Wednesday, July 26, 2017


I've been experimenting with making paint from natural pigments. I've purchased dried pigment from several sources: Natural Earth Paint, Natural Pigments, The Art Treehouse, but I wanted to try making paint from rocks I pick up, such as this stone I found on a hike in the woods behind my home.


Step One, Grinding. I break a chunk of it into small pieces with a hammer. This particular stone crumbled pretty easily, so it wasn't too much trouble. I grind it into a powder with a mortar and pestle that I only use for art supplies, never food. Here I added a little bit of water to make a paste, because I found it made the job easier.

A rock I found in the woods behind my house
Grinding with a mortar and pestle


Step Two, Levigation and washing. I stir the powder (or paste) in a container of water. Any organic matter will float, and I can pour it off. I top it off with water again, and stir it. I let it settle for 30 seconds or so while the heavier particles settle to the bottom. Only fine particles are still suspended in the water. I pour the water into another container, and let the fine particles settle, leaving clear water at the top. I pour off as much of this water as I can, without losing any of the fine pigment particles. I'll grind the heavier particles again, and repeat the process to get more usable pigment.

Pigment stirred into water
After 20-30 seconds settling time


Step Three, Drying. I pour whatever's left onto a piece of glass, in this case an old picture frame with silicone caulk around the edges from its days as my primary studio palette. I set the frame outside to allow the remaining water to evaporate, and then scrape the dry pigment into an empty container until I'm ready to use it.

Pigment poured onto glass to dry
Dried pigment


Step Four, Mixing. I pour the dry pigment onto a heavy piece of 1/4" glass (my studio palette) and mix it with a small amount of linseed or walnut oil using a palette knife at first, then a glass muller. It takes less oil than you'd think, so always add a little at a time.

Mixing linseed oil into pigment
Using a muller to mix paint thoroughly


Step Five, Tubing and Testing. I Fill an empty tube of paint and test it out. Here is the color straight out of the tube, and mixed with white. It reminds me of a Terra Rosa paint, which is logical, since the original rock was pink.

tubing paint
test driving the paint


As a bonus, I mixed a little bit with some Gum Arabic and a tiny bit of honey (which I read aids with paint flow), and made a half pan of watercolor. I tested it out in my sketchbook, using it to paint the half pan I made.

pigment made into watercolor
test driving the watercolor in my sketchbook

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