Now for Something Different: Making watercolor paint from pigments

I took a workshop at Fibershed not far from me to make and use pigments. The teacher was Tilke Elkins at What inspired me was to make paint for watercolor painting which I hope to do soon when I have all my paints made.

I was extremely fascinated by her showing us the process to make lakes as well. A lake takes a dye or ink solution and turns it into solid pigment. It’s a way to save left over dyes. I have quite a few jugs on my patio and would love to make them into lakes. That will be another workshop later this summer.

We went on a hike and Tilke showed us how to find rocks that will give good colors. Our hike as on a gravel path so there were lots of different stones to check out. To start out with the chosen rock, you need a mortar and pestle made of stone (not a ceramic one) or a stone and a marble slab. I had these from a previous workshop a few years ago making indigo pigment and paint. I trust it is still good and hope to add it to my pallet.

You break up the rock and grind it fine, like powder. If you have any lumps, your paint will be grainy.

For the next step I put the powder in a quart jar with water and let the pigment settle out to the bottom. The water should be clear as a glass of water. These jars have been sitting 24 hours and the water isn’t clear yet so I will check them tomorrow.

This is the pigment from a stone I ground the other day and put in the jar of water to settle out. I wanted it to be dry and crunchy, so it took more time to dry out after the water was poured off.

Now I use a muller on a glass plate or on my marble slab as the binder is mixed in. This is what makes the pigment stick to the paper. I’ll find out if I used enough when I try painting! I’m crossing my fingers.

Mull and be absolutely sure there are no lumps for smooth paint.

Fill a tube or watercolor pan and you have PAINT! I found these ½ pans on the internet and small tubes at my local art supply store.

5 thoughts on “Now for Something Different: Making watercolor paint from pigments”

    • There were lots of different stones in the gravel path. That one was a piece of brick. To tell if a stone will have a color pigment, rub it against another rock and see if you get a color. If the scratch is white, it won’t produce a color.
      Good luck.
      Be sure to look up how to make pigment paint. I didn’t give directions!


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