Resources: Natural Paint Recipes
Earth Egg Tempera
History: Tempera painting predates oil painting as a professional painting medium. It has unique characteristics: it produces a crisp, luminous, almost linear effect that’s quite different from oil. Using egg yolk as the binder, this ancient technique makes a water-soluble paint that dries quickly, allowing for over-painting with more tempera or other mediums. If you have never tried it, we thoroughly recommend the experience!
Ingredients: egg yolk, water, earth pigments
Prep Time: 5 minutes per color
- Separate the yolk from the white: Break open an egg, cleanly separating the yolk from the white. Keeping the yolk whole, dry it by passing it back and forth in the palms of your hands, drying the palm with each pass (or roll it on a paper towel).
- Remove yolk from the sack: Hold the yolk over a dish or jar with your thumb and forefinger, and pierce the sack to allow the contents to flow out. Discard the empty sac.
- Mix with pigments: Mix yolk with earth pigments, and use water to thin the paint. A drop or two of Clove Oil can be added to slow spoilage. Tempera paint does not store well once mixed, so paint away!
Earth Sand Painting
History: The ancient art of sand painting among Native American tribes in the Southwest was a form of religious expression. In its original form, sand paintings were created to exist only a few hours. Toward the end of the 20th century, many Native Americans began creating more permanent sand paintings by using glue under the colored sand.
Ingredients: 1 cup of a fine, craft sand. 1 tsp. earth pigment
Prep Time: 3 min. per color
- Place sand in a glass jar, and add the desired amount of pigment. The amount we suggest above is only an approximation.
- Shake vigorously to coat the sand particles with pigments. Since pigments are not dyes, their fine particle size mixes with the sand to coat it, but the pigments do not actually dye the sand. Therefore this is not a colorfast application. However, coloring sand by hand and choosing single or combinations of pigments gives you an infinite range of colors that cannot be matched by store-bought craft sand.
Tips for sand painting:
- Work with only one sand color at a time. Finish all areas of your painting with that color before proceeding to a new color.
- Use dark colors before light ones when possible.
- For more permanent sand paintings, draw with glue on a hard surface, and "paint" the sand onto the glue.
- Upon completion of all colors, you may notice some colored sand has invaded other areas of a different color. Wait until all ares are completely dry. Then use a can of compressed air, such as that used to clean computers, to blow this excess off.
Earth Pastels and Chalk
This is a natural chalk/pastel recipe used by many Renaissance artists for drawings. Making your own pastels allows you to create them as soft or as hard as you like. Commercial pastels have to be made hard enough to withstand breakage during shipment. As long as you're not shipping these, you can make soft pastels that are more yielding and do not dig into the under-layers of the paper as much as harder pastels do. The paint quality will be richer, and the colors more intense.
Ingredients: earth pigment, water, wheat paste (optional), or white soap (optional: grate and dissolve a small amount in water).
Prep Time: 5 – 45 minutes, depending on which binder you use.
- Mix pure earth pigment with a small amount of water (with a palette knife) to create a thick, paste-like material. Start with a 1:5 proportion (water to pigment) and adjust as needed.
- Roll it on an absorbent surface (newspaper or paper towels). Roll it into stick form, and let it dry. If the dry pastel doesn’t hold together or is too crumbly you should add a tiny bit of binder such as wheat paste, dissolved soap, or a honey/water solution (1:6). Experiment because each pigment has different properties and acts differently.
Wheat paste recipe: wheat, rice, or rye flour work well. Use about 1 part flour to 6 parts water. Mix flour with a small amount of water to make a smooth paste. Then add hot water to make a thin consistency. Cook on low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens to an oatmeal-type consistency. Use immediately or refrigerate to preserve it for a few days.
Wall Mural Earth Paint
Ingredients: earth pigment, white glue or flour paste, and water
Prep time: 5 minutes (using glue) or 45 minutes (using wheat paste). See wheat paste recipe in the Earth Pastels recipe above.
- Mix 1 - 2 parts water with 1 part glue or flour paste.
- Add pigments until desired color is achieved, not exceeding a ratio of 20% by volume. Although regular glue is white when wet, glue and pigment colors will clarify when dry.
- Example of the proportions: 1 Tbsp pigment + 1 tsp. Paste/Glue + 1-2 tsp. water:
Casein Earth Paint
History: Derived from milk, Casein Paint dates back to Asian cave paintings, and it was widely used up until the Renaissance. It is durable, fast-drying, and water-soluble, but it smells a little strange (the smell dissipates as it dries). Do not use if you are allergic to dairy products.
Ingredients: 2 Tbsp. casein powder; 1 Tbsp. borax, 1 oz. earth pigment
Prep time: 5 min. prep; then let sit overnight. 5 more min., and let sit an hour.
- Mix 2 Tbsp. casein powder with 5 oz. warm water, and let sit overnight.
- Discard the water that accumulates on the surface.
- Mix 1 Tbsp. borax with 4 oz. hot water, and add to casein/water mixture. Let sit for one hour.
- Mix a spoonful of the casein mix with pigment in a glass bowl or on your palette.
- Paint on wood, paper, or canvas. Add water if you want a watercolor effect. Mixtures last a week if refrigerated.
Natural Wood Stains
Simple Stain: There are several techniques to make natural wood stains. The simplest method is to add pure earth pigment to walnut oil and rub it onto wood with a clean rag. Start with 1 part pigment to 4 parts oil, and adjust proportions as needed.
"Shaker" Wood Stain: Here is another technique that uses water instead of oil.
Prep time: 45 min. – 2 hours
- Combine 1 Tbsp. earth pigment and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Gently boil it down until you have a thick paste. Let this cool.
- Rub the stain paste into wood using a cotton cloth. Rubber gloves should be worn to prevent staining of fingers.
- Let each coat dry. Rub in successive coats until the wood will not absorb any more. Softwoods work well with this stain, since they are very absorbent. Since there is no binder, a sealer must be applied to prevent the color from transferring.
Glair Earth Paint
Glair paints were popular during the 5th century to create illuminated manuscripts. Because the paint is not very strong, it works best on paper. It’s perfect for art journaling and is very quick and easy to make.
Ingredients: egg white & earth pigment
Prep time: 5 min. per color
- Whip one egg white with a few drops of water until it's frothy.
- Mix 1 part whipped egg white with 1 part earth pigment. Use this paint like watercolor, thinning with water if necessary. Glair paint does not store well, so make enough for one painting session.
Acrylic Earth Paint
For painters who enjoy the strong, fast-drying qualities of acrylic, you can always make acrylic earth paint that is more luminous than tube acrylics because there are no fillers or preservatives.
Ingredients: acrylic medium & earth pigment
Prep time: 3 min. per color
- Combine 1 part acrylic medium and 1 part pigment by placing the medium on your palette and carefully adding the pigment.
- For more opacity, add more pigment. Store paints in airtight containers. Thin with water.
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