Learn :Preparation of oil paints

Learn : Composition of oil paint


Preparation of oil paints
Preparation of oil paints

To get started making oil paint, you’ll need:

1) Cold-pressed, raw, or unrefined linseed oil – Linseed oil tends to do much of the heavy lifting in many oil based paint formulations. The reason is that unlike most plant based oils, linseed oil is known as a drying oil. For example, if you were to spill some olive oil on your counter top, chances are it would still be wet to the touch many weeks later. Linseed oil is different in that if you were to spill some on your counter, it would dry to form a tough film within a few days.

While you’ll be able to find linseed oil at most artist supply shops, you can also find it at the grocery store as flax seed oil. Despite what the fancy artist paint brands say, flax oil from your grocery store is generally just as good as the product they sell. Just be sure that your flax oil is pure oil, as some brands are enriched with extra ground up bits of flax seed.

2) Pigment – Pigment can be found online, or at most artist supply stores. In this Instructable, I’ll be using the pigment Ultramarine Blue.

Ultramarine has been around for eons, and until synthetic versions of it were produced in the 1800s, it used to be among the most expensive pigments available to painters, where it was used to represent virtue, holiness, and despite its high cost, humility.

Ultramarine is also generally considered to be quite safe. While you can use almost any pigment you want with this recipe, keep in mind that many pigments are very toxic and may contain high amounts of lead, chromium and other nasty chemicals you don’t want to be breathing in. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the pigments you’re intending to use, and take appropriate safety measures.

3) Refined beeswax – Beeswax acts as both an emulsifier which helps the pigment stick to the linseed oil, and as a thixotropic agent which will help keep the pigment evenly disbursed throughout our paint, and prevent it from settling to the bottom of our container.

You can find beeswax at most craft stores, and it comes in either blocks or tiny pellets called prills. Either option will work just fine, but in this Instructable I’ll be using prilled beeswax since it tends to be a bit easier to melt. Just make sure you’re not using unrefined beeswax (the yellow stuff) as it will add impurities to your paint.

In this recipe, beeswax will make up about 2% of our oil base. However, depending on the pigment you choose to use, you may want to experiment with adding slightly more or less beeswax based on how readily your pigment absorbs the linseed oil. For example, with some pigments, such as flake white, you may find that beeswax isn’t even necessary at all to achieve your preferred paint consistency. But, with pigments such as Ultramarine Green, you may need up to 4% bees wax to keep the paint from feeling too “stringy.”

Helpful Tools:

1) Mortar and pestle – While many commercial pigments are already ground up to a very fine powder, some natural pigments may be very clumpy. In these cases, a mortar and pestle can help you prepare the pigment for grinding.

2) Muller and glass slab – A muller is a special tool used to grind pigments into a carrier such as linseed oil. Glass is used most often because it’s not porous and easy to clean. If you don’t have a muller, improvise! I’ve had luck using the flat side of a piece of glass tile for example, or you could even use your palette knife.

3) Pallet knife and spatula – We’ll be using a palette knife to help mix our paint. A simple silicon spatula can also be helpful in cleaning up, or transferring finished paint to a tube.

4) Scale – It’s handy to either own or borrow a scale that you can use for measuring out your oil paint ingredients. This becomes especially important for keeping track of any changes you make to the recipe!

5) Safety equipment – You’ll want to keep pigments off of your skin and out of your eyes. At the very least, you will also want to wear a simple dust mask. Remember: if you want to work with some of the more toxic pigments, you will need to use a more substantial respirator.


The base (white lead) is thoroughly ground in oil and then mixed with the thinner (oil of turpentine) so as to give necessary work-ability to the paint. The pigment and the drier (if desired) are separately ground in linseed oil and mixed with turpentine oil to make it thin and then intimately mixed with the base that has already been prepared. The paint is then strained through fine cloth or sieve after prepared. The paint is then strained through fine cloth or sieve after which it is ready for use.