workshop making your own paints


In this workshop we are going to be making and testing artists’ low budget PVA paint. The write-up about this project includes the results of the artists from the First Floor gallery of Harare. I hope that teachers and artists will follow the workshop and discover how you can also make your own paints.

Moffat, Gersham, Mavis, Wycliffe, Joe, Kres and Sky

Participants 6-30

Ground rules of each workshop

  1. respect 4 all, all 4 one  (confidentiality: personal issues discussed in the group remain in the group)
  2. For each exercise there is a set time, stick to it (you will be told how much time you have and how much time is left to round off your task)
  3. There is a general silence agreement, when the instructor asks for general silence, be silent.
  4. The participants will be split up into groups of 3-4. Participants may get a role in their group to assist with materials or tasks.

Artists gossip round

Each person tells what they know about  one other participant.
In this way we know how others see us.
(If participants do not know one another, do a speed-date session)
results: we learned what the others make, what there themes are, where they get support from and inspiration.

Introduction to making paint

Paint is made out of pigment (powder) and a glue (medium) that holds it together.

Make a mind map: 5 min
name pigments and different types of mediums

output oxide, red clay, ultra marine, cadmium yellow, iron oxide….
linseed oil, wood glue, Arabic gum…
note: Dye molecules are much smaller than pigment particles and are much more vulnerable to light.

results:the pigment is the colour, the medium holds the pigment together. Some glues dissolve in water like Arabic gum for water colours.

with thanks to

Mixing glue and powder: 45 min

We found several powder paints for sale in Harare centre, 200gr 3$US , wood glue 1kg for 5 $US. We bought white, red, cyan, yellow and oxide black (the cheapest).

Mix the powder with the glue and add a little water. Find out what results this gives.

output: we mixed all the powders and tested them. We also mixed the pigments with linseed oil. Pigment with oil paint, pigment with acrylic emulsion.

results: 20 min

  • PVA being a cheaper type of binder than acrylic medium dries up slightly white, leaving dark blue with a slightly milky layer.
  • The white was difficult to mix with the glue, it became lumpy. We have to find a better way to mix.
  • Mixing powders with oil was difficult. Too little oil, resulted in a lumpy mess, too much oil resulted in a lean paint.
  • Raw linseed oil resulted in a darker yellow.
  • Mixing powder with oil paint gave good result. This could be used full for extending the oil paint.
  • the Acrylic emulsion was of such poor quality that we abandoned using it.

Today’s conclusions: 10 min
It is possible to make a study quality paint from pigments and PVA glue. Adding a little water makes the paint flow better. We found that our paint dries fast, so mind how much paint you make. PVA glue can also be added to tempera paint. This will enable the artist to paint layer over dry layer like acrylic paint.

We also found out that oil paints can be bought in Zimbabwe, they go for 10$ US for 170ml but buy the W&N Chinese brand (the W&N European will cost 3 times more).
[note:  W&N 200ml in Europe is 12 Euro.]

next: mixing the colours