How to Make Homemade Acrylic Paint

And how to make any color!
Tayler Tayler (59)
10 minutes

So, you're interested in learning how to make homemade acrylic paint?

If you've ever felt this inclination, you might also have had the tangential thought: why should I make paint from scratch when I can buy it instead?

For starters, learning how to create homemade paint from scratch gives you more control over the color of your paints in question. Sure, you can start with premixed paints and use them to create your own colors, but making paint from scratch also gives you control over the texture and consistency of your paint.

Plus, it's a fun activity for a rainy day, especially if you've tuned into my canvas-making guide How to Make The Perfect Wood Frame Canvas.

If you've ever wondered, how many colors exist and how many can I make, then this guide is for you. Just make sure your wash your brushes properly before switching colors.

Now, grab your pigment, your dust mask, and your additive, and let's get started.

Palette knife ×1
Eye dropper ×1
Dust mask ×1
tablespoon ×1
Tinfoil ×1
Blue pigment ×1
Red pigment ×1

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Paint binder.

Binders are a substance that allows the pigment to adhere to surfaces, like a canvas.

When you set out to buy your acrylic binder, look out for the word acrylic on the container (pretty obvious, right?). Acrylic paint is called acrylic paint because the binder is made of acrylic polymer.

Once you're looking at acrylic polymer binders, there are three main categories: mediums, gels, and pastes.

Binder Consistency* Transparency Drying time
Mediums Smooth Gloss, matte, and semi-gloss Long drying time
Gels Thick texture Gloss, matte, and semi-gloss Long drying time
Pastes Thick texture Opaque Short drying time

Consistency refers to the texture of the paint once it has been mixed with the binder and dried.

There are a ton of variations to all three types of binders, and manufacturers are often coming out with different variations. What can make buying a binder even more confusing is that the term "medium" is often used interchangeably with "additive."

While buying your first binder, try and keep in mind the Consistency and intended texture mentioned above. If you still feel overwhelmed by your local art supply store, PEBEO Studio Acrylic is an excellent starting binder.

Now that you have your binder, you're ready to start making your paint!

Paint pigment.

Start by putting on your dust mask. Once your mask covers your nose and mouth, you're ready to start working with your pigment.

Start by pouring 1 tbsp of color pigment onto a flat surface. While you can use any flat surface, many artists choose to work with glass or stone slabs because cleanup is easy, and you can use the smooth surface to mix the pigment.

If this is your first time, start with a single pigment so you can learn what to watch out for when it comes to consistency with your additive. Then, you can play around with colors later.

Interested in learning how to mix and create different colors? Keep reading to learn more!

Pigment on a surface.

Using a pipette or an eyedropper, squeeze 2 to 3 drops of water over your pigment. Mix using a palette knife until the powder pigment dissolves, and the consistency is smooth.

If you don't eliminate all of the pigment powder immediately, that's okay. You'll be able to dilute it later, but you'll want to mix until most of the large clumps of powder are dissolved.

Mixing paint.

Start slowly mixing in your paint additive with your pigment mixture, starting with 2 tbsp.

Using the same palette knife you used to mix the paint pigment and the water, mix your pigment and your additive together. Mix until the pigment has thoroughly combined and you have a smooth consistency.

From here, you can add more additive until you reach your desired consistency.

Remember to add additive slowly. It's a lot easier to add additive than it is to mix more pigment, and more pigment might affect the color of your paint if you find yourself with the perfect paint shade.

Tinfoil.

Cut tin foil into sheets. The size of your sheet will depend on the amount of paint you created, but you'll ultimately want enough to fold the foil tightly around the paint a few times.

As you fold, try to push as much air out as possible. Once you've secured your paint, store your makeshift tinfoil case in a warm, dry place.

If you pull your paint out after a few weeks of having it stored away and find it to be dry, add a little bit of water to it and mix.

Alternatively, you can store your paint in small jars with airtight lids!

Primary pigments.

Now that you know how to mix paint, you're ready to learn the fun part of mixing paint: making different colors.

Mixing pigment to create color is easy. You have to combine different pigment shades until you reach your desired color. Remember to move slowly when you're adding colors to your pigments.

Just how many colors exist? Around 10 million. But the average human eye can only see about a million.

How color theory works

In the traditional color wheel, there are 12 colors: three primary, three secondary, and six tertiary.

The primary colors (which you probably remember from primary school) are red, blue, and yellow.

Once you have your primary colors, along with white and black, and you can just about mix any color you please.

Note:

We see because light enters our eyes. There are two ways light enters our eyes, which leads to two color theories: additive and subtractive. Red, yellow, and blue are primary subtractive colors. Yellow, cyan, and magenta are primary additive colors.

For the sake of this guide, we'll focus on primary subtractive colors, which are the classic painter's primaries.

Secondary paint pigments.

The three secondary subtractive colors are purple, orange, and green.

You can create these secondary colors by mixing together your primary colors in groups of two: Red + blue = purple Red + yellow = orange * Yellow + blue = green

Boom. You have six colors.

Many paint pigment.

The six tertiary subtractive colors are

You can create these tertiary colors by mixing together your primary and secondary colors in groups of two: Yellow + orange = yellow/orange (amber) Red + orange = red/orange (vermillion) Red + purple = red/purple (magenta) Blue + purple = blue/purple (violet) Blue + green = blue/green (turquoise or teal) Yellow + green = yellow/green (chartreuse or spring green)

From there, creating any color you'd like is easy, and the world of color is your oyster. Now that you know how to make homemade acrylic paint, you're set up for painting success.

The perfect painting canvas does exist.
Tayler Tayler (59)
45 minutes

As an artist, there's something very gratifying about learning how to make a wooden frame canvas.