Paint has not been kind to us — humankind — over the years. It seems that, despite knowing different ingredients were carcinogenic or otherwise detrimental to our health, corporations have elected to put them into our household paints. These are the paints we give our children for art. These are the paints we put on the walls of our bedroom. But, these paints are toxic.

There are solutions to the issue. There are companies that make safe products with “zero” VOCs (volatile organic compounds), the major players in what makes paint questionable to use. There are also companies that make full-fledged non-toxic paints. Either one of these options, of course, ups the price, sometimes doubling it.

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Then, there is always the option of making a natural paint right at home. It seems a massive stretch – if paint were easy to make, why have we all been buying it all this time? Well, those are deeper, darker answers than we are prepared to delve into for this article. For the time being, let’s just take on the how-to of it.

What’s in a Paint?

First, we should break paint down into its major components. What exactly is that goes into making paint? Pigments to color paints, and in conventional paints, these are sourced from toxic compounds and heavy metals (Ah, anyone remember the days of lead?). Binders are what adhere paint to surface, and they are normally derivatives of the oil industry. Fillers, like chalk or limestone, bulk paint up, while solvents — full of VOCs (We are all very familiar with this smell) — thin it back into a workable consistency. Manufacturers also include many unlisted additives to help the paint dry faster or resist mold (biocides).

Making These Components Naturally

shutterstock_565628398Skreidzeleu/Shutterstock

Seemingly, if we can replace all the toxic ingredients of paint with something safe and natural, we’d be doing ourselves a big favor. Lucky for us, this isn’t all that difficult. There are many naturally sourced — from plants and minerals (Vegans, be careful not use those create from insects) — color pigments. Flour is a fantastic binder, as is linseed oil. Clay is a great filler, especially paired with flour, and citrus can make an effective thinner (and natural turpentine is a thing, too). What’s even better is that these elements are often a bit kinder to the things they painted onto, allowing them to “breathe.”

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Things to Consider Before Mixing It Up

Obviously, just as with commercially produced paints, there are things to consider before making paint at home. Namely, we have to consider whether the paint is for interior or exterior use. After that, considering the climate might help us adjust the recipe, and of course, noting the type of surface — wood versus stone versus drywall, etc. — can make a massive difference. Flour paint is usually a good choice for interior surfaces, while oil-based (linseed oil) paints tend to hold up a bit better to weather exposure outside.

How to Make Flour Paint

Well, this paint won’t be gluten-free (and it probably isn’t all that tasty anyway), but it should work well for painting wood, drywall, stone, wallpaper, plaster or masonry. What it doesn’t do well is hold up on a surface that is cleaned frequently. As for making it, there are couple of things to know. It’s food, so it will go bad if it isn’t used. And, flour paint doesn’t jive with rollers and can be rough on brushes, so go with a cheap brush and have a few extras around.

Start by mixing a cup of flour with two cups of cold water, whisking it until smooth. Add this mixture to a cup and a half of boiling water, simmering it all into a thick paste. Once it’s a paste, remove it from the heat and slowly dilute it with a couple more cups of water. In a separate container, combine a cup of clay filler (available in natural colors) with a half-cup of natural powder filler, such mica or limestone. Add the mixed fillers to the diluted paste until the paint becomes the consistency of paint.

How to Make Linseed Oil Paint

The difficulty with oil paints and glazes is that they take a long time to dry, a reasonable expectation being about 48 hours between coats. However, the plus side is that they can withstand wet weather and help to preserve surfaces. They are particularly good for wood and also work on cement or unglazed brick. The general consensus is that the best results come with a coat of natural oil primer (equal parts raw or stand — not boiled —  linseed oil and natural citrus thinner, either store-bought or homemade) applied first.

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Start by adding color pigment a little at a time to a few tablespoons of linseed oil. Different pigments absorb the oil differently, but we are basically after a sort of dough consistency. From there, add oil until the thick mixture it such that it can be poured. Then, a citrus thinner can be added until the oil mixture becomes a paint-y mixture. If there are lumps in it, it can be finished through a strainer.

Amazingly, it’s that easy. You can paint your interiors and exteriors – and do it all naturally! You can make it all at home and save loads of money, too. By not relying on the companies who value profits over their customers’ well-being, we can ensure that our families and friends are safe from unwanted toxins and chemicals. Plus, nothing feels quite so good, bring about quite the same pride in a paint job, as empowerment.

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