How to Make Acrylic Paint

Michael Daly
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DIY Acrylic Means Full Control

Acrylics are usually sold by paint companies in 5-gallon pails or the quart containers you see in hardware stores.

While both forms of paint have good coverage and will stick to just about any surface, the quintessential acrylic paint is a DIY product.

There are a couple of reasons DIY acrylic paint is a popular item. One is the cost: a gallon of acrylic paint purchased from the local paint store is going to cost as much as a quality-brand physical paint roller that you need to use to apply it.

The upshot is that you spend a lot less for the actual paint, and using the DIY paint in combination with a roller will provide you with just as much coverage as any other paint brand might.

Another reason that the DIY acrylic paint is becoming so popular is that it can be made in any color you can imagine and can also be customized according to the resin content that you use.

This means you are not limited to the colors provided by the paint brand, and you can use a lower resin content for a more flexible application. For example, you can use no resin or water for a paint that’s appropriate for outdoor use in freezing weather or outdoors. If you have a high-resin content, you can use it inside as an appropriate indoor paint.

Types of Pigments

Permanence is a key factor when choosing acrylic pigments. The permanence ratings of the pigments from the best (highest) to the worst (lowest) are as follows:

  • opaques- Permanent, Extra-Permanent, Non-Permanent
  • semi-opaques- Permanent, Extra-Permanent, Non-Permanent
  • transparent- Permanent, Semi-Permanent, Non-Permanent

Here is a chart that shows the permanence in relation to one another:

Ratings Rates:

  • OPAQUE
  • Permanent (P)

Ext. Perman (EP)

Permanent (P)

Ext. Perman (EP)

Organic Pigments

Acrylic paint is a versatile, solvent-free paint that adheres to paper, wood, clay, canvas or any other surface on which you may wish to use it.

It is a medium with a very long history that was first used by the French Impressionists. Acrylic paint can be diluted to form a wash for glazing and impasto painting techniques.

The pigment can be easily washed out using water after the painting is finished. However, there is another way to make acrylic paint and that is to use organic pigments as a base material. As the name suggests, these pigments are derived from plants and they are often natural in appearance. Due to the nature of these pigments, the resulting color can be quite vibrant.

Inorganic Pigments

These include the colorants used for house paint. These colorants are minerals and do not dissolve in water and therefore cannot be used in water-based media such as watercolor paints. They make a clear, high saturation color when mixed with a resin in a binders solvent such as acrylic paints.

These colorants give brighter, bit, and brighter colors than water color paints and they are little economical in use. A one-pound rag of pigment can color about one-thousand square feet of wall in two coats. To understand the cost-effectiveness of these pigments, you need to understand what it is that you are paying for.

You are paying for pigment, binder, and solvent. Pigments are mostly the expensive part of the equation. The binder and the solvent are comparatively inexpensive. Although solvent may be expensive, in most paint cases that is an insignificant cost.

Acrylic paints are best for items that will be exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time.

Acrylic paints dry very quickly, they can be recoated in as little as thirty minutes, and no sanding is necessary in most instances.

These paints are the perfect solution for outdoor applications, for instance, outdoor signage. For best results, use solvent-based acrylic paints for outdoor applications that will be placed in direct sunlight.

Lake Pigments

Black pigment is easy to make. Grind or crush common black rocks, such as slate, or coal into a very fine powder.

If you can't find black, try grinding yellow or red ochre, found at art supply stores, into a fine powder.

You can also gain black by adding, 1/2 teaspoon of tea or coffee (a natural brown) to a cup of water to give it a brown color. Then add 1/3 teaspoon of the ink you want black, stir it up, and you have a black pigment.

Gray paint is made by mixing half black with half white and browning the mixture with a candle or stick.

The way to also get a green or red pigment is to mix the yellow and blue mixed.

How to Make Acrylic Paint

Having some artist-quality acrylic paints in your toolbox will go a long way towards a successful art project.

While acrylic paints are readily available at most craft stores, prices may vary and may be expensive.

When money is tight, other household supplies will do the job. With a little bit of experimentation you’ll be on your way to creating high-quality acrylic paints at home.

Here is your quick guide on how to make acrylic paint at home from common household materials:

  • White glue that is non-toxic (such as Elmer’s glue sticks) plus one or two drops of food coloring. The amount of food coloring you use will determine the color of your paint. Add water to a ratio of 1 part glue to 2 parts water.
  • Golden Fluid Acrylics can be used to make paint as well. To do this, first dissolve Golden’s one-pound bottle of polymer medium in a gallon of hot water and stir until thoroughly mixed. Then, make up with a gallon of linseed oil or mineral spirits.

Supplies needed:

Mix equal parts glue and water in the wide mouth mason jar. If using an opaque or another paint that doesn't require water you may add a little bit more water than the aforementioned 75/25 ratio. If you don't know the ratio of silicone bases/ water bases you can test them by adding a drop of white school glue, followed by water. If the mixture becomes cloudy stop adding water and mix. Your mixture is water based.

You can use any type of paint for your acrylic paint. Just make your mixture 50/50 with water and paint.

Step 1: Disburse the pigments in water or alcohol on the glass surface.

Coloring matter is most common form of pigment. Most professionals prefer to use paint pigment made for paint. You can usually find these in a hobby store or a craft store.

Choose a color that you like and let the paint pigment expand into the water or rubbing alcohol. The more pigment, the darker the blue and red paint you can get.

Mix it until you get the color that you want.

Step 2: Grind the pigment.

Try to avoid using paint mixers with a motor. They’re expensive and using the acrylics causes them to overheat quickly. Without a motor, you can use a good quality blender or a storage container with a lid. If you use a blender, make sure you plug the blade in before you add the pigment; this makes it easier to see when the pigment is completely pureed.

Step 3: Mix

Different paint manufacturers list slightly different mixing ratios. Some call for only 1 part paint to 5 parts water, a 50/50 ratio; others recommend adding 6 to 8 milliliters of denatured alcohol to each milliliter of acrylic paint to make the medium less watery. Just keep in mind that the medium should always be runny enough to spread evenly, but thick enough to retain its shape when straining it through the sieve.

Step 4: Store

When the acrylic paint has solidified, remove the paper towel from the container and store the paint is a separate container. You can use an old jar or plastic container. Make sure to put a lid or a stopper on the container.

It’s also helpful to label and date the container. Acrylic paint is not good for a long time, so it’s best to use it up soon after it is made. If you have to store your paint for a long time, you can dissolve a little cornstarch in the paint to keep it from drying out.

Reminders When Creating Your Own Acrylic Paint

This is a project that can be very rewarding or very frustrating. If you are in a hurry to get to a certain place, don’t do this project. Also, I don’t make acrylic paint. I make Mona Lisa. Yes, that Mona Lisa.

If you are really interested in creating your own acrylic paint, at home, this is how I make mine:

To start, I mix Liquitex Heavy Body Professional Acrylic Paint with various mediums, such as linseed oil. Generally, I keep the liquid lighter rather than heavier and I may add mediums until I reach the viscosity that I’m looking for.

Then I store the paint in four tubes and the final product is a product called Original Artist Acrylic Paint, available at the Liquitex website.

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