how to make home made paint

I started playing with eco paints many years ago and tried various limewashes, milk paints etc. The recipe which I use now we learned whilst I was teaching at the National Hancrafts school in Sweden, it is quick and very easy to make, cheap quick drying, smells nice and when fully cured washable. It is a linseed oil emulsion paint.

You will need

1 whole egg
linseed oil, I prefer raw cold pressed.
jam jar with tight fitting lid.

I am making this batch to paint some wooden bowls I carved a few weeks ago but it is equally good for walls or windows and doors.

So here are my ingredients

First crack your egg into the jar put the lid on and shake it really well. Using half the shell as a measure add two egg volumes of oil (4 half shells) swirl the jar as you pour in the oil to help it mix.

Then put the lid on and shake really well.

Now add 3 egg volumes (6 half shells) of water, swirling to mix then put lid on and shake. You can use more or less water to make your paint thinner or thicker as ypou wish depending on the absorbency of the substrate. This is now the basic paint without pigment. It can be used to seal woodware for use and I will treat the inside of my bowl with it, this paint mix is also great for sealing dusty lime wash.

Now I am going to add pigment, this is a ground earth pigment “ultramarinbla” that we bought in Sweden, anyone who has traveled there will have seen houses painted with it. In the UK many art supply places will sell ground pigments also eco paint supply places such as the centre for alternative technology, auro is a brand I have used. You can also gather your own pigment, most fine soft stones can be ground up and used, I collect an orange mineral oxide that oozes out of the shale beds near my home for a nice orange, and also grind the shale for black, they need sieving, drying and grinding before adding the powder to the paint.

These pigments are very concentrated though and a small amount goes a long way. Lime can be added too if you want more pastel tones.

Now slap it on just as if it were commercially bought paint.

in 20 minutes it is touch dry, less on absorbent substrates.


So that is the good part. Now the drawbacks. Although it is touch dry quickly it is still very soft and can easily be scraped off with a fingernail. It takes a while for the oil to cure, just like a proper old oil painting. How long depends on the oil, it can be a week or two or up to two months before it becomes really hard. Boiled linseed is faster because it has heavy metal driers added, I prefer to wait.

When dry it is quite hard wearing, I have a breakfast bowl painted with this paint that I have washed every day for six years and the paint is still good. It ages beautifully, where a hard modern paint eventually fails by chipping and peeling these soft old paints simply wear through on the highlights where they are rubbed which looks nice.

The paint will not keep long, maybe a week in the fridge. It will not give you a totally flat even colour, the sort of thing we are used to with canned paints these days, it will be a little more variable, I think this is a benefit but some would think otherwise. It is important to make enough to do a whole wall in one go, you don’t want to run out and have to mix a bit to match. The one egg quantity would easily do both sides of a door with some to spare.

One of the nicest jobs I did with this paint was using it as a glaze over a white limewash, I mixed it fairly thin with locally collected ochre pigment and sponged it over the limewash, it gave a lovely textured feel. It dries neither matt nor gloss, if you want gloss after it is dry give it a thin coat of pure linseed over the top though that will take a while to dry.

24 Responses to how to make home made paint

  1. Krikkan January 1, 2009 at 2:08 pm #

    Ultramarinblå houses in Sweden? Are you sure? I live in Sweden, and I wouldn’t say that ultramarinblå is a common house colour, but we do have a lot of faluröda (red) houses..

  2. Robin Wood January 2, 2009 at 7:48 am #

    No I wouldn’t say it was common and yes Falun Red is by far the most common pigment, originally a by product of the copper mines at Falun I believe. A lot of old woodware I saw in museums is painted with a variety of pigments unlike the UK, interestingly one pigment is called English Red though we don’t use it here.

  3. Krikkan January 2, 2009 at 6:43 pm #

    Yes, Engelsk röd is a beautiful pigment, but I didn’t know that you don’t use it, I always thought it was a common pigment in England, and that’t where the name was from. But I really like your home-maid paint. I have made paint in a simmilar way, but i never user oil.

  4. Jude January 5, 2009 at 2:58 pm #

    Just found you after watching the you tube vid on A Devonshire Pottery blog. Really enjoyed it thanks.Good luck. I think your work is wonderful and I also like the previous pieces you’ve written about old crafts.I shall definately be back.

  5. AAAndrew January 25, 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    Excellent description of how to make the paint. I’ve seen recipes with measurements, etc… but none as clear and easy as yours. One question is about the food safety of the pigments. As is pretty obvious, just because it’s a mineral pigment doesn’t mean it’s safe. Are there some colors that would be more safe on parts that would touch the food? Also, for non-food items, I’m wondering if oil-based pigments, such as those used for wood staining, would work with such a substrate. I suspect they would and could yield some interesting results. I’ve just recently encountered your whole online world and have enjoyed watching, reading and thinking about it quite a bit. I’m interested in many of the same kinds of crafts here in America and enjoy seeing the versions from across the ocean, many of which were the precursors for what we do here. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Tim Rast October 24, 2009 at 11:59 am #

    Thanks for posting this — I recently used this recipe to stain a harpoon reproduction with red ochre and was very pleased with the results. I'm used to red ochre coming off the project onto my hands and clothes, but this time it really stuck to not only the wood, but antler, leather, whalebone, rawhide and sinew. I'm looking forward to watching how the paint ages through use and handling.

  7. Lizzie April 25, 2010 at 1:06 am #

    Hi thereYour website is exactly what I have been looking for. I paint and I am interested in capturing the beauty and colours of the landscape where I live. I want to make my own paints and pigments from the local area. There is an old copper mine nearby with wonderful ochre stone. Also the beach is just 10 minutes away with all sorts of colours. Do you think your recipe would work if the paint is put onto paper or canvas? I am hoping to extract pigments from other organic matter too: red cabbage, beetroot, berries, fruit teas, turmeric, and paprika. I am just at the experimental stage but wondering if you have any advice.Thanks so much,Lizzie

  8. Robin Wood April 25, 2010 at 7:29 am #

    @lizzieI imagine this paint would work on paper or canvas perhaps in a similar way to acrylic, if you want slow setting times so you can rework things (ie oil painting) mix your pigemt with pure linseed or just egg yolk, both are long established methods of painting.My experience is that organic pigments fade, many years ago I painted the bathroom with streaks of turmeric, it was lovely at first but 3 months later had faded completely. When natural organic compounds are used in dying they need a mordant to make them colour fast.

  9. eeya July 12, 2011 at 1:48 am #

    Hello, can this paint ,without adding color pigment, be used as base coat ,sealer, on paper mache items? and can we use acrylics on it when dried

  10. Robin Wood July 12, 2011 at 7:09 am #

    @eeya if you are going to use hard acrylic on top I don't see the point in using a natural soft sealer underneath.

  11. eeya July 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    actually i dont know much about paints all i know is that we use common household emulsion paint to seal a finished paper mache item and when it dries up we paint it in any medium usually i use fabric or acrylic paints the problem is i hate the smell of that emulsion that is why i liked your paint and want to use it as a sealergutde me otherwise if you can plz

  12. Robin Wood July 12, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    If your prime aim is to avoid the emulsion smell but you are happy with your acrylic then I would suggest sealing with watered down PVA glue. All arty supply places do big pots of it.

  13. eeya July 14, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

    ok, and if i use only this colour on my paper mache it will work as a sealer also? and please tell me some easily available colour pigments to make the primary colours and black and white also and one more question can we add in it powder food colours?

  14. Francis Ouseph September 12, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    Have you ever used traditional oxblood paint ? Please let me know if you have any experience preparing this

  15. Robin Wood September 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    @Francis no not used it, be interested to hear if you do.

  16. teresa almeida June 3, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    Does this recipe work for wood exposed outdoors, in the sun like my garden benches???

  17. Robin Wood June 6, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    I have not tried this recipe outside. In Sweden they do use simple linseed and pigment mix for outdoor wood eg houses. If you use boiled linseed it would cure more quickly. It will always be a soft paint though and may rub off a little on clothes etc.

  18. Witchinana August 16, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    I wonder if it is possible to mix blackberries with this paint. They have so many seeds, would sieve them first.

    • Robin Wood August 16, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

      my experience with most vegetable based stains eg black currants, turmeric etc is that they are not colourfast so they look great for a short time but fade quickly in sunlight.

  19. Jon April 19, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

    Hi Robin,

    I am starting to turn bowls and am interested in how you seal them. Do you recommend using the unpigmented paint to seal the bowl? Or is treating the bowl with oil sufficent?

    • Robin Wood May 2, 2016 at 9:39 pm #

      I use oil, look to the right of the blog or use the search function to find a blog post on what is the best oil for treating wood

  20. Ciaran August 8, 2016 at 7:34 pm #

    Hi Robin,

    I have brought some wonderful blue pigment back from Morocco and I plan to make it into a paint to use in my kitchen alongside the Majorelle emulsion that I also bought in Morocco. My question is, if I add lime to the pigment will this make the paint more pastel?

    Will this paint be durable and not rub off onto clothes etc?

    • Robin Wood September 4, 2016 at 10:28 am #

      yes lime will make it more pastel and no if it is made well then once it is cured it will not rub off. I would suggest experimenting with small amounts on areas that do not matter first.

  21. Jonnie September 7, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

    Robin –

    Thanks for another great blog post – really interesting, and one I’ll be trying out this week; I’d like to try this on some salad bowls (perhaps colouring the outside, and leaving the inside natural linseed finish).

    One question though – if it includes raw egg, are some people/customers likely to question if it is food-safe? Perhaps the answer is in the egg being dry or sealed in by the polymerised oil, but I just wondered if anyone would be justified in worrying about egg allergies / salmonella / risk to pregnant woman etc? Sorry if that seems a daft question…

    Many thanks – I love your blog.