Recently a number of people on my Instagram asked how I make my watercolours. Because there is virtually no information on how to make handmade watercolours on the internet, I thought I'd give you a tutorial today!
The art of making watercolours is very complicated, and most of the techniques involved take plenty of trial and error, so I'll try my best to give you a brief overview of what I do.
I learned a lot from reading the Stakiwi Colours Blog. It has lots of great information and resources on making watercolours from scratch. Definitely worth a visit if you are serious about making watercolours, or just curious about the process.
What You Need
All watercolours are basically made up of two things, a pigment and a binder. Gum arabic is the most common binder, and that is what I use. Another ingredient used in watercolours is glycerine, which is available at most drugstores. Glycerine keeps the paints from drying out too quickly.
There are many places to buy watercolour making supplies, but everything can be purchased on Amazon.ca.
For my gum arabic, I just purchased it on Amazon. It comes in solid, powdered and liquid forms, but I use the powdered stuff and it works just fine.
There are a million different kinds of pigments, but I like shimmery paints so I use mica pigments. These powders are naturally iridescent, so they result in a beautiful and sparkly watercolour. I got my mica powder from Voyageur Soap and Candles.
I also use honey in my paints, although many people do not. The honey just helps the pans rewet easily, but it also prolongs the drying time. When I comes to adding honey, it's your choice.
Preparing the Binder
The first thing you need to do in order to make watercolours is make a binder solution. I learned how from an excellent article by Earth Pigments. If you are using gum arabic in liquid form, it is already prepared and all you have to do is add glycerine.
I weighed all my ingredients on a kitchen scale, so I don't know how accurate using regular measuring cups would be.
The recipe is as follows:
- 2 parts gum arabic
- 4 parts distilled water, boiled
- 1 part glycerin
-Small amount of honey (optional)
Stir together all ingredients in a bowl, then pour into a squeeze bottle (this allows for easy application onto pigment). It is important to let the gum arabic solution to set for at least 24 hours, preferably 48.
Make sure you store your binder in the refrigerator because it smells TERRIBLE!
Making the Paints
There isn't really an exact science to combining the paints and pigments, but I'll show you my method.
I use a piece of glass from an old picture frame to mix my pigments, but anything hard will do.
Pour a small amount of pigment onto the surface you are using. It may be helpful the weigh the pigment to figure out how much to use for each layer. Add a few drops of binder to the middle of the pigment, then stir with a palette knife. Make sure to use the flat side, and press down while mixing. This is difficult to explain, so just try not to go fast and trap air bubbles. Continue mixing "mulling" the pigment until it is smooth and glossy, adding more binder, a few drops at a time, if necessary. If can be helpful to look at videos of other people's paints to find the right consistency (Instagram is a good place to look).
Fill the pans with paint. Make sure to use AT LEAST 3 layers to prevent cracking. I use the palette knife to pour in paint, but some people use a squeeze bottle or syringe.
Wait for the first layer to dry completely before filling the next one. This can take anywhere from 3 days (glitter pigment) to a couple of weeks.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post! I hope it helped you in your paint making journey. :)
if you have any questions.