Making your own watercolors allows you to make an incredibly archival, very high quality paint that has a more brilliant luminosity (see comparison to commercial tubed paint below) and are free of fillers, preservatives, heavy metals, petroleum-based pigments and toxins. And it couldn't be simpler!
honey (if you want a vegan version, use glycerin)
clove or thyme essential oil (optional preservative)
sodium benzoate (optional preservative)
Oxgal (optional / not vegan)
Step 1: Make the Watercolor Base:
- Mix 1 cup hot water with ½ cup Gum Arabic Powder
- Add in 1/5 cup honey (a little less than ¼ cup)
- Add two drops of clove or thyme essential oil to help preserve it
Preservative Note: If you want a stronger preservative you can use sodium benzoate – a food grade preservative - 1/2 - 1 tsp. If you are storing this base for an extended period, keep it in the fridge to extend shelf life. These preservative options are natural and mild so they will not preserve the paints at hot or room temps. for long periods of time like toxic, synthetic preservatives do. For longer preservation dry them in shallow pans and re-wet as needed.
- In separate bowl, mix 1 Tbsp. honey with 9 Tbsp. of above mixture (1:9)
- Note: this extra honey is added to help the pigments mix smoothly into the formula.
Step 2: Mix in Pigment:
- Mix 1 part mixture with 1 part pigment (adjust as necessary)
- For example, 9 tsp. mixture and 9 tsp. pigment
- Note: Each pigment has completely different properties and behaves differently so determine what each pigment needs. For example, I found that blue needed a little more pigment than 1:1. And yellow ocher needed quite a bit more pigment.
- The most effective mixing is done with a palette knife or glass muller but can also be done with a spoon.
- Optional Ingredients: Add 2 drops of oxgall to increase flow of paint. Add 24 drops of glycerine to increase flow and add more vibrancy.
Step 3: Store in airtight jars or let dry into cakes in cans or half pans.
If the cakes crack when dry, make a note of which color and add more of the gum solution next time or add a few drops of glycerine.
Comparison of these home-made watercolors with professional quality, tubed, commercial watercolors in the art supply store.
Notice the vibrancy in the hand-made colors!