Carol Gillott, the artist who paints the delicious Paris Breakfasts, claims that she uses paints made by herself. She doesn't give lots of details, except some pigment mentions. I am curious about this — I have made my own acrylics quite often, but I never thought about making my own watercolour paint. Seeing the beautiful granular look of these delightful works, my curiosity has been stirred.
So here are some preliminary results of a brief online research...
Everything about paint formulation and pigments at handprint. An article detailing how watercolor paints are made.
The people at Purciful Toys explain some details, also here.
One of the most tiring parts of paint-making is to mix the paint and the binder thoroughly (about 1.0 g of the dry pigment and 20 drops of gum arabic solution (gum arabic, honey, glycerine, and sodium benzoate). This involves using a mullet and a lot of work!
Recipe from the Earth Pigments company:
- Prepared Gum solution (Arabic or Tragacanth)
- Honey (Acacia is preferable) in a 10% proportion to the weight of Gum solution used
Mix all the ingredients and crush them on a glass plate using a spatula to obtain a paste with a thick, creamy consistency. It is recommended that you finish the mixture by crushing it with a glass muller (available at art supply stores). Transfer your paints to saucers for painting. When creating your initial gum, you may wish to add Glycerin as a plasticizer to prevent cracking and brittleness. The ratio would be 1 part Glycerin or less by volume to 5 parts of your prepared gum solution. Add the Glycerin after gum has been completely dissolved but while still warm.
(Preparing the gum arabic solution requires 1 part gum to 2 parts water. Boil water and pour over the powdered gum, stirring to make sure there are no lumps. For example, for 300 grams of powdered gum arabic, use 600 grams of water.
Add three drops of Clove Oil to retard spoilage. Allow the mixture to soak 24-48 hours for full absorption.)
I've done a few trials with earth colours (ochre, burnt sienna) and I'm not dissapointed with the results. Obviously, the hard repetitive work is the downside of creating your paints this way, but it's far cheaper than commercial paint and if you use big quantities, it's something you might consider.