Thursday, August 9, 2012

Make Watercolors from Kitchen Supplies

Paint is simply pigment in a binder. The pigment provides the color, and the binder keeps the pigment in place. And, it's rather easy to do yourself.

I followed the recipe for watercolors in Home Made, although the recipe is the same in other books, so I feel okay sharing it here.

1 tbsp White Vinegar
2 tbsp Baking Soda
1 tbsp Cornstarch
¼ tsp Glycerin (or Corn Syrup)
Food Coloring

Mix the vinegar and baking soda. When the mixture stops fizzing, stir in the cornstarch and glycerin or corn syrup. Carefully add more vinegar if your mixture is crumbly. Scoop the mixture into lids from plastic bottles or an ice cube tray. The binder mixture will be white. Stir in several drops of liquid food coloring or food coloring paste into each container until you're happy with the intensity of each color. Let the paint harden overnight.

To use the watercolor paint, just add a few drops of water to each color to moisten the paint.

I used a paste food coloring set, so all my colors coordinate. I didn't measure the food coloring as I mixed it into the binder. I kept adding food coloring until the mixture seemed dark enough.

Food coloring is meant to mix with food, so you can't expect the same results as you'd get even with a student box of drug store watercolors. Instead, the paint gives you unpredictable color variety with a slight texture after the paint dries.

Purple and black food colors are notoriously unstable. They want to separate out into their component colors. The Delphinium Blue is a purplish blue. If I make a blue wash and then drip clean water into the wet wash, the true blue wants to separate out, leaving the mauve, which can provide a pretty effect. Black also moves into blue and red, which can add variety to a flat color.

Are these paints archival? No way. Food coloring was meant to be eaten not to endure (thank goodness). A food coloring painting most likely would fade away if displayed in bright light. However, these homemade paints are useful to put together a quick card or when you want to give the kids a science lesson followed by an art lesson. Or, you can make them for fun, which is the best reason of all.


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  1. Thanks for this info.... Will try it with my kiddo ....

  2. I believe you've discovered some effects that watercolorists work hard to discover. And thanks for the recipes -- perfect for my granddaughter and me to play with. Real watercolors are *very* expensive, so these will be guilt-free fun, even for an otherwise indulgent granny.

    1. Thanks, Anne. I'm all for having fun while crafting. :) I think it'd be fun to try natural food colors or even Kool-Aid powder to make the paint too.

  3. Thanks for these recipes! I think we even have the ingredients on hand!

  4. How fun! I had no idea you could make watercolors! It's great that you can make it with common household ingredients too. We'll have to try this sometime!


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