are far more appropriate as it is a living system. in general “dirt” has a, well, dirty connotation. it’s helpful to think of dirt as something that one empties from their vacuum cleaner. sorry if this seems silly and only slightly relevant in this otherwise practical article but it’s a powerful perspective.

    • Merrywind,
      Your response to “dirt” is whats wrong with the thought process in this country today. Forget the liberal thoughts your learned in school and get back to being an American with some common sense, before its to late for the country.

    • My dad is like you. He goes around trying to control people’s relationship with reality, rather than just staying centered in himself. When he’s confronted by people, situations, the world he cannot control, he takes it personally and is now old, bitter, rejected, but “right.” I really don’t recommend that path.
      So, what’s wrong with dirt? It would seem the only person reading this article that has a problem with dirt is you. Quit spreading your mental poison.

    • Actually, “Dirt” would be more appropriate in this context. Soil would indicate that there is life, or organic matter, included in the mixture. When making pigments, you are going to screen out all of the organic/living material. Your pigments will primarily be made mineral/inorganic materials that are ground fine enough to be added into your pain mixture. So get off your high horse and lighten up. Appreciate the information for what it is.

    • Soil is a growing medium. The dirt specified in this article is in fact dirt. And you could use the sifted dust from your vacumme cleaner, if that suited you. You’re an idiot.

    • LMAO…. Really? This info is being given for free and the person who published it should be commended not condemned by such an arrogant person

  2. oh,for heaven’s sake

  3. the word “dirt” makes it sound like anyone, even a child, can do it. I like it. Thanks for this 🙂

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  5. I know this is a quite old article, however, I’m currently attempting to make a set of homemade body paints from found pigments. I’m making primary colors and black. I have been running into tons of trouble! The paint does not need to last more than a few hours, but it does need to be able to stay on the skin. Blue is especially problematic. I’ve managed to make a beautiful blue dye from red cabbage leaves, but can only extract the color when mixing with water, not oil. All of the instructions for making body paint I’ve been able to find so far are really far off from what I need, as I am making this for a client who wants to use it in spiritual rituals. When attempting to follow the recipes with my extracted water dyes, even the darkest red turned pink in the mixture. Perhaps I could make it stronger by boiling it over and over again with new material? Rancidity is also an issue since I will be making him 4 ounces of each color. Will flour paint go rancid if kept in a jar? Any information would be greatly appreciated, as there simply does not seem to be a lot out there!

  6. Some useful information I found whilst researching to make artists paint is…

    honey acts as a humectant to delay drying

    Clove oil prevents mold

    glycerin acts as a pasticsizer to improve flexibility, brushability and solubility

    linseed oil, egg, milk and animal fat all act as binders..(i don’t use animal products myself)

    Clay is also used as binder

    Hope this helps

  7. With regard to the word ‘dirt’ – after years of working in a multicultural environment I have come to understand that this word is used differently in different places. Where I come from, dirt is something you need to clean off something else. ‘Soil’ is what is under my feet, weather I can grow something in it or not, unless it’s sand. ‘Earth’ is a useful word if you need another one. Let’s be sensible and understand that we use language differently.

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