Make Your Own Paint With Nature's Colors

DIY projects with earth's rich natural pigments.

| July/August 1999

  • Photography By Joe Coca

Elemental—the rich, timeless hues of earth clays and oxides. They’ve shone from the cave walls of Lascaux and Altamira, France for more than 15,000 years, just as they can add richness and spirit to today’s furnishings and finishes. Mineral pigments range in color from buttercream yellows to rich siennas to warm chocolate browns, and from vivid blues to earthy greens. And they’re nontoxic and easy to use. They can be mixed with water, oil, or wax to be brushed, rubbed, or wiped on wood, plaster, or paint. A thick mixture provides intense color and complete coverage, while a thin one can be wiped on and layered for a subtle glazed effect.


1 part linseed oil
3 parts turpentine
Drying agent

For sampling, use 1 tablespoon linseed oil, 3 tablespoons turpentine, a few drops of drying agent, and about a teaspoon of pigment. For large surfaces, use 1 cup linseed oil, 3 cups turpentine, 2 tablespoons drying agent, and 3 to 5 tablespoons of pigment. Mix well, stirring frequently as you work, because the pigment tends to settle out.

With a brush or rag, apply the mixture to a prepared surface—clean, sanded, or primed wood or wall. Let it penetrate for 15 to 30 minutes, then wipe off excess. More layers can be applied for a deeper color. The finished, dry surface can be sealed with lacquer or beeswax.

Linseed oil, made from flaxseed, and turpentine, crafted from pine resin, both have strong odors that persist for several days. They’re nontoxic, however, and their scent is pleasant.


A textured plaster wall can be washed with two or more layers of sheer color for a distressed look.

• Mix two colors, using recipe on previous page, with 4 parts turpentine instead of 3. This sample uses gold ochre and green oxide.
• Apply one color to textured plaster wall, and allow to dry.
• Apply second color, only hitting the high spots of texture.
• Blend and burnish the colors by rubbing with a dry towel.



September 12-13, 2019
Seven Springs, Pennsylvania

Fermentation Frenzy! is produced by Fermentation magazine in conjunction with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. This one-and-a-half day event is jam-packed with fun and informative hands-on sessions.


Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds

click me