Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (2023)

This tutorial is on preparing the grinding tools and dispersing pigments into the water to make your watercolor paint—a solution of gum arabic for watercolors. This technique can be used to prepare dispersions of pigment in water to be mixed with egg yolk for egg tempera, casein solution for casein paint, animal glue for distemper, and for use in fresco painting. The same technique can be used to disperse pigments in preparation for making pastels and pigment sticks.

Why grind pigments to make your paint? Two primary reasons for doing so are to break down agglomerates of pigment particles and disperse pigments in the paint binder 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 color saturation of the paint. Fewer still know about the possibilities that grinding pigments afford for altering the visual appearance of paint.

Dispersing pigments into a paint binder with a muller on a flat surface helps to break down agglomerations or pigment particles that clump together from moisture and other weak binding forces. This helps make the final paint smoother and improves the opacity and color saturation of the paint. However, it is a common mistake to think that the force of grinding with a muller on a flat surface 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 single 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.

Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (1)

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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 (lapis lazuli), improve their chromaticity when grinding to the finest possible particle sizes.[1]

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 Your Own 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 a Basic Paint Making Kitto 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
Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (2)MullerGlass, stone, or ceramic muller
Glass muller large, small, and medium sizes are available
Included in the Watercolor Paint Making Kit
Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (3)Grinding surfacePlate glass at least a quarter-inch thick, marble, granite, or other smooth, non-porous flat surface. For best results, rub or sandblast the surface to give it a smooth but matte texture. See Preparing the Grinding Surface below.
Glass Grinding Plate
Included in the Watercolor Paint Making Kit
Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (4)Spatula, palette, or putty knifeSpatula
Included in the Watercolor Paint Making Kit
Also available from hardware stores and art supplies stores
Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (5)Silicon carbideAlso known by its tradename, Carborundum. Use 100 or 200 grit to prepare the surface.
Silicon Carbide (100 grit) 100g
Included in the Watercolor Paint Making Kit
WaterDistilled water is preferred
Supermarkets or food stores
Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (6)GlovesLatex, nitrile, or polyethylene gloves
Available from pharmacies, drug stores, and medical supply stores
Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (7)Dust maskNIOSH-approved dust mask or respirator
Available from hardware stores
Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (8)Eye protectionSafety glasses or goggles
Available from hardware stores
Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (9)Jars Wide Mouth Jar 4 oz

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

Preparing the Grinding Surface

The grinding 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 use glass as your grinding 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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Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (10)

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.

Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (11)

Step 4

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

Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (12)

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 grinding 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.

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

Dispersing Pigment into Water for WatercolorPaint

Now that the grinding surface has been prepared, you can begin dispersing pigments and making your paint. Let's disperse some pigment intended for use with water-based mediums, such as egg yolk (tempera), animal glue (distemper), gum arabic (watercolors), or fresco. It is best to disperse the pigment in distilled water. Tap water may contain many minerals and bacteria that may 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.

Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (13)

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.

Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (14)

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.

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Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (15)

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 grinding 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.

Making Your Own Water-Based Paint (16)

Periodically lift the muller from the grinding 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 grinding 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 grinding surface.

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. You may remove caked-on pigment and paint with any kitchen scouring powder, borax, or silicon carbide with the muller on the grinding surface. Follow this by washing with soap and warm water.

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Ready to Use

The pigment paste is ready to accept your favorite water-based paint binder, such as egg yolk, hide glue, casein, or any other binder—even acrylics.

When Making Watercolor Paint

Instead of grinding powder pigment in water, grind pigment directly into a watercolor medium. This saves the step of later adding the watercolor medium to the pigment paste. The pigment paste with the watercolor medium can be stored in pans and tubes.

Shop Now for Watercolor Medium


How do you make water based paint at home? ›

Blend 1/2 cup of flour with 1/2 cup of salt. Add 1/2 cup of water… and mix until smooth. Divide it up into three sandwich bags and add a few drops of liquid watercolor or food coloring to each bag.

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.

How do you make water paint? ›

  1. Prepare Watercolor Medium:
  2. 6 Tbsp hot water.
  3. 3 Tbsp gum arabic powder.
  4. 2 Tbsp honey. Pour gum arabic powder into the hot water and mix until fully dissolved. ...
  5. Prepare Watercolor Paint. Mix 1 part watercolor medium with 1 part pigment (adjust as necessary). ...
  6. Storing.
Feb 11, 2021

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.

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 3 basic ingredients of paint? ›

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

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.

Is acrylic latex water based paint? ›

Latex is a water-based paint. Similar to acrylic paint, it is made from acrylic resin. Unlike acrylic, it's recommended to use latex paint when painting larger areas. Not because it dries slower, but because it's usually purchased in larger quantities.

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.

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.

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).

Why do builders use cheap paint? ›

Builders do not like to have to paint walls edge to edge, so they use flat paint. During the building process, there are many trades that come into the home and damage the paint job. This makes it easier to fix.

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.

Can you water down acrylic paint to use as watercolor? ›

Yes, you can use acrylic paints to create a watercolor effect by thinning the acrylic paint with water or by adding a thinning medium.

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 difference between water paint and acrylic paint? ›

Acrylics tend to be brighter than watercolors due to the usual manner of application. They can also be thinned down to a transparent or semi-transparent consistency, but the finish has a milky effect compared to the cleaner transparency of watercolor. For opaqueness, they are quite similar to oil paint.

What are the 4 main ingredients of paint? ›

All paints generally have four main ingredients -- pigments, binders, solvents (liquids) and additives.

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

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.

What is paint formula? ›

A paint formula is the recipe to make a color. It is the list of ingredients and proportions used to make the color. Formulas are not universal because they depend on the specific ingredients, and every paint company has different ingredients. Formulas are typically not transferable.

What ingredients are in acrylic paint? ›

Acrylic paint is a fast-drying paint made of pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion and plasticizers, silicone oils, defoamers, stabilizers, or metal soaps. Most acrylic paints are water-based, but become water-resistant when dry.

Can water based paint be permanent? ›

Unlike fast-drying solvent based formulas, water based spray paint needs time to dry before it becomes permanent.

How toxic is water based paint? ›

Water-based latex paints are essentially nontoxic, but can be mildly irritating to the skin and stomach. If swallowed, they can cause an upset stomach, but rarely vomiting. Acrylic paints too are essentially nontoxic and symptoms are not likely.

How long does water based paint last? ›

How long does water-based paint last once opened? Once opened water-based acrylic or latex paint can stay good for up to 10 years when properly stored in a cool, dry room in your home. The same applies to water-based primers that are stored and sealed properly.

Is 100% acrylic latex paint water-based? ›

The acrylic paint is water-based and it adheres extremely well so it's durable. The 100% acrylic sticks so much that it can be applied to almost any surface. It even sticks to the painter's fingers for several days (even when he scrubs) if he does not wear nitrile gloves.

Can you mix acrylic latex with water? ›

You can add up to 20% water to acrylic paint and it will still have that glossy paint film, it will just get a bit thinner. However, it's a very different story when you add A LOT of water to the paint.

Is 100% acrylic paint the same as latex? ›

Acrylic paint is not the same as latex. The main difference between acrylic and latex paint is that while they are both water-based, acrylic paint contains chemicals. The chemicals in acrylic paint allow it to expand and contract with the changing temperature and weather.

What percentage of acrylic paint is water? ›

Water is clearly a central ingredient of artists' acrylics, which even at the start will usually contain somewhere between 45-55% water.

Is water-based enamel the same as water-based acrylic? ›

Enamel paint is mostly used for painting the exterior walls of the house while acrylic paint is used to paint the interior of the house. Enamel paint finish takes a comparatively longer period to dry than acrylic paint. Enamel paint is an oil-based paint finish while acrylic paint is a water-based paint.

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.

What can I use as a substitute for acrylic paint? ›

Some eco-friendly alternatives to acrylic paint include watercolors, gouache, and tempera. There are also a lot of brands like Natural Earth Paint, The Real Milk Paint Co., and ECOS that offer eco-friendly alternatives for your other different painting needs.

How do you make turquoise paint? ›

Turquoise is made by mixing blue and green.

You can experiment with the amounts of blue and green you incorporate in order to achieve different shades. As long as you're mixing blue and green, you'll end up with some variant of turquoise!

Can you mix flour and paint? ›

Flour Paint

Stir in the flour and mix until completely blended. Divide into containers and then add food coloring. Stir well.

Can you use flour to make paint? ›

Also known as “Swedish paint”, “ochre paint” or “wheat paint”, it is a traditional paint that is cooked with flour, water, natural pigments, black soap, linseed oil and iron sulphate. It protects wood sustainably for up to 10 years and naturally.

Can I use paint that has been sitting for a year? ›

Unopened Paint

The good news is that if you have an unopened can of paint that has been stored properly, it's almost guaranteed to still be fine to use. Unopened latex and water-based acrylic paints can last up to 10 years and alkyd and oil-based paints can last up to 15 years.

Why use eggshell paint? ›

Eggshell paint reflects more light than matte to produce a low luster. This low luster pulls out more of the paint's color than a flat sheen and it gives the room a soft glow. Because eggshell paint has a slight gloss, it is easier to maintain than matte or flat paint.

Is eggshell or flat better for walls? ›

You can't really go wrong with eggshell finish on your walls. Sometimes called satin finish, eggshell has slightly more luster than a flat finish, but you won't be left with shiny walls. It also resists stains better than flat and can be wiped with a wet rag.

What are the three grades of paint? ›

I classify paint into one of three categories: Builder-grade, Contractor-grade, or Premium-grade. Builder-grade paints meet the low-price point required by builders and may touch-up fairly well, but are generally not very durable.

How do you make cheap paint? ›

Pour 16 fluid ounces (470 ml) of water into a bowl. Combine it with about 16 ounces (450 g) of flour, stirring until the mixture is smooth. This mixture will create an inexpensive, non-toxic paint that can be used to give walls and other surfaces a matte finish.

How can I get free painting supplies? ›

There are also websites and apps like, where folks list items they have to give away for free or list items they are looking for. Same goes for Craigslist. Many neighborhoods have their own sites or Facebook groups for local free art supplies.

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.

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 happens if you mix acrylic paint with oil paint? ›

Here's why: the acrylic paint will be unable to stick to the oil paint, so it will flake off. This can sometimes happen very quickly, almost as soon as the acrylics dry, or sometimes it can take weeks.

Can you make your own liquid white paint? ›

All you need to do is dilute titanium white with linseed oil. Mix these together until you get a creamy consistency. Some artists choose to mix equal parts of linseed oil and Turpenoid (or turpentine) to create this homemade medium. Everyone has their own recipe and it's what works well for their personal technique.

What happens if you mix oil paint with water? ›

- Water mixable oils may not appear as opaque and vibrant as traditional oils when thinned with a lot of water. - Too much oil can cause paint to be unstable and “alligator” and too much water or medium can cause water mixable paint to crack as it dries; similar issues can occur with traditional oils as well.

Is water-based paint the same as acrylic paint? ›

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

What is the difference between acrylic and water-based 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 does that mean? The acrylic paint will contract and expand better than latex paint.

What does Elmer's glue do to paint? ›

Cover the paint with a coat of Elmer's glue, and while the glue is still wet, paint on another coat of acrylic paint, this time in a contrasting color. The painted surface will crackle as it dries, exposing the base color and creating a classic distressed finish.

Can you mix Elmer's glue with paint? ›

Mix one part acrylic paint and two parts Elmers glue all together completely. Then add a half part distilled water. Mix all together until you get the consistency of pancake batter. Tip: 1oz shot glasses are great for measuring, but you can also pour all into a cup sitting on a kitchen scale to measure that way.

Can you mix Elmer's glue with food coloring? ›

Mix White Elmers with food coloring and paint it on to any glass to make it look like sea glass when dry. In a bowl, you will want to add one teaspoon of glue, three drops of food coloring and 1 1/2 teaspoons of water.


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