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Natural Binders for Natural Pigments: Top 9 Mediums for Eco-Friendly Painting

Natural Binders for Natural Pigments: Top 9 Mediums for Eco-Friendly Painting

Posted by Natural Earth Paint on Sep 28th 2021

So you've got your hands on some Earth & Mineral Pigments, or maybe even foraged your own. Congratulations! But how do you know which binder to use with them?

There's a variety of natural binders and mediums out there, and so the real answer is, there is no single right answer––it all depends on context. We've outlined the details of our favorites below (in no particular order), so you can make the right choice for you!

Gum Arabic

Our Gum Arabic Powder is the perfect binder for many paint recipes. Made naturally from the hardened sap of various species of the acacia trees, it is dissolved in water to make an effective and non-toxic adhesive binder. Gum Arabic Powder is a key ingredient in several of our most popular paint recipes, including Professional-Grade Watercolors and Gouache. If you're a gouache or watercolor lover, Gum Arabic is for you!

Walnut Oil

Our Refined Walnut Oil pairs perfectly as a medium with our Earth & Mineral Pigments to make a smooth, rich, luxurious oil paint. Slow-drying, non-toxic, and all-natural, this oil is a time-tested medium with great workability. Unlike linseed oil, this product doesn’t yellow over time, and its unique refractive index produces color that is naturally more bright and vibrant. Our Refined Walnut Oil is a great choice to mix with pigments, thin mixed paint, clean brushes, or make natural wood stains. For a complete recipe on how to mix your own oil paints, check out our Natural Earth Oil Paints tutorial!

Egg Yolk

Using egg yolk as a professional medium actually predates the use of oil paint; the resulting paint is known as tempera paintIt has unique characteristics, producing a crisp, luminous, almost linear effect that’s quite different from oil. It dries very quickly, allowing for over-painting with more tempera paint or other mediums. Keep in mind, tempera paint doesn't keep for very long, so only mix up as much as you'll use in one session at a time! For our full tutorial on how to use egg yolks as a painting medium, check out our Natural Earth Egg Tempura tutorial.

*This binder option won't be ideal for vegans.

Egg Whites

Similarly to egg yolks, egg whites can also be used as a binder for pigments, resulting in a type of paint known as glair paint. Glair paint was popular in the 5th century, where it was used to create beautiful illuminated manuscripts. It's a very delicate paint, so it works best for works on paper, and is perfect for journaling. For a complete glair paint recipe, check out our Natural Glair Earth Paint tutorial!

*Heads up, vegans: this one isn't for you!

Casein

Derived from milk, the use of casein in paint dates all the way back to Asian cave paintings. It was widely used up until the Renaissance, and it's durable, fast-drying, and water-soluble. It does smells a little strange, but the smell dissipates as it dries! For our favorite casein paint recipe, check out our Natural Casein Earth Paint tutorial!

*Since it's derived from milk, this isn't a good binder choice for vegans or those with dairy allergies.

Methyl Cellulose

Our Methyl Cellulose (Natural Adhesive) is a natural, plant-based adhesive and paint binder. When dissolved in water, Methyl Cellulose creates a liquid adhesive with a neutral pH—it’s non- toxic, vermin-proof, does not decompose, and dries clear. It’s perfect for bookbinding, sizing papers and fabrics, as a paint binder, thickening baths for marbling paper, decorative paste papers, and more!

Impasto Medium

Our Natural Impasto Medium is the perfect material to thicken or extend your oil paint naturally or achieve beautiful impasto textures. The very same ingredient in this medium, Artist-Grade Limestone Powder, was used by the Renaissance Masters in their works to achieve impasto effects! The Natural Impasto Medium can be mixed with our Refined Walnut Oil to create a medium that can be added to oil paints.

Cold Wax Medium

Cold wax medium is made from a mixture of beeswax, Gamsol, and sometimes resin, and is a semi-solid paste that requires no heat, unlike the medium necessary for encaustic painting. It can be used on its own, but we love to mix it with Earth & Mineral Pigments to add some rich color; play around with the ratios to achieve your desired transparency! More pigment will make the resulting wax more opaque, while less pigment will maintain some of the medium's translucency. This medium works best on a hard substrate and can be used in combination with oil paints (source).

*Due to the beeswax in its recipe, this medium isn't suitable for vegans.

Natural Acrylic Medium

Our Natural Acrylic Medium is the first of its kind, perfect for artists who are used to conventional, plastic-based acrylics but are looking for an eco-friendly alternative. This medium is perfect for making your very own eco-friendly acrylic paints, along with being a superb varnish, sealer, collage adhesive, and more. Unlike the conventional acrylic mediums you might find at big-name paint supply stores, this medium is free from harmful additives, stabilizers, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals.

To make acrylic paint with this medium, check out our Natural Acrylic Paint Recipe! The process is simple; just mix a 1:1 ratio of the Natural Acrylic Medium and our Earth & Mineral Pigments, adjust as needed to achieve the consistency you desire, and you're ready to paint!

Interested in more recipes featuring Natural Earth Paint products? Visit our Recipes page!
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