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What would this world be without paint? Life would be so boring and our understanding of each other's experiences would be gone. Pieces of art through the ages, help us to understand better what was going on in the time period that it was created. Without paint, we would have no picture of humanity through the ages. I grew up with a love for all things creative, but my mother was the one who instilled in me a deep love for art and the need to express my own self through it.
Paints are easy to make and require very little ingredients
When I first set out to learn more about making my own paint, I had a nagging question in the back of my mind. “How did the greats make their paints?” I knew that they had to be sourcing their ingredients from nature without the technology of mass production, so what were they made of? Coming from what I like to call “The Crayola Generation”, I had no idea that making my own arts and craft supplies could be that simple. Of all of the art materials that you can create at home, paints are the simplest in ingredients and instruction. At its core, paint is merely the combination of a binder (a vehicle to bind the paint to the appropriate support) and pigment (color). It can be as simple as mixing a red clay with your spit to create a paste-like paint on your canvas. Experimenting with different mediums will help you to find your own artistic expression.
Binders are the vehicles that keep the color on your paper
Binders are the vehicles that keep the pigment on your paper (or whatever your support might be). All paints have pigment (color) in common, it's the binder that distinguishes the type of paint you are creating with. In its simplest form, you could mix pigment with many of these binders by themselves to create a simple paint. Try experimenting with each one individually and in different combinations to find a paint that suits you and what you have on hand!
- Saliva – This has to be the oldest known binder besides water. It may sound gross, but spit has been used in combination with pigments by many artists in a bind (no pun intended hehe) out in the field. Many cave paintings from the earliest humans were made with soot or clay, combined with water or saliva.
- Water – Watercolor painting, also known as aquarelle to the French, dates back to the Renaissance period of art in Europe, though it truly has been around FAR longer than that. Used on papyrus by the Egyptians and scrolls by the Eastern Asian provinces, watercolor has been a dominant medium outside of Europe for many centuries. Watercolors are a wonderful medium to work with because in they allow you to build beautiful, transparent layers of color. Try experimenting with different amounts of water in your paint, to get different transparent and opaque effects.
- Eggs – Both egg whites and egg yolks have been used as a binder for centuries. Egg tempera paint has been used by MANY of the greats throughout the centuries. Many of the most famous Renaissance artists used egg tempera paints for their great works and though it died out after the Renaissance because of oil painting taking over, it managed to make it's comeback in the 20th century and is still being used by many modern artists today. Egg tempura paint is really simple to make, but is perishable and only what you need should be made. While you can use the entire egg to paint, it's not suggested to use the egg whites with the egg yolk, as it speeds up the drying time of the paint exponentially, preventing a smooth application of the paint. Though the paint will go on with the yellow tint of the egg yolk, it will fade away about a day or so after it dries. Use the leftover egg whites for “glare paint”, a weaker type of paint that works best on paper and for art journaling. Simply whip egg whites until frothy and then mix in pigment, and paint!
- Gum arabic powder – A vegan-friendly ingredient, gum Arabic (also known as gum acacia) is harvested in Africa from the bark of acacia trees. This totally green friendly ingredient is a great one to have on hand, for glue, paint making (including watercolors), as well as for ink making. To make watercolor paints, make the Gum arabic glue and mix in equal parts pigment and a dash of honey. Add water to dilute the paints to the desired transparency.
- Grass fed gelatin – I always have at least one, if not two, containers of grass-fed gelatin around my house for all of my favorite gummy and marshmallow recipes. People have been using what's now called “hide glue”, since the stone age. A glue made using animal skins, hooves, antlers, sinew, and connective tissue, hide glue can be used as a great waterproof binder. In today's modern era, if you don't hunt for food and have these leftover parts to use, it's best to use unflavored gelatin instead! To make an easy “hide glue” binder using gelatin simply add 1 tsp. gelatin to 1 cup water and heat it up to 120 degrees. If you heat it over this temperature, the glue will be weak and may not perform well. While this mixture is still warm and liquid, combine equal parts pigment to get a paste. When this paint dries out, simply wet your brush and use it like watercolor paints!
- Oil/tallow – The earliest known uses of oil paints, is in Afghanistan sometime between the 5th and 10th centuries. They were preferred for use over tempera paints because they were more durable on outdoor media, shields, and signs, etc. Oil painting didn't really become popular in Western Europe until the late Renaissance when it replaced egg tempera paints as the favorite among artists. Though it's drying time is FAR longer (1-3 weeks) than that of egg tempera paints (1-3 days), oil paints are loved for this reason because the artist can change the colors on the canvas or even “erase” a mistake with a rag and start again before the drying is complete. These are also fantastic paints because they are extremely simple ingredients that you are more likely to have on hand than some of the other paint recipes! While you can experiment with the different types of carrier oils to get different qualities in your paint, traditionally drying oils such as linseed, safflower, walnut, or poppyseed oil have been used. I don't normally have any of those on hand and love to use grapeseed oil instead! Just mix equal parts oil and pigment to get the thickness that you are looking for! This paint works well on many different types of support (material that the paint is applied to), including wood, canvas, paper, cardboard, metal, rock, and more! Experiment with all sorts of items from your nature walks to your recycle bin and see what kind of works of art you can create!
- Honey/Maple Syrup/Glycerin – Honey/Maple/Glycerin are best used when mixed with water. Honey is traditionally used as a humectant to help the paints retain moisture.
Nature is FULL of pigment (color) to express your inner self with
Pigments are the very nature of color at its purest, in paint. There are four types of pigments used in paints; plant derived, mineral derived, petroleum derived, and synthetically created. We'll only be talking about the first two types today! Plant-based pigments come from plants, vegetables, and fruits. Experiment with dehydrated or freeze-dried fruits and veggies. Many can produce great pigment for easy paints! Mineral derived pigments come from the clay and stone that you find out in nature. Many of the prettiest colors come from the rocks in your own backyard! Try grinding different colored rocks and clay to get different natural earthen colors. When making your own pigments for paint, you want to grind your pigments EXTRA FINE using your mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Be sure the materials you are using are completely dry first before grinding into an extra fine powder. The grittier your pigment is, the grittier it goes on your paper. If you don't want to go to the hassle of gathering, drying, and grinding your pigments you can easily get natural earth pigments at a fantastic price (that you can also use in other art projects requiring color including making your own natural wax crayons!) I would suggest checking out the pigments over at Natural Earth Paints! Here are just SOME ideas for your natural pigments of the plant nature, experiment with each medium to get the best color on paper:
- RED/PINK – alkanet root powder, beet root powder, hibiscus flowers powder, rose petals, rosehips, cranberry, strawberry, Schisandra berry
- ORANGE – turmeric root powder, annatto, carrot, sweet potato, safflower, saffron, cayenne powder
- YELLOW – mustard, pumpkin, bee pollen, clays found in nature
- GREEN – spirulina powder, chlorella, spinach
- BLUE – cornflower
- PURPLE – bilberry fruit, acai berry, blueberry
- BROWN – black walnut hull powder, coffee, cinnamon powder, nutmeg, clove, cacao powder, paprika, myrrh gum powder
- BLACK – activated charcoal, soot
- WHITE – titanium dioxide, non-nano zinc oxide
SAFETY TIP – When mixing paints with any sort of powdered ingredients, it's best not to breathe in the powder while mixing. If needed, cover your nose with a mask or your shirt while mixing paints.
Adding clay to kids paint makes it go farther
When painting with kids, you can easily go through a large amount of paint in a very short period of time. Even when using herbal substitutes, pigments can be pricey, to make your paints go farther and save you money, add clay to the mix! White kaolin clay is the perfect addition to your paints, whether you use pigments purchased online or ones made at home. It also helps to give your paints a smoother consistency and thickness. You can do this with concentrated mineral pigments, such as the ones that I got at Natural Earth Paints, too. With these types of pigments, you don't have to use as much pigment to get the colors you are looking for! Clay will help these pigment go a lot farther, saving you a lot more money!
DIY Kid's Natural Herbal Earth Paint
This is a simple and natural herbal Earth paint to make for the kiddos that is safe enough to even eat (but don't, because it probably tastes terrible!). This makes a great gift for friends if made in bulk and given in individual packets for each paint color; don't forget instructions for adding water to the dry paint mix! Though this recipe calls for water, you can use any of the binders above to create a different type of paint! The sky's the limit!
- 1 Tbsp. white kaolin clay
- 1 Tbsp. finely ground pigment (if using concentrated mineral earth pigments such as those from Natural Earth Paints, 1 tsp. is all that is needed!)
- water (or another binder of choice)
- Finely grind your pigment of choice, the finer you grind it, the better your paint will be!
- Mix together the pigment and white kaolin clay until completely blended together. If you make a large batch of each color, you can store this dry powder in labeled mason jars to keep on hand for random painting time! As a dry powder, they will store for a year or more.
- To make paint, in a jar or small bowl, combine equal parts powdered paint mix and water (or another binder of choice), mixing well until completely blended. To get a thinner paint, add a few drops more of binder until desired consistency is reached. To get a thicker paint, add a dash more of powdered paint mixture and mix in.
- Refrigerate the leftover paints for up to a week before throwing out.
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