How to Make Acrylic Paints

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Making your own acrylic paints can give you more artistic control. Using different amounts of pigments and a variety of mediums, you can change the paint's viscosity and color saturation. This will give you more freedom for experimentation, and when executed correctly, can produce higher quality paints. Making your own acrylic paints takes some practice, but using your own paints is very rewarding.

Things You'll Need

  • Palette
  • Dry pigments
  • Distilled water
  • Palette knife
  • Muller
  • Acrylic medium or binder (matte, gel, paste or polymer)
  • Acrylic retarder
  • Jars

Lay a palette or piece of Plexiglas on a tabletop and mound a handful of dry pigment in the middle. Form a well in the center of the mound and fill it with distilled water.

Mix the pigment and water with a palette knife. The pigment will start out thick and sticky, but as you continue to mix the consistency will become smooth and glossy.

Add more water, as needed, to achieve a smooth consistency. Grind with a muller in a rhythmic, figure-eight motion while applying even pressure. When the dry pigment is fully dispersed in the water, it will have a creamy, malleable texture; you should not hear or feel any grittiness.

Scrape the acrylic paste into a jar or container with a palette knife.

Pour the medium over the paste in a ratio of one part pigment to two parts medium. Mix thoroughly, scraping the sides periodically to ensure even distribution. Add a dime-size amount of retarder to the paint to increase viscosity. Mix well.

Store your acrylic paint in tightly-sealed jars or containers.

Tips & Warnings

  • There are a wide variety of binder mediums, each with different finishing properties and textures. Experiment with combining different types of mediums to see the variety of surfaces you can achieve.
  • Increasing the amount of medium will make your paints more transparent. For more opaque paints, decrease the amount of medium. The quality and longevity of the paint will decrease if there is too much pigment and not enough binder.
  • Pigments and mediums can be found in most art supply stores and on manufacturers' websites.
  • Each pigment will vary slightly in its dispersion ratio, so experiment and write down the recipe that works best for you.

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