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How to Make your own Encaustic Paint using Dry Pigments

Updated: Jan 22, 2022

When it comes to encaustic paint, nothing compares to professionally-milled paints from RFPaints or Enkaustikos. But dry pigments offer opportunities for creativity, and can be a great way to save money. Dry pigments are common in Europe, and I learned to make my own paint while living in Germany. Art stores there have aisles and aisles of gorgeous pigments in clear glass jars…I loved being able to shop all the gorgeous, easy- to see colors in clear glass jars. No guessing from paint swatches. My favorite brands were Kremer (German), and Sennelier (French). Since moving back to the US I have discovered Earth Pigments, a US company that makes pigments using all non toxic substances, and Kama Pigments, a Montreal based company with very high quality products.

Be safe when using dry pigments, as they give off a dust you don’t want to inhale, and you don’t want it spreading thru your studio. Always wear a mask, eye cover, gloves, and turn off any fans/close windows etc —you don’t want any air movement. I have even mixed in a make-shift paint box, or a deep garbage can, to prevent air circulation. Once the pigment is fully dispersed in your encaustic medium, you are fine.

Many artists also use oil paints to color their medium. I prefer dry pigments for 2 reasons- immediate dispersion, and you don’t have to leech out oils as you do with oil paint. If you use oils, the paint settles in the bottom of the container and you have to stir up the paint each time you use it, otherwise it can get streaky. Most folks recommend that you squirt out some oil paint and set it on paper towel for an hours or so, to leach out the oils. I’m impatient, and I hate that. Yes it’s important not to skip this step-nothing worse that a layer of oil on top of your paint- it’s happened to me!

If you’re a beginner, I recommend starting out with a paint set. Both RFPaints and Enkaustikos make beginner sets. Have fun playing with pre-made colors… don’t worry about making paint yourself when first starting out. Try Enkaustikos/Shary Bartlett’s ‘Vivid’ set or their classroom set. For me, I have certain favorite colors I always buy, and try. Paint manufacturers have brilliant paint chemists who create gorgeous colors I could never replicate. Enkaustikos ‘nostalgia‘ is one of those- I always stI just up!

How long do dry pigments last? Forever, if you buy professional grade. Like tube paint, dry pigments come in professional and student (cheaper) grade. You will only need a pinch of high grade pigment for a 4-6 oz tin or block of medium. One jar costs $10-$20. I estimate I can get 20-30 paint blocks from one jar of pigment.

Brands: My favorite brand is Kremer (German). Order direct from their NYC store. They haexcellent selection of colors and I feel they disperse in encaustic better than any other brand. A very close 2nd place in Natural Pigments, also a U.S. brand. Gorgeous colors, non toxic, and affordable. Gamblin pigments in the US, while easily available on Amazon, is a cheaper grade than other brands, in my opinion.

Some people bake their own bread. I don’t understand those people. But make my own paint? Oh yeah!

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