Frugal Artist Series: Making Paint

December 23, 2009

The artist’s best friend for inexpensive art materials is gum arabic.   Gum arabic is a binder and can be used to make natural water based paints to varnish.   It’s found in everything from glue to cosmetics and is used in printing, making inks and more.   They even use it to make M&M’s and hard gummy candy.

To make your own paint:

Mix equal measure of liquid gum arabic and pigment then add water to make the consistency desired.  Some people use distilled water which may make a longer lasting end product.  Mix into a watercolor mixing palette and let it dry and you will have your own set of watercolors.  How cool is that?

If using powdered gum arabic: mix 1 part gum arabic to 4-7 parts distilled water and let it sit for at least an hour.

Another old recipe is:

1 ounce gum arabic (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespooon natural pigment

If you have the lump version of gum arabic you will have to grind it up as much as possible in a mortar and pestle.  It needs to be really fine grain.  Then put the water into a double boiler, add the gum arabic and heat slowly until the gum has dissolved.  Stir in the honey, remove from heat and let cool.  Add this solution to the pigment of choice, a little bit at a time until it reaches the consistency you want.

Pigments to use include powdered eye shadow, pastel crayons, tempera paint powder, charcoal, glitter, or those wonderful Pearl Ex powders.

To test the paint, paint it onto something and let it dry.  If it rubs off, add some gum arabic.  The more gum arabic, the glossier the paint. Too much gum arabic makes a brittle paint but you can add a teaspoon of honey   to fix that.  If the paint is too transparent, add more pigment paste to it.


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