The process of making your own oil paints is ancient, pretty basic and very rewarding. It does require some extra time and patience, especially if you are an artist like myself who was accustomed to the convenience of using paint straight from a tube for many years. The idea of making your paint from scratch versus buying paint tubes, is comparable to cooking your own meals from scratch versus going to a restaurant. If you appreciate the sensual experience of choosing your own flavors and natural ingredients for better quality meals, you will probably love making your own paints.
The following are my personal favorite equipment, ingredients, and process for making homemade sustainable oil paint.
1. Prepping: Prep your glass grinding plate and muller. They both need an abrasive surface in order to create enough friction to smooth the pigments. Use a small amount of the Silicon Carbide with water and grind across one surface of your plate with the muller. When the plate and muller bottom appear foggy, you are done. You do not need to repeat this step every time you make paints. When your glass becomes smoother after a while, repeat the Silicon Carbide process again.
2. Combining: Oil Paints are basically made from combing a “filler,” the color pigment and a “binder,” the liquid or glue that holds them together. Each pigment has its own unique chemistry, requiring different amounts of binder to filler. Slowly add walnut oil to your pigment with an eye dropper, mixing with a palette knife, until it moistens all of the pigment into a paste consistency. Depending on the desired thickness of your paint, add more or less oil.
3. Grinding: This is the fun part. Use the glass muller to smooth the paste into a fine paint. Use small circular motions, utilizing as much of the glass slab surface as possible. You do not need to push very hard. You will find a suction is created between the muller, paint and slab surface, this suction does the fine grinding work. You can tell when the paint is ready when it feels less gritty under your muller. Use your palette knife to scrape the finished paint into a jar. You may also need to use the palette knife to remove parts of the paint that are finished and keep working the remaining ingredients in portions. Each pigment takes different amounts of time for finer results. It takes between 2-7 minutes of grinding.
4. Storage: Your storage containers should seal tightly and be kept out of direct sunlight for longevity. Still, be prepared for them to dry out in days or a week depending on the jar, amount of oil etc. Its a good idea to start with small batches and small containers for longest paint shelf life.
5. Cleaning: As with most projects, this part is not as fun. Take all your supplies to a sink and using warm soap, water, and a old sponge just for paint use, clean all the remaining color from the tools. When cleaning brushes, test its cleanliness with some soap in your hand and rubbing the brush in it strongly, if color remains, repeat or use your Solvent, then rinse.
6. Repeat: Once your have cleaned up, repeat this process with all your desired colors. It can take about an hour to make about 3-5 colors. I recommend doing this before a moment of inspiration, primary colors are usually good choices for versatile options when you are ready to paint.
As I prefer to cook by taste, not always sticking to the recipes, I also make my paints by experimentation, adding oil and mixing slowly until desired thickness. Contact me if you have any questions or would like to share what you end up making!