How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (2023)

How to article on preparing the grinding surface and dispersing pigments to make your water-based paint.

Why hand mull pigments into paint? Two primary reasons for doing so are to break down agglomerates of pigment particles and disperse pigments into the paint evenly. Most artists know the need to mix pigment with a binding medium smoothly. Still, few know how breaking agglomerations of pigment particles can also improve the saturation of the paint color. Fewer still know about the possibilities that grinding pigments afford for altering the visual appearance of pigment in paint.

Dispersing pigments into a paint binder with a muller on a flat surface helps to break down agglomerations or pigment particles clumped together from moisture and other weak binding forces. This helps make the final paint smoother in texture and improves the paint's opacity and color. However, it is a common mistake to think that the force of mulling grinds pigment particles into smaller sizes. Greater mechanical force must be applied to do so. One way to do this is with a mortar and pestle. A pestle directs the entire force to a singular point, whereas a muller applies the same force across its flat bottom surface. In addition, the pressure applied to the concave surface inside a mortar creates greater lateral forces to shear the particles into smaller ones. Grinding in a mortar can reduce the particle size of the pigment and, in some cases, alter its color substantially.

Not all pigments improve in color and appearance by being ground to a very fine powder and mixed with a binding medium. For example, the natural mineral malachite loses its color saturation the finer it is ground. On the other hand, some pigments, like cinnabar and lazurite, improve their chromaticity when grinding to the finest possible particle sizes.

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Many synthetic pigments available to artists today are prepared in extremely fine grades since they are made from precipitated chemical compounds. This makes for very uniform and small pigment particles that offer advantages in covering power and tinting strength. However, it also removes the exciting textures and intense chromaticity of natural pigments. At the very least, it does not allow the artist to control the pigment to its best potential in painting. Grinding pigments gives you the tools to overcome this limitation.

Rublev Colours pigments from Natural Pigments are made to careful specifications that do not destroy the pigment's best qualities and allow the artist to refine them for their use through elutriation or grinding. Many Rublev Colours pigments are raw materials that may require further processing by the artist to achieve specific desirable effects. Rublev Colours pigments can be used as they come out of the jar, or you may grind them to smaller particle sizes and separate them into different grades for special visual effects. As you become more aware of these possibilities, you may want to experiment, paying close attention to how the pigments look when mixed with your medium, whether it is oil, egg, acrylic, casein, or gum arabic.

Tools Needed to Make Watercolor Paint

The tools you need to disperse pigments and make paint are pretty simple; most are available locally. For convenience, Natural Pigments has put together an Introductory Paint Making Kit to help you get all the tools and materials you need to get started. Here are the tools you will need to get started:

ItemWhere To Find
How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (1)MullerGlass, stone, or ceramic muller

Glass Mulleravailable in small, medium, and large sizes
Included in the Watercolor Paint Making Kit

How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (2)Grinding plate or surfacePlate glass at least one-quarter-inch thick, marble, granite, or other smooth, non-porous flat surface.

Glass Grinding Plate
Included in the Watercolor Paint Making Kit

How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (3)Spatula or scraperIncluded in the Watercolor Paint Making Kit
How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (4)Silicon carbideAlso known by its tradename, Carborundum. It is best to use 100 grit to prepare the surface.

Silicon Carbide (100 grit) 100g
Included in the Watercolor Paint Making Kit

How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (5)Distilled waterSupermarkets or food stores
How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (6)GlovesNitrile or latex gloves, powdered, are best for ease of putting on or removing.
Also available from pharmacies, drug stores, and medical supply stores
How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (7)Dust mask or half-face respiratorAvailable from hardware stores
How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (8)Eye protectionAvailable from hardware stores

CAUTION: Always wear a NIOSH-approved dust mask while grinding or working with any dry earth or pigment. Wear protective clothing and gloves while working with pigments in any form—dry or wet.

Preparing the Surface

The mulling surface must be roughened before it is useable for dispersing pigments. You will need about 15-20 minutes to prepare the surface for dispersing pigments. Here are the steps you should follow to prepare the surface:

Step 1: Place the surface on a firm support such as a countertop or table. If you are using glass as your mulling surface, you may find it helpful to put a white washcloth or a white kitchen towel beneath the glass to stabilize it while grinding.

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How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (9)

Step 2:

Pour a small amount of silicon carbide onto the surface. About 1/8 of a teaspoon will be acceptable to start with. Apply distilled water to the silicon carbide a drop at a time to make a stiff paste.

Step 3:

Mix the water into the silicon carbide to make a paste the consistency of toothpaste.

How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (10)

Step 4

Place the muller onto the small pile of silicon carbide paste and move it in a circular motion reaching the edges of the surface. The corners of the mulling surface do not need to be roughened. Continue to grind in this motion for 5 to 10 minutes.

How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (11)

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It will be necessary to remove accumulated silicon carbide paste from the sides of the muller using a scraper, palette, or putty knife. Periodically scrape the paste into a small heap at the center of the mulling surface to continue grinding. When you have completed grinding the surface, visually inspect it to see if it has been roughened by holding it up to a light at an angle. If the surface was smooth and shiny, to begin with, you should notice a matte appearance where you have been grinding.

To avoid contaminating your pigments, wash your tools with soap and water.

Dispersing Pigment into Water for Waterborne Paint

Now that the mulling surface has been prepared, you can begin dispersing pigments and making your paint. Let's mull some pigment intended for use with water-based mediums, such as egg yolk (tempera), hide glue (distemper), or gum Arabic (watercolors). Disperse pigment only in distilled water. Tap water may contain a lot of minerals and bacteria that can contaminate your paint.

Step 1

Place a small amount of pigment in a heap at the center of the prepared surface. Start by working with about 10 grams of pigments.

How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (12)

Step 2

Add a small amount of distilled water to the heap of dry pigment, a few drops at a time. Do not add too much water to start.

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Step 3

Mix the water into the pigment with a spatula, palette, or putty knife. The correct amount of water is added when the pigment has the consistency of toothpaste. It is easier to judge the thickness of the paste once you begin grinding with the muller. Hence, it is better to begin grinding with a stiff paste than one with excess water.

How Make Your Own Water-based Paint (13)

Step 4

Holding the muller firmly with the heel of your hand and thumb up, slowly move the muller in a circular motion while keeping the pigment in the center of the surface. The pigment will slowly accumulate along the outside of the circle. Use the spatula to move the paste to the center of the mulling surface to continue grinding.

If the paste becomes too stiff, add more water, a few drops at a time. Do not worry if suddenly the pigment is thin and watery. Add more dry pigment to the mixture.

Periodically lift the muller from the mulling slab and remove any accumulated pigment from the sides of the muller using a spatula, putty, or palette knife.

Sometimes suction will form between the muller and the mulling surface, making it difficult to move or lift the muller. Use the spatula as a lever to raise the edge of the muller. Then slide the muller horizontally off the mulling surface.

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To prevent contaminating your subsequent pigment, clean your tools very well. If you have been grinding with water-based media, wash with warm water and soap. If you are mulling with oil, clean up with turpentine, mineral spirits, or lacquer thinner. Always wash your mulling tools with warm water and soap after cleaning with solvents. You may remove caked-on pigment and paint by mulling with any kitchen scouring powder, borax, or pumice with the muller on the mulling surface. Follow this by washing with soap and warm water.


What ratio do you mix water-based paint? ›

If you want your walls to have a shiny appeal; thin out interior emulsion paint at a ratio of 3:5 or 7:10 with water. For a softer and more depth sheen, mix water and emulsion paint at a ratio of 1:5 or 3:10.

What ingredients make water-based paint? ›

For water-based paint these include: poly vinyl acetate, butyl methacrylate and methyl. Solvents such as water and mineral turpentine are used to dilute and thin the paint. Pigments are added to create colour and sheen, and can include calcium carbonate, talc, oxides and mica amongst others.

Can you make water paint with acrylic paint? ›

You can make your acrylic colors behave like watercolors, simply by thinning with a professional medium. Our Soft Body Acrylics and Acrylic Inks have a fluid consistency that build like traditional watercolors and due to the permanent nature of acrylics, you can build them without dissolving the layers.

What are the ingredients to make paint? ›

All paints generally have four main ingredients -- pigments, binders, solvents (liquids) and additives. Pigments provide color and hide, while binders work to "bind" the pigment together and create the paint film.

Do you need thinner for water based paint? ›

Yes, the latex paint does need to be thinned. Even though latex paint is water-based, it is thicker than the oil-based paint varieties. The thick latex paint needs to be thinned to be able to spray a fine mist of paint. Before applying your paint, it is a good idea to test out the paint's viscosity.

Is it OK to add water to water based paint? ›

Tip. Go slowly and be careful when adding water because this is only a one-way process: You can always add more water to paint to further thin it out but you cannot thicken the paint again. The best way to save paint that is too thin is to add it to a second can of paint.

What are the 3 main ingredients of paint? ›

At the core paint involves three components: solvent, pigment and resin.

What are the 4 main ingredients in paint? ›

Most paints consist of the same basic components: pigments, binders, liquids and additives. Each component serves a role in determining the quality of the paint as well as its performance both during and after application.

Is it cheaper to make your own paint? ›

By making your own paints, not only do you save money, but you also gain full control over the ingredients and quality of the paint. I recommend anyone that is seriously interested in oil painting to take their time and give this approach a chance.

What household items can you use to make paint? ›

Make paint from scratch!
Paint Material Ideas:
  • – No Recipe: Lotion, shampoo, sour cream, mud, craft glue, milk, toothpaste.
  • – Goopy Recipe A: 1 tablespoon corn or potato starch + 1 cup water + microwave 30s + stir.
  • – Watery Recipe B: 1/2 cup flour or cornstarch + 1/2 cup water + stir.
Jul 28, 2020

How paint is made step by step? ›

Production process paint
  1. Laboratory. Before production starts each separate paint has a unique formula developed for it in the laboratory. ...
  2. Weighing the raw materials. ...
  3. Dispersion. ...
  4. Pre-mixing. ...
  5. Grinding the pigments. ...
  6. Fineness inspection. ...
  7. Colour inspection. ...
  8. Stability inspection.

What happens if you add water to acrylic paint? ›

Water breaks down the binder in acrylic, thinning the paint so that it looks like watercolor and allows it to sink into the surface, resulting in a matte finish. Acrylic medium minimizes the need for the addition of water and allows the paint to sit on top of the surface, maintaining a rich, glossy appearance.

How is water based acrylic paint made? ›

Water based acrylic paint is composed of minute particles of plastic acrylic resin suspended in water (acrylic polymer emulsion) and pigment. As the water evaporates the resin particles fuse together forming a strong durable paint.

What to mix with acrylic paint to make it fluid? ›

To do an acrylic pour, you need to change the consistency of your paint into a fluid consistency. This is achieved by using an additive such as elmer's glue, floetrol, Liquitex pouring medium.

What is the most important ingredient in paint? ›

Binder / Vehicle / Resin

It is one of the most important and necessary components of paint. The purpose of binder in paint is to impart adhesion to the layer as well as cohesion to the pigment particles. It binds the pigment particles together to from a cohesive layer after the evaporation of the solvent.

How do you make natural homemade paint? ›

How to make your own natural paints:
  1. Push berries or other soft fruit through a sieve to extract your pigment, then mix with just a small splash of water!
  2. Grind petals, leaves, or other dry items before mixing with a tiny, tiny bit of honey!
  3. Powders are the easiest!

Do professional painters water down paint? ›

“Watering Down” paint is a derogatory term used to describe a poor practice that cheap professional painters do to make their product go further. These painters add too much water to the paint, often as much as half a gallon of water per gallon of paint. This results in a lighter color and lesser quality finish.

Can you thin water-based paint with alcohol? ›

It is possible to thin water-based acrylic paint with isopropyl ( rubbing alcohol). It is recommended that you use no more than 20% alcohol when painting dilute. Alcohol causes a faster drying process and can lead to uneven application.

Can you use mineral spirits to thin water-based paint? ›

It can also be used for thinning or cleaning stains and varnishes, as well as for cleaning up oil stains or spills. When thinning paint with pure mineral spirits, start with 4 ounces of mineral spirits per gallon of paint. Add only to oil-based paint and never to water-based paint.

What are the disadvantages of water-based paint? ›

Disadvantages of Water-based Paints

Water-based paints take longer to dry in high humidity and lower temperatures. Solvent-based gloss finishes have a higher sheen, but water-based keeps its sheen better throughout its lifetime. The finish is tougher and easier to clean but can become brittle with age.

What happens if you add too much water to paint? ›

As more water is added, these surfactants get diluted and you might find that the paint begins to bead up or crawl on some surfaces, like metal or some plastics, or resists penetrating into raw canvas.

What is the formula for calculating paint? ›

Multiply length x width to get the square footage of trim to be painted. Divide the total by 400 to get the number of gallons of paint you'll need for one coat. You'll likely need less than a gallon for a standard room, so consider buying trim paint in a quart or two.

How can you tell if paint is mixed enough? ›

Stir Until the Paint is Smooth

You'll be able to tell once the paint is fully mixed. It will be smooth. Also, fully mixed paint won't have any clumps or look swirly. In general, err on the side of over stirring rather than under-stirring.

How do I make custom paint mix? ›

Begin mixing your custom paint color by adding about a 1/2 cup of the main base color into a small plastic cup. Slowly add the color in small increments you would like to add. If you want it darker, a little black, lighter some white. Try to add it in measurable teaspoons at a time and keep track.

What does ammonia do in paint? ›

Ammonia Solution is a very strong solvent for various materials present in paints; solutions of Ammonia and organic solvents have a good power to remove thin films of fat materials and to soften proteic films without causing damage, taking care to disperse them in gel so to limit their action to the surface.

Can you paint with food coloring? ›

You can use edible food paint on anything, but it works best on a flat, light-colored surface that isn't super porous. Great examples are fondant cakes and cookies with royal icing. You can also paint on chocolate with a slightly different recipe.

How is paint made simple? ›

The first step in making paint is gathering and measuring the ingredients. The pigments are then broken down in a mill. They're spread evenly into a mixture of the resin, solvent, and additives. Finally, the paint is checked for quality and poured into cans.

What paints make all colors? ›

You can use the primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) plus black and white to get all of the colors of the rainbow. The Color Wheel: The Color Wheel shows the relationships between the colors. The three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue; they are the only colors that cannot be made by mixing two other colors.

What is the cheapest material to paint on? ›

Paper and Cardboard

Paper and cardboard are great support choices if you are a beginner or just want to experiment. Both are economical and easy to find.

How long does homemade paint last? ›

Flour Paint, made from water, soap, linseed oil, pigments, iron sulfate (a common food additive), and flour (you might've guessed!), provides beautiful results, requires little care, will last between 8 and 10 years, all for a fraction of the price of industrial paint: around 30$ per gallon (3.78 Liters).

What are the benefits of making your own paint? ›

Quality Control - Making your own paints means you can omit the fillers and extenders which are often added to commercially made paints to reduce the manufacturing costs. Take advantage of rich hues and vibrant coloured paints that haven't been diluted with cheaper ingredients. Omit unwanted chemicals.

How do you make paint with food coloring and glue? ›

  1. Squeeze about two tablespoons of glue into a small container. Repeat for the number of paint colors you want to create.
  2. Add about two drops of food coloring to each container.
  3. Add a small amount of water to each container.
  4. Mix each container well with a spoon, then paint away!

What is the 3 step paint process? ›

These are known as 3 stage finishes. The first coat is a basecoat color, then a translucent pearl is applied and finally a clear coat finish.

What is the first step in making paint? ›

The first step in making paint involves mixing the pigment with resin, solvents, and additives to form a paste.

Can you make your own water paint? ›

This HOMEMADE PAINT is made with cornstarch, baking soda, corn syrup and vinegar, and costs just pennies to make. It's a wonderful and inexpensive paint for toddlers and preschoolers. The paints dry into solid watercolour paint pucks that will last indefinitely. Just swipe a wet paintbrush over them to make art.

How do you make white water based paint? ›

Simply mix white water-based paint with water to the desired consistency. A 1:3 paint-to-water ratio will give a thin, translucent coating that doesn't need to be wiped or dry brushed.

Is water based paint acrylic or latex? ›

Difference Between Acrylic And Latex Paint

The main difference between the two paints is that acrylic paint is chemical-based and latex paint is water-based. Because it's chemical-based, the chemicals in acrylic paint make it more elastic than latex paint.

What is water-based craft paint? ›

Water-based acrylic paint is composed of pigment particles dispersed in an acrylic polymer emulsion. There are three main components in any acrylic paint - pigment, binder and vehicle: Pigment - pigments are granular solids which give paint its color.

What is paint mixed with water called? ›

Gouache (/ɡuˈɑːʃ, ɡwɑːʃ/; French: [ɡwaʃ]), body color, or opaque watercolor is a water-medium paint consisting of natural pigment, water, a binding agent (usually gum arabic or dextrin), and sometimes additional inert material.

How do you make Aqua acrylic paint? ›

You can make this colour by mixing light blue and light green. Just take these paints on a palette and mix them with an art knife. Another way to make this colour is by mixing three ratios of blue with two ratios of yellow. This will form aqua.

Is 100% acrylic paint water-based? ›

As we mentioned above, acrylic paints are water-based, and this makes them quick-drying compared to oil paints.

What is water-based acrylic formulation? ›

This category refers to any type of coating formulated based on an acrylic polymer, including acrylic latex, emulsion polymers, etc. For a long time, water-based acrylics were considered solely for use as home or architectural paints.

How do I get a smooth finish with water based paint? ›

To achieve the best possible finish with water based gloss, focus on one area at a time and move the brush in one direction rather than going back and forth to avoid disturbing recently applied wet paint. Water based gloss should be given adequate time to dry before more coasts are added.

What happens if you add water to water based paint? ›

When water is added to paint, the solid content of the system is diluted. As a result, the diluted paint will not form as thick a dry film as the paint manufacturer intended. Since film thickness is important to durability, these paints will perform poorer than expected.

How can I make my water based paint flow better? ›

Keep your brush wet. Run it under a tap before you start, then spin it out in a bucket of water every hour or so. This will help keep the paint flowing nicely. Something else you could do is wipe all surfaces down with a damp cloth just before you paint them.

What is the most common water based paint? ›

Acrylic and latex make up the two types of water-based paints and each have their different purposes. Latex and acrylic paint are used primarily to paint homes, structures, and spaces.

Can latex paint be water based? ›

Latex paint is a water-based paint. There is a wide variety of latex paints: there are numerous products of different quality, gloss and price. We usually used them for interior surfaces like ceilings and walls. Latex paints are the less expensive ones and their composition is less complex.

Is semi gloss latex water based? ›

Semi-gloss paints in particular are among the paints with a higher sheen level. This type of paint may be latex, water-based or even oil-based. Their sheen comes from the concentration of polyurethane.


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