When I first started experimenting with handmade watercolors, I didn’t have any special tools. I had some ideas, a little bit of information, and a whole lot of curiosity. Along the way I discovered these things that have become my paint making tools of the trade.
Some of the tools are pricey, and if you went out and bought everything at once, it could add up to quite a hefty tab.
Thankfully, you don’t need it all, and you can make do with a bare minimum.
Here’s the post that marked my first time making art with my fresh idea for making my own paints.
These are the things I’d suggest as minimal:
- mulling plate
- small jars
- dust masks – VERY important!
- gum Arabic
A note about the mulling plate. When you first get it, the surface will be smooth. That won’t do for mulling paint. So you’ll need to run several trial batches on it with a gritty pigment to etch the surface enough to be able to actually do any good with your mulling. If you don’t want to waste valuable pigment, use coarse rubbing compound to get it started.
After you’ve made some paint and tried out the process, you’ll know whether or not you like the paints enough to keep using them. That’s when I’d suggest getting a tool like the muller. There are also much more expensive mulling plates, or boards. I am still using my inexpensive 12″ x 14″ tempered glass cutting plate from Walmart, but wouldn’t turn down a large slab of marble, lol.
Update 6/2021: Our local marble and granite shop has a scrap pile, and they let people take scraps for free. My ‘scrap’ is a nice 16″ x 29″ slab of white marble! It works fantastic as a mulling board, but it has to stay in place on the table. Very heavy. This is now my # 1 paint making tool out of everything I’ve ever bought. I can also use the large muller I’d accidentally bought when I thought ‘bigger was better’. And it really is, now that I have a big enough mulling board to use it on.
My Favorite Paint Making Tools (So Far)
Some of these items are only applicable if you intend to start with foraged rocks or bought mineral specimens to make paint. Those are marked with an asterisk.
Notice: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. What that means is that I’ll make a few pennies if you buy certain things after following the [ad] links in the sections below. The prices of those items are the same as they are if you went to Amazon on your own.
- Safety Glasses
- Mulling Plate
- 20-ml Vials* [ad]
- Mortar and Pestle*[ad]
- to hold paint, use acorn caps, clam shells, etc. if you’d rather not buy pans
- small jars[ad]
- reusable dust mask[ad]
- gum Arabic[ad]
You can often find mullers used or less expensive on EBay.
Future Paint Making Tools
There are a couple of items I’d like to acquire in the future. A larger rock tumbler/rock grinder and a roller mill. I’d need to start making much larger quantities of paints (and accompanying sales) to make those practical buys!
Update 06/2021: My husband bought me a prospector’s rock crusher – I call it my Phenomenal Rock Crushing Machine. It is awesome, but not a small investment. Read more about it here. I still would like to have the roller mill, but it’ll be a while yet before that one manifests.
My Other Posts About Making Handmade Watercolor Paint
Read this one if you’d like to know How to Identify Pigment Rocks
Before you start making paint, you’ll need to know How to Make Binder/Media
For a refined end result, here’s How to Make SMOOTH Paint from Rocks
If you are interested in a set of my paints for yourself, check out my online shop to see what’s available. I usually make extra when I make my own.
Madison Woods is a self-taught artist who moved to the Ozarks from south Louisiana in 2005. In 2018 she began experimenting with watercolor painting, using her local pigments. She calls them Paleo Paints. In 2023 she began her journey into the world of oil painting with those same pigments. Her paintings of the Ozark-inspired scenes feature exclusively the lightfast pigments foraged from Madison county, Arkansas. Her inspiration is nature – the beauty, and the inherent cycle of life and death, destruction and regeneration.
Her online portfolio is at www.PaleoPaints.com.
Click here to join her mailing list.
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4 thoughts on “Paint Making Tools of the Trade”
Always interesting to see what you use or do. 🙂
Does your cutting board have a pebbled surface? Did you have to roughen it further before mulling paint. I’m just beginning to look at making my own & want/need to go as cheap as possible. Wouldn’t there be a problem getting glass dust in the paint?
Hi Theresa, one side is pebbled and the other is smooth. You can’t do it on the pebbled side, and the smooth side does have to be roughed up before it’ll work to mull the paint. Some of the tempered glass plates sold as cutting boards do have pebbled on both sides, though, so you have to be careful to not get one of those. So far, that’s been the least expensive solution I’ve found for a mulling plate. In my dreams I have a whole counter made from a surface like white marble that I can use over and over again in place and just wipe clean between uses 🙂 Ah, but there’s real life issues to contend with before that can happen. I use a coarse pigment to do the first mulling on a new plate, and yes, I’m sure there are tiny bits of glass going into it as it roughs the surface up. It has never been an issue with the resulting paints though. However, most of my pigment is sourced from sandstone, which is full of silica anyway. Always wear a dust mask when you’re working with dry pigments for that reason. You don’t have to use the glass plates, you can use something like granite or marble, too. Those are a lot more expensive, and still you will have to rough the surface initially so mulling will work, and whatever it’s made of will scrape off in minute amounts, too. I don’t see any way around that part of it. Good luck with your adventure! Write again and update me on how it’s going.