How to make your own oil paints
How to make your own oil paintsOil paints are made basically by mixing cold-pressed Linsed oil with pigment or color until a smooth buttery paint is produced. When the oil paint is used and applied to a surface the oil oxidizes or absorbs air and then forms a solid film that binds the pigment to the surface of the painting.

The industrial manufacture of oil paint is a complex process. Industrial manufacturers have expensive machinery to make subtle changes in the range of painting colors and consistency. In fact it is relatively complex process to make your own oil paints. Why then would one want to produce one's own oil paint?

 

Reasons for making your own oil paint.

There are a number of reasons for an artist to grind their own oil paints. The first is that it is far more economical. For a relatively small outlay, and a few hours of labor, one can make amounts of oil paint that will be much cheaper than buying tubes of paint from the manufacturer. However, the most important reason for making your own paint is the knowledge that you will acquire through this process. By grinding pigment and mixing it with oil, you will develop an intimate knowledge of the materials and the way they react under different conditions. By developing this knowledge, the artist will also be able to modify the paint according to his or her requirements. For example, you could develop a color which is faster drying, or which has other ingredients, such as wax, added to it.

What do you need?

The following equipment is required to start the process.

A professional spatula, a scraper, palette knife, a pair of pliers, preferably artist's canvas-stretching pliers or upholsterers pliers and a grinding muller made of glass and a grinding slab.

The grinding slab must be made of glass and should be about a quarter of an inch thick.

Material needed for the actual color making include:

Dry pigments- preferably artist's quality pigments.

Thinner- turpentine or pure gum spirits.

Wax- pure white beeswax

Oil- pure cold-pressed Linseed oil.

Stabilizer- a stabilizer can be made using linseed oil and wax. (This is optional at the beginning stages and will not be dealt with in this article.)

The process

Preparation of the glass slab.

Attach the glass slab to a table by nailing wood strips around its edges so that it cannot move about on the table while grinding. It is important to put a sheet of fairly heavy cardboard between the glass slab and the table. This is to prevent any cracking of the glass.

Firstly, add carborundum grit to the slab- about a half a teaspoon. Then add some water to make a paste. You then use the glass muller to grind the paste in a circular motion so that the carborundum roughens the surface of the glass. When this has been done, rinse both the glass muller and slab with water and dry. The reason for this process is to provide sufficient " tooth" so that the paint will be ground properly.

The Grinding Process

Start by grinding your selected pigments using Linseed oil only. The basic idea is to mix the oil slowly to the pigment until a paste is formed. Put the dry pigment in the middle of the grinding slab and add some oil. Mix this with a spatula until a fairly stiff paste is formed. Remove this paste using a scraper to one side of the glass plate.

Then take a small amount of this paste, about two teaspoonfuls, and place it in the center of the grinding slab and proceed to grind with the Muller. You should not use too much pressure and should grind in a circular motion. Grind until the paste is very smooth. This smooth paste is your oil paint. Make sure that the paste does not become too liquid. If this should happen, add more pigment to the paste and continue grinding. Once you have ground all the paste in this fashion, use the palette knife to mix it further. The paint should have a buttery consistency. It is now ready to be put into tubes.

There are, of course, many additions and variations to this process, including the addition of stabilizers and wax and also of various other oils, varnishes and chemicals that can be added to the process. The above is the basic process and is only the beginning of your experimentation in making your own oil colors.

Storage

It is important to make sure that all your materials are properly stored. There is probably nothing worse than working through the entire process of grinding oils, only to find that your materials were not pure. Dry pigment should always be stored in glass jars. They should be well sealed so as avoid any moisture. The oils used as binders should be kept in full jars. The air should be kept out of these jars, as this will initiate the process of oxidation. A method of keeping out the air is to place glass marbles into the jars as you take out the oil for use. This keeps the jar filled with oil at all times, keeping out the air.

Store all turpentine away from light and air in closed dark-glass containers. Turpentine should not be kept for too long, as it tends to deteriorate over time.

 

Hampton Photo, Art and Framing Bridgehampton, New York

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How to make your own oil paints
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