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Making oil paint
The use of extenders in oil paint

Consistency of oil paint
Making acrylic paint

How to make your paints ?

As is stated in our “what is paint?” article, making paint does not have to be complicated. The first step in making paint is simply to understand that all of the color found in every type of paint comes from pigments. Next, you’ll have to learn about the binder for the technique that you would like to practice. Once the logic of your binder has been understood, all you have to do is mix the pigment and the binder together in the right way.


The most commonly used binder for oil paint is linseed oil. What makes linseed oil a binder of choice is the fact that it’s a siccative oil. Unlike other vegetable oils – such as canola or olive oil – linseed oil will dry. What this means is that it reacts with oxygen (in a process called oxidation), to slowly change from a liquid to a gel to a tough, solid form. Therefore we refer to it as siccative oil because it solidifies through oxidation

Linseed oil is not the only siccative oil; therefore not the only binder that can be used to make oil paint. Poppy seed, safflower or walnut oil are semi-siccative oils that can also be used to make oil paints.

It is also important to understand that the process of oxidation does not stop when the painting seems to be dry, , it actually continues for years. We should also keep in mind that oil paint is a dynamic technique which continues to change, whether by reacting or oxidizing -a painting can yellow, darken or even crack well after its completion. In short, oil paintign is a living art.

Making your own oil paint      back to the top of the page

(Click here to see a virtual demonstration with pictures)

Here's what you need to make your own paint:

Here are the steps to follow:
incorporate the oil and pigments
  1. Start with an appropriate amount of pigment for your painting session and place it on the glass.
  2. Gradually add enough oil to wet the pigments, by mixing the two together with your spatula. Once the pigments are wet, you should have something that looks like oil paint, but with a fairly crude, granular appearance.
  3. We must now disperse pigments.  Thoroughly blend the pigments and the binder by grinding with the flat surface of your spatula. You will find that the lumps (or aggregates) will diminish and become smaller and smaller. You might also notice a change in the consistency and color of your paint.

We recommend that you use a glass muller if you plan to prepare a large quantity of oil paint, or if you want a very fine paint. This being said, a simple spatula will work very well for small quantities of paint.

Using fillers in oil paint      back to the top of the page

Fillers, also known as inert pigments or pigment load, are traditionally used in oil painting. Even though they are generally thought of as being a bad thing, it is worth considering the advantages of using filler pigments. Several extenders have desirable properties for the manufacturing of oil paint. If they are used sparingly, they can allow you to save money and give you better control over the texture of your oil paint.

Barium sulfate and aluminium hydroxide are the two most common extenders. They are, in fact, white pigments (Pw21, Pw24) that have a very low tinting power. By using these pigments to make your paint, you can increase the total volume of paint produced without altering the color. In addition, the fillers also play a role in stabilizing the oil colors (especially the aluminium hydrates and aluminium stearate).

We suggest not adding more than 25% fillers to your pigment mixture; otherwise the color could be altered. The savings are especially noticeable when using extenders with expensive pigments, such as cadmiums or cobalts.

The consistency of oil paint      back to the top of the page

When you begin grinding your pigments, you will find that the consistency of certain colors will change over time. This phenomenon is quite normal, and has nothing to do with the quality of the pigments. One of the most striking examples of this phenomenon is probably ultramarine blue; when prepared in oil, without extender, the pasty texture will gradually transform into an unpleasant liquid, similar to molasses.

The solution to this problem is to add a stabilizer to the paint. Alumnium hydrate, aluminium stearate, and especially beeswax paste are generally used to control the consistency of paint. Our experience has shown that Kama Pigment's beeswax paste corrects this problem very well if it is incorporated in grinding of oil paint.

II.ACRYLIC PAINT      back to the top of the page

The binder for the acrylic paint is called "acrylic polymer emulsion", and it can be found in many different forms, which can be referred to collectively as the acrylic mediums

Unlike drying oils which oxidize, acrylic paints and mediums dry with the evaporation of water and various liquid solvents to form a tough, flexible film of paint. This polymer can be purchased in various forms: gel, liquid or impasto mediums (either glossy or matte).

Making acrylic paint      back to the top of the page

(Click here to see a virtual demonstration with pictures)

The easiest way to make acrylic paint is to use Aqua-Dispersions of pigments, which are completely ready to use when you buy them. When you prepare oil paint, you can mix the pigments and binder slowly and carefully, but time is more limited with acrylic paint because the acrylic binder dries very quickly.  As a result, it can be quite difficult to obtain a smooth and well dispersed paint when using dry pigments. The Aqua-Dispersions mix easily with acrylic mediums to produce high quality paint in a jiffy.

Though it is more difficult, it is also possible to make acrylic paint, and all other water based paints, from dry pigments. To do so, you have to to start by mixing your dry pigments with water, making sure they are well dispersed. You can then incorporate this homemade dispersion in the acrylic binder, and mix again. For lighter pigments especially organic pigments, it is much easier to replace the water with rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl) to prevent the pigments from floating on the surface of the water.

III. GOUACHE & WATERCOLOR      back to the top of the page

(Click here to see a virtual demonstration with pictures)

The binder for both gouache and watercolor paints is gum arabic, a natural gum made from the sap of acacia trees. We have a simple recipe for making your own gum arabic solution in the recipes section of this website.

To make your own watercolor we recommend that you to use Aqua-Dispersions of pigments. By adding drops of any Aqua-Dispersion to your gum arabic solution, you will instantly obtain transparent and brilliant watercolor. To make opaque gouache, simply start by making a paste from the same gum arabic solution and mix either talc, zinc white or china clay, and than add your Aqua-Dispersions or pigments.

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