Making watercolour paint
When I started painting, I never would have imagined I would be tempted into making watercolour paint.
It all started with a visit to an art shop in Venice where the enticing rainbow display of pigments in the window tempted me inside.
Just look at all those gorgeous colours lined up in shiny glass jars! I could not resist going in to have a closer look.
And that inevitably led to me coming out with a collection (or two) of pigments: beautiful materials with which to deepen my knowledge of watercolour.
As you can see, it starting with a festival in blues. Then I 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. Having a husband who had spent many years working in pharmaceutical manufacturing became a bonus.
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.
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. They activate well in the container even once they have dried for months.
In my next post I will share my method for testing these paints for lightfastness. They could not be used in any paintings for sale until their longevity had been proven.
I started with a small batch of each colour – and still have a (very small) jar full of each colour I bought. I have some ideas for other ways to use these in my paintings. More experimentation required for those.
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 gloves and 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.
Do you want to loosen up your watercolours?
I can help.
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