How to Make Acrylic Paint: A DIY Guide

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Did you know that you can make acrylic artist paint yourself? This is such a fun project and one that I am considering teaching to my paint and sip students.

Making acrylic paint is easy as long as you have the right materials. It isn’t going to cost a lot of money, and you don’t need a lot of materials to make it.

It is very satisfying to be able to make acrylic paint for your paintings. You can also make it to give to other artists as a nice gift.

When you make your paint you will have more control over the colors. You will also have more control over the texture and consistency.

If you are interested in learning about DIY acrylic paints, keep reading.

What You Will Need

As I mentioned in the introduction, you will only need a few materials to make your acrylic paint. There is going to be a lot of dust, so I do suggest wearing a dust mask. 

You will need to have three pigment colors: red, blue, and yellow. These three colors can be used to make all of the other colors you will ever need.

You will also need an eye dropper, a palette knife, a tablespoon, a few sheets of aluminum foil, and a binder.

Choosing the Right Binder

All paint contains a binder. This is what makes the paint adhere to the surfaces you will be painting on. When making acrylic paint at home, be sure to use a binder that has the word “acrylic” on the label.

There are three main types of acrylic polymer binders: gels, mediums, and pastes. Mediums have a smooth consistency and are dry to gloss, matte, or semi-gloss finishes. Keep in mind that mediums do have long drying times.

You can also use gels, which also give you gloss, matte, and semi-gloss finishes. Gels have a thick texture. Like mediums, gels have a long drying time.

If you don’t mind an opaque finish (you can always use a glossy varnish when the paintings are finished), gels work too. They have a thick texture and an opaque finish. The advantage of using gels is that they have a short drying time.

Making Acrylic Paint at Home

The first step in the process of making homemade acrylic paint is to add the pigment. You will need to wear the dust mask for this step, ensuring that it covers your nose and your mouth.

#1. Start With One Pigment

Pour about a tablespoon of color pigment onto a flat surface, such as a glass cutting board or a stone slab. The surface should be smooth so it is easy to mix the pigment.

I suggest beginning with one pigment. This will give you a chance to see the consistency once you use the additive. Once you are used to using one pigment, you can start using other colors.

#2. Smooth the Pigment

Fill the eyedropper with water, and squeeze out two to three drops over the pigment. Use the palette knife to mix the water and pigment until the pigment dissolves and the mixture has a smooth consistency.

This step is very important because you need to make sure that all of the pigment has dissolved. If it doesn’t completely dissolve, you can add a bit more water and continue mixing until it is dissolved.

#3. Add the Additive

Now you can begin to add the additive, which is the binder. I suggest starting with about two tablespoons of binder.

Use the palette knife to mix the pigment mixture and additive. Continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined and the consistency is nice and smooth.

If the consistency isn’t what you want, you can continue adding additives until you reach the consistency you prefer. Be careful and add the additive slowly. You can always add more pigment later, but you can’t remove it if you add too much.

#4. Store the Paint

Your paint is ready to be stored! Cut the aluminum foil into sheets (the size will depend on how much paint you have made). The foil should be large enough to wrap around the paint at least three or four times.

While you are wrapping the foil around the paint, be sure to push out any excess air. Once you have the paint wrapped, you can place it in an area that is warm and dry.

After a few weeks, the paint may be a bit dry. You can fix this by adding a small amount of water.

Another option is to place the homemade acrylic paint into small jars. You will need to make sure that the lids are airtight so the paint doesn’t dry out.

If your paint becomes watery for any reason, you can learn how to thicken acrylic paint to create a desired texture.

Playing with Colors

Now that you know how to make acrylic paint at home, you can start playing around with various colors by mixing different pigments. This is where things start to get fun!

You will need to familiarize yourself with the color wheel to be able to mix all of the colors that you want.

There are 12 colors on the color wheel: three primary colors, three secondary colors, and six tertiary colors.

#1. Primary Colors

The three primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. With these three colors, you can mix any other colors your heart desires.

#2. Mixing Secondary Colors

You will be creating the secondary colors using the three primary colors. Red and blue combined make purple. Red and yellow make orange. Yellow and blue make green. Now you have six of the colors on the color wheel.

#3. Mixing Tertiary Colors

Mixing tertiary colors is just as easy as mixing secondary colors. You will be using primary and secondary colors to make tertiary colors.

Yellow and orange make amber. Red and orange make vermillion. Red and purple make magenta. Blue and purple make violet. Blue and green make turquoise or teal. Yellow and green make chartreuse or spring green.

Once you get the hang of mixing these colors, mixing the rest of the colors on the color wheel will be a breeze!

Final Thoughts

Making your own paint is loads of fun, and very satisfying. There is nothing like being able to create a painting from paints that you have made yourself.

This is a great project for those rainy days when you have nothing better to do. It doesn’t take much time to create acrylic paints from scratch.

I don’t recommend allowing younger children to make DIY acrylic paint, at least not without adult supervision. You need to make sure that not only are they doing it properly, but also that they are taking steps to stay safe while making acrylic paint, including wearing a dust mask.

Don’t forget to check my guides on acrylic paint blending and acrylic painting techniques on canvas for more tips!

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*image by Elnur_/depositphotos