Tag Archives: Pastel

How Pigments Create Color in Artist Mediums

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Have you ever wondered where the color in your paints actually comes from? For instance, what makes your ultramarine watercolors appear blue, and what makes your crimson pastels appear red? The answer is pigment. The pigments used to create artist mediums (such as paints, colored pencils, pastels, etc) consist of colored powder that is then mixed with various substances to create each specific medium.

The color intensity of each paint, pencil or pastel will depend on the ratio of pigment to filler. Filler is added to most commercial art mediums to “bulk up” the product. Higher quality art supplies will contain more pigment and less filler. Even though the result is a higher-priced medium, the cost is worth it for the better results that are achieved with the higher pigment content.

In addition to pigments, each medium has specific ingredients that give the medium its unique qualities:

  • Watercolors are created from a mixture of pigment and gum arabic (or synthetic glycol), which acts as a binder. Additives are often added to adjust the characteristics of the watercolors, altering qualities such as durability and sheen.
  • Acrylics consist of pigments dispersed in water and bound together with an acrylic medium.
  • Oil paints are made from a combination of pigments ground with an oil, such as linseed oil.
  • Pastels are a blend of pigments and a binder, such as gum tragacanth, gum arabic, or methyl cellulose. Pastels contain a higher percentage of pigment than any other art medium.

Commercially-made art mediums also typically contain preservatives and other ingredients, but you can easily make you own paints and pastels using the materials listed above, adjusting the hue and intensity of each color to your specific liking.

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The Benefits of Making Your Own Paints


Did you know that you can easily and affordably make your own paints right at home? The supplies needed to make oil paints, acrylics, watercolors or pastels are fairly inexpensive and they can be easily purchased online or at a local shop. You don’t need a giant studio or an excessive amount of supplies to make your own paints – all you need are a few basic ingredients pertinent to each medium, and a tabletop that you can use as your work area.

You might wonder, “Why should I bother making my own paints?”

There are a number of reasons why it is beneficial for artists to make their own paints. For starters, when you break down a specific medium to its individual components, it helps you to understand the nature of the medium. Taking part in the process of creating an oil paint or a pastel stick provides invaluable insight into the qualities of that particular medium. Plus, the magic of watching loose powdered pigment transform into a usable paint can become part of the overall creative experience.

One of the best things about making your own paints is that you can control the hue, value and intensity of each color. If you need a specific shade of green that is difficult to mix using commercial paints, you can create your own. If you need a range of blues to create skyscapes and seascapes, you can create the exact colors that you need and save them for future use.

It’s easy to forget that there was once a time when all artists either had to make their own paints or purchase these supplies from a local artisan. The vast majority of artists today buy their paints and art materials off the shelf. Most artists don’t even think twice about how these materials are made or what is actually in them. This has changed our relationships to our art materials. By making your own paints, you can reinvigorate your connection to the materials that you use to create art.

In future articles, we’ll take a closer look at the process involved for making oil paints, pastels, watercolors and acrylics.

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