I enjoy making paint. It’s messy and childlike, and can also seem like alchemy. I don’t make it a strict or scientific affair, it’s more a case of going by feel, the kind of approach I expect an experienced baker takes with a batch of cookies or wholesome loaf of bread.
But why would you bother making your own paint?
If your sensitivity lies with the environment then that gives you one reason. Modern paints are basically plastic, so they’re non-renewable, require high amounts of energy for the complex manufacture, and produce lots of bad waste.
Or if you’re conscious of your health and wellbeing, then modern synthetic paints aren’t the best choice here either. This is obvious when you open up the can and the stink hits you like a tonne of bricks, but think of all the painted surfaces around you and consider that synthetic VOCs leach out in to the room even five years after the paint was applied.
So it’s all very green and healthy to knock up your own paint, but is it practical?
Plastic based paints provide a wonderful sealed layer over a surface and dry quickly, so they have the upper hand when it comes to convenience. They can be very durable and wipe clean easily.
But this is also a huge disadvantage, because sealing a surface in this way isn’t usually good for the material below.
This is particularly true when painting wood, which is always wanting to move about, and release and take on moisture.
What this means is that synthetic paints can crack quite quickly when applied on to wood, while natural paints tend to remain somewhat flexible, and can move with it.
Synthetic paints will also trap moisture underneath them which can lead to blistering. Natural paints are microporous, so the wood can continue to breathe as normal.
In the short term the plastic coating will seem like the low maintenance, durable option, but it can actually look bad pretty quickly. When it does you’ll need to hassle yourself with the chore of scraping it all back to fresh wood, before recoating.
Natural paints can look good for decades, and because they can breathe, freshening them up is just a case of wiping down and recoating over the old stuff. There are many varieties though and some require considerations such as mildew to protect against in certain circumstances. As a whole though they are practical as well as green.
But since you can buy many natural paints, I still haven’t given you a reason to go make them. Perhaps it could be because they are expensive, difficult to buy locally, or don’t offer the colour you’d like. Personally though, I just like alchemy.