Homemade Paint: Make Your Own Paint

Making your own paint—in a wide range of colors and effects—can be fun, satisfying and less expensive than buying an off-the-shelf product.

| July/August 2005

  • Blue-green casein paint achieves a soft and light hue, perfect for the bedroom.
  • Grinding pigment from natural mineral and plant sources into casein paint creates rich colors.
  • Use a blender to thoroughly combine lime putty with the curds, to form a glue-like mixture.
  • After adding pigments, pour the mixed casein and lime putty into water to make your paint.
  • When making casein paint, first let milk sour to make curds, then drain off the excess whey (liquid) by using a strainer or hanging the curds in a cheesecloth.
  • The first step in making clay paint is to mix the flour and cold water together using a whisk or other tool to help prevent lumps in the mixture.
  • The rich earth tones in the Steens’ “mandala shed”—so called, because of the carved mandala on the front—are achieved with a casein wash over an earth plaster using burnt umber.
  • Near a window seat in their guest cottage, Bill and Athena brushed casein paint over lime plaster yielding this rich variety of earthen tones.
    Photo by Christiaan Blok
  • Casein paint creates dazzling colors for interiors and exteriors.
    Photo by Christaan Blok
  • Mixing starch paint with an all-natural pigment.
  • Arjuna, Bill and Athena’s twelve-year-old son, artfully brushes swirls of rust-colored starch paint.

  • Step two: Pour the cold flour-water mixture into boiling water smoothly and mix with a whisk.

We generally think of paint as complex and somewhat mysterious in composition, but it is, quite simply, a combination of pigments (that provide color), fillers (that determine opacity and coverage), and some type of binder or glue (that adheres to a wall). It’s actually pretty easy to make paint from casein, a milk protein, or starch from grain flour. However, you’ll need to be willing to experiment with the amounts of ingredients you use. Your results may not be perfect at first, but with some practice, you can mix up nontoxic, homemade paints in a flash.

Making Paint from Clay and Starch

The paints made in many traditional cultures used flour (rice, rye, potato) to create a starchy binder with clay as a filler and pigment. In the southwestern United States this traditional type of paint is referred to as an “alis” from the Spanish word alisar, which means “to make smooth.”

Starch paints with clay can be applied over a wide range of surfaces, but they’re generally incompatible with joint compound. They’re not water resistant, so they’re most appropriate for interior use. However, they can be coated with a glaze of linseed oil and citrus thinner, casein emulsion, or a silicate primer for additional protection. Use starch/clay paints shortly after you make them, as they’ll spoil. They can be refrigerated for a short time, but doing so results in a gradual loss in binding power.

About Clay Paint Ingredients

• Powdered clays and fillers can be purchased from suppliers of ceramic materials. Colors typically include white, beige, terra-cotta, and red.

6/13/2018 10:06:54 PM

I'm interested in reproducing the effects achieved by aboriginal people who use natural earth and colors to psi,t their faces and bodies. I want to use this substance to create paintings on board. Does any body have a lead on a mixture like this. Thx

6/13/2018 10:06:50 PM

I'm interested in reproducing the effects achieved by aboriginal people who use natural earth and colors to psi,t their faces and bodies. I want to use this substance to create paintings on board. Does any body have a lead on a mixture like this. Thx

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