Homemade Paints

***I had planned on posting photos with each of these recipes. With the possibility of losing my internet connection, I am going to just post anyway. If I can get the photos uploaded later, I'll edit them in.

Little Guy loves to paint. I can't tell you how many of those watercolor sets he's gone through just since the first of the year. It was getting very expensive and I had to stop buying them. I found a recipe for poster paints. But, while it was good, I found that you need to use it all at once. The lids on the baby food jars I used to keep it in ended up sticking. I tried a multitude of ways to get them open to no avail. I ended up having to throw them away.

So, I recently found myself looking for paint recipes again. There are a ton of them out there, but most call for powdered Tempra paint. While I like Tempra paint, I don't want to buy it for Little Guy. First, it is expensive. I cannot afford to buy all of the colors I would want to have. Even if I just stuck to the basics - red, yellow, blue, black & white - it's going to set me back at least $40-50. Second, they are made with chemicals. While there are non-toxic versions out there (even MORE expensive), I still don't want my kid to be sampling them when I don't really know what these chemicals are. And, finally, I decided that if I'm going to pay for paints again, it'll only be for the washable kind. And, since I don't mind having a toddler walk around with paint stains on his hands and sometimes his face, I'm not going to spend the money. When he paints, it's sitting in his high chair, with a giant bib, in the kitchen. I can clean it up and, like my kid, I don't mind stains on the bib or the high chair tray (our floor is black linoleum so no problem there!)

Here are the recipes that I found and tried. Click the titles of each recipe to be taken to the site where I found the recipe.

These are the keepers:

  • condensed milk

  • Food coloring

Yep, that's it! Divide the milk into however many colors you want. I suggest using containers with lids so you can save leftovers. Mix desired amount of food coloring into each until you reach the desired color. The color will not change or fade. Just remember that if you paint on paper that's not white, the color will be slightly different. Remember that the more food coloring you use, the more staining it will be!

Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. These paints are messy! Make sure you have a bath ready when the painting is over - this stuff does not wash off well with just a wet washcloth! I suggest using somewhat thick paper because this is heavy paint and can make thinner paper wrinkle. Also, have some space available for drying. This takes a few hours, so maybe someplace that it won't be disturbed overnight?

  • 1 c. Epsom salts (really inexpensive in the healthcare section of the store)

  • 1/2 c. warm water

  • Food coloring

(This should not be eaten or "tasted" - Little Guy tasted it once and, since it was so salty, he didn't try again. He didn't die or get sick, so I imagine that one little lick of the paintbrush isn't going to hurt.)

We love this paint! It goes on like watercolors and, after it dries, there are tiny, sparkly crystals on the paper. All you have to do is mix the water and Epsom salts (for a very long time) until the salt is dissolved. The next time I do this, I'll dump the two into an old juice jug or jar, put the lid on tightly, and let the kids take turns shaking it. Because there is so much salt, you may not be able to get every single bit of salt dissolved. Pour the mixture into separate containers (we used a Styrofoam egg carton) and add food coloring until you get the color you want. These will fade slightly as the dry due to the salt - but it's worth it! They take about an hour to dry, depending on how wet the paper is, but the crystals will take a little longer to form. I suggest putting them up to dry and then surprising your little one the next morning with the sparkly painting.

  • 2 Tb. cornstarch

  • 1 c. cold water

  • 1 c. boiling water

This takes a few minutes to make and a while to cool, but it's worth it. Keep extra (you probably won't have any) covered. You can keep them at room temp for a few days, in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

Put the 1c. boiling water on to boil. When its rolling, mix the cornstarch and cold water well. Pour it into the boiling water and stir constantly. As soon as it starts to thicken, take it off of the heat and keep stirring to cool it down a little. Let cool for an hour, covered, stirring every five to ten minutes. As soon as it's not hot to the touch (warm is OK), divide the mixture and add food coloring.

As this paint dries, it tend to crack where it's been laid on thick, so be aware of this. Use thick paper because the thin stuff will end up tearing. After Christmas, I always stock up on the "good" wrapping paper. You know, the stuff that costs $6.99 a roll in December and only $0.99 in January? Just use the side that isn't printed to paint on! We unroll large pieces at a time and Little Guy gets to go nuts. We use it for unique wrapping paper and giant murals on our walls.

Depending on how much you let your kids get into their art, this will probably be another "immediately into the tub" paints. Now that the weather is nice, I unroll our wrapping paper out on the patio, strip Little Guy down to his skivvies, and let him loose. He ends up a little stained, but I think it's well worth it for the experience and fun he's had!

  • Elmer's Glue-All

  • Food Coloring

  • Water

Now, I know about Elmer's and hooves, so if you're vegetarian/vegan, don't try this at home! Divide the glue into cups. Add food coloring for desired colors. You can add water, a little at a time, to get this to desired consistency. I usually water it down enough that it's not runny but it also doesn't glop up (Little Guy doesn't get how to scrape the edges of the brush to get the excess off.)

We have used this for lots of different projects and love it for rock-painting the best. It dries hard, bright, and shiny. It doesn't last through rain, so leave in a protected area, or let them get washed off and re-paint another time! (Now, THAT'S what I call reusing!) The great part is, when it's been washed off of the rocks, it means it's time to get the paints out again!

I suggest using a different brush for each color with this paint. It takes forever to wash out the brush to put it into a different color, plus the extra water on the brush will water down the paint. I've never tried a different brand of paint with this recipe. Elmer's must have a special recipe for their glue because, whenever I've used an off-brand in a recipe that calls for Elmer's, the project has not turned out right (like for that gloopy slime stuff.)

  • 1/2 c. cornstarch

  • 1/2 c. water

  • food color

This is a very easy, last-minute paint recipe for warm, sunny days! Mix cornstarch and water well. Add food coloring - remember that 1) food colors can stain possibly your concrete (they didn't bother mine), but will eventually wash off; and 2) the colors will fade as they dry, so if you want bright colors, add lots of coloring. Cornstarch and water will separate, so you will need to stir them up often as you're using them. I usually buy a giant box of starch and make a triple or even quadruple recipe so the paint will last more than five minutes.

We found out that this stuff can be slippery while it's wet, so be careful!

  • 1 c. flour

  • 1 pkg. unsweetened drink mix

  • 1/4 c. salt

  • 1 1/2 c. water

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. oil

  • Dishsoap (optional for easier clean up)

Mix flour, salt, and drink mix. Bring water to boil, then add oil. Slowly mix into flour mixture, stirring very well. Add a few drops of dishsoap, stirring slowly so you don't make bubbles. You can water this down if you want. Use paper that is thick with this recipe!

"Make Safe, Natural Paint" by Bill Steen, from Mother Earth News

As I was looking for paint recipes a while back, I came across an article that I've bookmarked for future use. My walls are a mess. We live in an apartment, so I'm not about to spend a ton of money on non-toxic paint. The landlord's paint is the cheapest junk on the market and, after he painted the place downstairs, I could smell the paint all the way up for days. I do NOT want that stuff in the same room with me or my kids! So, back to this site - it has recipes AND lots of information on making your own natural paint for much less than even the cheapest paints in stores. There are different recipes for different uses - including interior and exterior!

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