Making Watercolour Paint

When I started painting, I never would have imagined I would be tempted into making watercolour paint. But somehow, this is where I find myself now. And its been both fascinating and fun. Making Watercolour Paint Pigment Display

It all started with a visit to an art shop in Venice where the delicious display of pigments in the window tempted me inside.

Making Watercolour Paint Pigment Jars

where the delights of making watercolour paint became apparently. Look at all those gorgeous colours lined up in shiny glass jars!

Making Watercolour Paint Pigments

I had to have a go at making watercolour paint, starting with a festival in blues and then added 7 other colours to increase my Venetian palette.  Unfortunately, these bags of loveliness don’t come with instructions. I had to start by researching a method and recipe.

Recipe for making watercolour paint.

Start by making a base for the pigment.

  • 1 part gum arabic
  • 3 parts warm water (I used very hot water as its easier to dissolve the gum arabic)
  • 1 part glycerine
  • 1 part honey (optional)

Then mix in pigment to the base in a 1:1 ratio.

In the first phase, its important to make sure the gum arabic is fully dissolved. In the second phase, mix until the paint is smooth. It takes longer than you think.

Making Watercolour Paint mixed

Once mixed, the pigments stay wet for much longer than the commercial tube paints. I presume this may be partly because of the glycerine and honey additions. The effect of this is to make the paint slow to dry on the paper.

I’m still getting to know these paints. I’ll be testing them next and will write about my results. For one thing, lightfastness on any of these is an unknown. I can’t use them in any paintings for sale until I know how they react over time.

Making Watercolour Paint Pin jars

I started with a small batch of each colour – and still have a (very small) jar full of each colour I bought. This is years of supply at the rate I paint.

It may not be necessary to go all the way to Italy to have a go at making your own paint. There is an art shop in London which supplies pigments, resins and gums. I’ve not been there before, but it looks as if its worth a visit.

A word of warning: I was careful to wash my hands thoroughly after making each batch of paint – its a messy business. Strictly speaking, I probably should also have used a dust mask as I don’t know the toxicity level of any of these pigments. I will be getting a good quality mask for future paint mixing and I would suggest it for anyone wanting to try making their own paint.

11 thoughts on “Making Watercolour Paint

  1. This is a wonderful post Vandy and I’m going to put a link on my blog because this month I’m making watercolour paintings for the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. I’m very much enjoying the watercolour painting process and my teeny tiny watercolour set from Koi. This could become addictive.

    I would like to be a mouse when you’re explaining these colourful bags to the security and customs people at the airport. 🙂

    As I was reading I wondered if you could pour the mix into trays to harden and make little blocks which would be easier to transport.

    As a general rule when you are using pure pigments they are less transient than pre-mixes, it’s the carriers (chemicals) you mix the pigment with that may make the paint more likely to fade or discolour. When using water make sure it is purified not tap water. The temperature of the water probably affects the pigment as well, which is probably why warm water is suggested, but as long as it is well cooled before mixing in the pigment you are probably OK.

    I look forward to seeing more of your new hand made paints.

    1. Its just off the San Sebastian square. If I can find the shop card, I’ll let you know. Enjoy Venice! I’m a little bit envious.

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