Making your own paints from scratch.

Making your own paints can be a joy in itself and although in the day and age, oil paints are conveniently packaged in tubes and available in a wide array of colours and shades . Some artists are still happy to make their own in order to control the ingredients that go into their formula.

 Paint basically consists of two components:pigment and vehicle. Pigment particles are suspended in the liquid. Making paint simply means mixing this solid and liquid component together into a smooth paste.

All you need is powder pigment, linseed oil or safflower oil, a palette knife and a clean, flat surface, such as a glass plate on a white back ground or a white acrylic board and you are on your way to making small batches of oil paint.

If you want to make enough paint that you can store, however, you will need a glass muller to grind the paint. I got mine from a herbal store. If you can’t get glass mullers locally, you can try porcelain ones as alternatives. Just make sure you wash them throughly so that the colours do not permanently stain the muller.


Wear a disposable surgical glove and mask will help keep your hands from being stained by the pigments and from you accidentally inhaling any pigment powders. Work in a well ventilated room.


Why grind pigment into paint? Although a powdered pigment may appear very fine, it is composed of aggregates of pigment particles. The aggregates clump together to form larger agglomerates and settle during storage in the paint vehicle. Grinding breaks up agglomerates of pigment particles and evenly disperses them in the paint vehicle, thereby wetting particle surfaces more thoroughly.

Grinding Oil Paint
The amount of oil required for each pigment varies as some pigments absorb more oil than others. So the following steps help you to prepare oil paint to the consistency you require.

Step 1: Place a small amount of pigment in a heap at the center of the surface. Make a small crater in the center of the heap.

Step 2: Add oil or paint medium to the pigment slowly—a few drops at a time. The less oil added in the beginning, the easier it will be to break up the agglomerates of pigment particles.

Step 3: Fold the pigment into the oil with the spatula. Continue to blend the pigment into oil, applying pressure to the mixture as you mix it. The correct amount of oil is added when the mixture has the consistency of stiff paste and appears dry. In the beginning, it is better to grind a stiff paste than one that is soft and runny.

Step 4: Place the muller on top of the paste. Holding the muller firmly with the heel of your hand down and thumb up. Move the muller in a circular motion outward from the center of the paste. Spread the paste in a thin layer as you grind. The more paste in contact with the surface of the plate and flat bottom of the muller, the smoother the paste will be. The more you grind, the softer it becomes. Paste that is at first dry and stiff becomes wet and soft.

Step 5: Once the paste is spread out, collect it back to the center. Continue grinding with the muller.

Step 6: If the paste becomes runny, thicken it by adding a small amount of pigment to the mixture. Combine the pigment with a spatula then grind with the muller until smooth.

Step 7: When the paint has the consistency desired, it is ready to use or store.

Note: Remove accumulated paint from the sides of the muller with the spatula. At times it may be difficult to move or lift the muller from the grinding surface. Using the spatula as a lever, raise the edge of the muller. Then slide the muller off the surface.

Clean your tools with light vegetable oil, Sennelier odorless mineral spirits or Sennelier Brush Cleaner, specially formulated to remove paints and preserve your tools. Final rinse with water will do.


Posted by: Desiree


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