Making Artists Watercolour Paints

How to make your own watercolour paints.



  • Containers for mixing and storage
  • Pallet Knife
  • non-porous smooth surface
  • Pestle and mortar or a Muller and Glass Sheet

For a Basic 'rough and ready' watercolour paint:

1. Mix 1 part Binder with 1 part pigment.  Mix thoroughly to ensure there is no dry pigment left. Add more binder if the paint becomes very stiff/dry.

This method produces a watercolour with a lovely grainy texture.

For a Smoother finish.

If you intend to let the paint dry to create watercolour pans then a 10% addition of Honey or Glucose syrup to the gum arabic binder will result in a pan that is softer and easier to 'wet'. Mix 1 part honey or glucose with 9 parts gum arabic binder.

2. Using the same ratios discussed in section 1, Place the binder and pigment in a pestle and mortar and grind together until a smooth consistency is achieved. You may find that you will need to add more binder if the paint becomes thick and sticky,


3. Mix the the binder and pigment together on a glass sheet with a pallet knife and then grind with a muller to further blend the paint to a super fine finish. If you don't have a muller, you can also use a hard smooth stone with a flat bottom. 

4. The resulting paint can be stored in an airtight container, or left uncovered and allowed to dry, creating a watercolour ‘cake’ the type of watercolour paint that is sold commercially in pans and half pans.


Creating water colour sets:

5. Put the mixed paint into empty paint pans and make up your own unique set of watercolour paints. The paint in the pans will shrink as it dries so keep any leftover paint in an airtight container to keep it wet and use it to top up the pans. Alternatively mix more paint at a later date to top up the pans.

If the paint in the pans cracks as it dries, you could add a little more gum solution the next time you mix that particular paint. Don’t worry though, a little cracking doesn’t affect the usability of the paint.

Experiment and make notes.

If you are looking to make the perfect water colour set, you will need to test and experiment. Some pigments may need a different mix ratio, so you will need to try different mixes. Start with the binder to pigment ratio of 1:1. If you find the paint mixture getting thick as you blend, add more binder. If the mix is watery and the colour looks thin and transparent try adding more pigment. You may also find that a pan or paint cake is very hard once dry. If this is the case, next time you make that paint you can try adding more water to the binder before mixing this will have the affect of reducing the amount of gum in the mix.

Another test you can do is to paint sample squares in your notebook. Once the squares are dry, lightly rub them with a piece of tissue, if the paint comes off onto the tissue, you need more binder (or less pigment) next time.

Have fun experiment and don't forget to write down your results.