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    by Ashley



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    I share my home, and my life, with an MFA-toting husband (whose concentration wasin painting and color theory), and an active, inquisitive, art-loving 2 year-old.Between the two of them and my own ongoing craft projects and homemade gift-making endeavors, suffice to say, there is a good deal of paint in our lives.

    Over the winter, I committed my self to organizing our craft/guest/office room. Goingthrough a box of art supplies, I found a very old set of watercolors-as in, freshman-year-of-college-in-94 old. I figured it was time to get a new set. Wanting to keep ourart supplies as non-toxic possible, it occurred to me that I could make my own

    watercolors instead of buying them.For todays Small Measures, in celebration of the Color theme onDesign Sponge thismonth, Im offering y ou an incredibly easy and affordable recipe for creatingwatercolors at home. In very l ittle time, y ou and the creativ es you share your ownhome and life with will be dipping paint brushes and creating colorful works totreasure. Have fun coloring your world, naturally! -Ashley English

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    COLOR OF THE DAY:SMALTI really love this watercolor recipe, for so many reasons, but primarily for two. Firstly,

    its highly likely that all of the equipment and supplies needed to make the watercolorsare already in your pantry and kitchen. This then indicates that the paints, ifingested (and if you live in a house with a wee one you know this is entirely apossibility ), are completely safe.

    Secondly, since youre the one mixing the colors, y oure the one creating the palette. Ifyoure more of a bright , bold color sort of person, y ou get to whip that up. If you tend abit more towards the earthy , muted side, as I do, y ou get to craft that palette. Yourethe captain of this colorful ship, and y ou get to steer it wherev er y oud like it to go.

    Whats not to love about that?

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    Homemade Watercolors

    The Goods:-1/2 cup baking soda-1/4 cup cornstarch-1/4 cup white vinegar-1 teaspoon corn sy rup

    -Food coloring

    The Deal:1) Combine all of the ingredients in a pourable container (I used a Pyrex measuring

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    Like 449 people like this. Sign Up to see what your frien Tweet 80

    cup).2) It will immediately begin to foam and froth and bubble. Using a fork, quickly whiskit until everything is fully combined. If you dont do this quickly enough, the mixturewill thicken and harden before youre able to beat all of the ingredients together.Owing to this fact, be sure to have everything ready to go when you begin.3) Pour the mixture into an ice cube tray, individual containers (such as small yogurtcups), or a plastic painters palette (available at art and craft supply stores),portioning it out evenly amongst however many containers you opt to use.4) Add drops of food coloring to each individual portion of mixture. The number ofdrops used and the colors you select is entirely at y our discretion here. Just continueadding drops and stirring (use a wooden stirrer, such as craft sticks, toothpicks, orchopsticks) until y ou achieve y our desired colors. When youve finished creating all ofyour colors, go back one more time and give each indiv idual color a last stir, to fully

    incorporate the color into the base.5) The watercolors need around two-three day s to fully dry and set. You can certainlyuse them as soon as youve made them, but be aware that theyll slosh around if youattempt to transport them.6) When ready, dip a wet paintbrush into your watercolors and paint away!

    What about y ou? Have y ou ever made your own watercolors, or any other ty pe ofhomemade paint? Id love to hear about them. When you can turn to y our pantry orcupboard for paint-making (or even your refrigerator, if what youre after is DIY milkpaint!), the possibilities for handcrafted, custom paints seem endless.

    -Images and styling byJen Altman.


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    What is the archiv al quality of watercolors made with this formula? For example,will the color fade in a couple of years?

    May 24th, 2013EMILY

    This is awesome! Ive been meaning to get back into watercolors and this is theperfect excuse to get star ted. Thanks so much for sharing!

    May 24th, 2013BETH

    Thank you so much for this recipe. We do a lot of art projects at home with the kidsand my 8 y ear old daughter loves to use watercolors. Cant wait to make some.

    May 24th, 2013PENELOPE

    An excellent activity for my daughter and me for what promises to be a long, wetweekend!

    May 24th, 2013LOUISE

    What a wonderful idea!

    May 24th, 2013KIM @ DESIGN + LIFE + KIDS

    Such a cool idea I didnt realize this was possible! Also wondering about Emilysquestion about the archival quality.


    Any idea of the paint washability ? Is that a word? Im wondering if we will hav epretty colored clothing too.

    May 24th, 2013SARAH

    This great I work for a non prfit and well be opening summer camp and I run t heart program all natural is the simpliest and easy way for the kids to have and I canmake bulk amounts. Love y our idea. Keep them coming!!

    May 24th, 2013ROBERTA BOWMAN

    Loved this! Im in Argentina and watercolors are getting r eally expensiv e! Is thereanything I can replace the corn syrup with? Since they dont sell it here in BuenosAires. Thanks!! :)

    May 24th, 2013VERONICA

    Food coloring is ty pically pretty fugitiv e and will fade when exposed to sunlight,some more than others. If you would like to make your own watercolors for fine artpurposes, I would recommend sourcing some artists pigments and using a moretraditional recipe with gum arabic.

    May 24th, 2013CHARISSA

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    Could y ou use egg white instead of corn syrup?

    May 24th, 2013CONTENT IN A COTTAGE

    Emily & Natalie-Charissas reply is spot on. I cant personally speak to the long-term durability of these watercolors, as Ive only begun using them relativelyrecently . That said, their use in simple craft projects (note cards, childrensartwork, hand-decorated gift wrap, gift tags, etc.) is a more appropriate means ofemploying them than for fine art purposes. As Charissa mentioned, food coloringfades over time, so if y our intention is to create heirloom quality works of art, yourbetter to go with ar tists pigments.

    Sarah-Food coloring definitely stains, but washes out in several washings.

    Veronica-Golden syrup might be a good option, if you can find it.

    Content In A Cottage-Thats a great question! Perhaps, but since Ive not used it inthis recipe, I couldnt definitely say yes or no. Might be a good experiment!

    May 24th, 2013ASHLEY ENGLISH

    love this idea! my preschool daughter loves to paint and her brother lov es tomix/experiment. going to try it this summer.


    Had no idea I could make water colors. Thanks for the enlightenment.

    May 24th, 2013ISABELLE

    I am going to pass this on to my niece for use with her 1 year old. In answer to yourquestion about making my own paints., not paint but stains. When i am looking fora way to add a colorful stain to wood projects I look to the vegetable bin. Beetscooked ina small amount of water ake a nice red hue to apply to wood. Onions skinscan be used to make a gold/yellow and you can ask your grocer for the scraps. Anydark green veggie will produce a green water. I am sure that you could eggplantskin for a purple but I have never tried. Boil the veggie or their skins in waterstrain and apply to wood. the longer you leave on the wood before wiping off thedarker the r esult. I suppose you could boil the veggie tomush and run throughstriner for darker colors. I bet y ou could use any plant to create color.

    May 24th, 2013LAUREL

    Wow! I had no idea you could make your own paintfabulous! And with easilyaccessible ingredients. If my sister, i. e., had told me this, I would never hav ebelieved her. Thanks for teaching me something new today! :-)

    May 25th, 2013PKAE

    I love this! Perfect for my 2 and 4 year old resident art ists!

    May 25th, 2013JULIANNE

    I would be careful with this mixture around animal fibers like wool because food

    coloring and v inegar (as an acid) are often combined to make a dy e for wool.However, to get that effect you have generally with heat. Im not sure what theother ingredients do to the acidity of the mixtur e, but I would recommend beingcareful, and if you hav e to wash it out of something that is made of wool, use coldwater.

    Food coloring, even with acid AND heat, does not have much effect on plant-basedand synthetic fibers. (If the dye residue is sitting on the fabric it will obviously looklike its tinted in that color. But it wont bond with the fiber like it will with wool.)

    From lots and lots of experience I can also tell you that food coloring will stain yourskin a bitbut it comes off eventually . It is only a slight r isk on counter-tops andother non-animal-fiber surfaces so long as y ou do not leave it sitting there in lar geconcentrations.

    If you have leftover egg dye from Easter, you could dissolve it in the vinegar anduse it for this project.

    May 25th, 2013SARAH

    Regarding the toxicity of your 1994 watercolor pans, Im 99.99% sure they arenon-toxic, or AP. Art mat erials are a regulated product, and painting pigments andmediums are required to have safety labeling. Its likely that the pigments/dyesused in food coloring are about as safe as pigments used in a typical watercolor set.But, if y ou arent sure, look for the label reading conforms to ASTM D 4236. One

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    will read AP, which indicates all over safe, and the other CL indicates CautionLabel, meaning use caution. Most scholastic watercolor pans are labels AP. Labelsalso often read a pigments light fast rating as well.

    If you dont want to use what you have, and you want to have fun with a newproject, have at it, and have fun! But please donate your unwanted art supplies to aschool or re-use thrift store so someone else can enjoy them, rather than discardinto the waste system, which is the most toxic of all.

    And, if you are concerned about toxicity in art supplies, the big overlooked area ischalk and chalk pastels, that when ground into a drawing create a fine dust whichis then inhaled. If your kid likes chalk pastels, y ou might want to read the safetylabel and then put a dust mask on first!

    May 25th, 2013MFA

    fun but I dont see a possible need. You can purchase a tube set of real archival andnon-toxic watercolor for a small cost. the little 12 ml tubes realistically lasting youdecades. This recipe isnt real paint, it uses dyes, not pigments.

    May 26th, 2013JACK

    @veronica glucose syrup from The pharmacy will replace the corn syrup.

    May 26th, 2013MARIA

    this just blew my mind. starting to amp up my watercoloring and so thankful Ifound this! thank you ashley!


    As a former childcare professional, I can appreciate this recipe for what it is, aninexpensiv e childs paint, clearly not intended to be an artist medium. I use tomake paint out of liquid starch and tissue paper. The kids love to do their ownmixing, so wed rip up the paper and put it into baby food jars with a litt le liquidstarch. Then theyd shake them up until they had the colors they wanted. Thispaint dries shiny too. A little ivory liquid soap in it makes it easier to clean andkeeps the dried paint from cracking.

    May 28th, 2013LYNNE FAVREAU

    This is awesome for my little ones!! Ive made & used puffy paint (1 cup water, 1 cupflour, 2-3 drops food coloring) in the past but I dont really like it too much. As astay at home mom on a tight budget, this is great since I already have the stuff inmy kitchen. Thanks!

    May 28th, 2013NIKKI

    awesome for the kiddos!

    May 29th, 2013KAT

    I agree with MFA and hope you didnt throw out your old watercolours just becausethey were old! Watercolour paints last basically for ev er. This does sound like a funidea to try especially for lit tle kids to paint with :-)

    May 29th, 2013COBY

    This is awesome and v ery creativ e! Thanks Mrs Einstein :) Iv e just subscribed toyour e-mails :)))

    May 30th, 2013KSENIA

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