Today I will show you how to make watercolor, everything home made ! I’ve started doing it not so long ago so don’t take my word for granted but you can still try it out for yourself.

Because yes, making home made watercolor is fun !

I’ve made so far 5 different colors, two browns, a peach, a blue and a black. All the colors have a very different mix of pigment and binder and I’d love to talk to you about how I made the 6th watercolor : medium yellow.

home made watercolor test
Some test of my home made watercolors in my sketchbook.

How is watercolor made ?

Watercolor basically made of a binder and pigments. 

Pigments are based from rocks, oxyde or organic elements. In the case of the yellow pigment I used it is I believe based on an oxide made from leads. All the pigments I got were given to me a long time ago and often I’m not too sure of their origin and or what it is based of. I’m a little sad about it but, it allows me to experiment at a lower cost. I’m not going to complain about it. 

The binder is what will make the paint stick together and be usable as a paint. The recipe varies for each type of paints. For oil paints, the pigments are mixed with linseed oil. For watercolor the binder used is Gum Arabic because it can be reactivated by water. 

I really love the color and the smell of natural Gum Arabic. It’s so pretty, it’s made from the resin of a special type of acacia tree found especially in Africa. I kinda hoped I could have made it from the acacia trees in the garden but it’s not the same kind at all !

gum arabic for home made watercolor
Raw gum arabic to make watercolor binder.

What to use to make watercolor ?

  • Gum Arabic
  • Vegetal glycerine
  • Distilled water
  • Honey
  • Clove essential oil
  • Glass plate
  • Glass muller
  • Palette knives
  • Spray bottle
  • Empty and clean syringes
  • Empty half pans
  • A scale 
  • Paper, brush and water to test out the paint
tools for home made watercolor
The tools and ingredients needed for home made watercolor.

My watercolor recipe :

For this medium yellow watercolor that I’m going to make, I prepared ahead the following binder

  • 8g of gum arabic
  • 16g of distilled water 
  • 8g of glycerine
  • 1g of honey 
  • 3 drops of clove essential oil

First take the gum arabic and put it to dissolve in distilled water. You can find an easy way to make distilled water here. I use big chunks of resin so it takes around a day to dissolve in the water. Gum arabic powder exist, and might be faster to dissolve. 

Then once everything is dissolved add all the other ingredients and mix well

You can replace clove essential oil with thyme essential oil or vinegar. Its whatever your nose like best, this is used to preserve your paint. 

The binder I just prepared is little more than what I am going to use for the paint, but it’s ok the binder can be put aside a week in the fridge. You can try another color later !

how to make watercolor paint at home
Adding the pigments and the binder.

Adding the pigments:

10g pigments + 9g binder

I find this ratio worked really well. It’s one of my most successful watercolor recipe. But as you will notice if you try various pigments, each pigment is different and your home made watercolor will need each time adjustments. Each pigment will actually need its own recipe and ratio in ingredients !

how to make watercolor paint at home
Mulling the binder and the pigment into watercolor paint.

Mulling the pigments into watercolor paint.

The mulling is about making the pigments and the binder into one smooth and homogeneous paste. You just have to find a quiet place.

Put your pigment and binder on a glass plate and make circular movements with your glass muller for a long time. Keep the paste moist with the spray bottle filled with distilled water as you go. It’s easier to work with a moist watercolor paste.

I tend to grind the pigments for around 1h.

I check my paint on a piece of watercolor paper from time to time to see how fine the paint is becoming. It can start to be fine around 30 minutes of mulling but I like spending the extra time to have a very very fine watercolor. 

For my first home made watercolor paint I didn’t spend enough time on the mulling and I am dearly regretting it now.

how to make watercolor paint at home
Filling the half pans with my home made watercolor

Putting the paint into pans.

Now your paint is done. You’ve checked your paint, you love it on paper, you can take your pans or half pans and fill them with the paint !

I usually let it dry a bit before using it. I have a palette full of my home made watercolor.

Watch the video that shows the whole process for this paint :

And paint !

I’ve already tested the paints during a plein air session. The yellow is quite wonderful and make greats shades of green with the blue I had made previously. I’m surely going to use it more in the future for my art.

plein air watercolor isabelle arne homemade paints
Plein air painting using the watercolor I just made (medium yellow included !)
Another watercolor illustration painted with the home made colors.

Thank you for reading I hope this article was interesting to you. Follow me to be notified (sometimes) of articles on this blog and my news :

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