What’s Your Song?

What music puts you in the creative mood?

What music gets you grooving with your creativity? (Getty Images)

Music Time! Name the Tune That Puts You in the Creative Mood

One of the questions I love to ask artists is what type of music puts them in the creative mood, or if they have a particular song that is their art anthem. From there the conversation usually diverts to talking about audio books, podcasts, music genres to listen to in the studio (or not), and all things sound.

Most artists don’t have a gramophone, but many love to listen in an old-school way and nowadays that could mean anything from vinyl records to CDs and cassettes. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Spotify and Pandora and other subscription music services serve up customizable playlists and more.

The Static Hum

For me, I’m all about quiet…but not too quiet. You know what I mean? I don’t have a white noise machine — that would be too easy. Instead, I have several fans (three) that I use to create an audible hum that isn’t distracting and makes the quiet, well, not so loud. Several New York artists I’ve spoken with say there is nothing like the city traffic to get them in the zone.

The Right Beats

Music choice in the studio definitely varies artist to artist. Many like classical or non-vocal sound. Folk, blues, country, and modern jazz are also popular. From what I can gather, it is more about the tempo and the “feel” of the music that an artist seeks out more than a genre. A lot of artists say they like listening to music in languages they don’t speak — so that the songs become more sound than words.

Woman with Violin by Henri Matisse, oil painting. What music puts you in the creative mood?

Woman with Violin by Henri Matisse, oil painting.

Spoken Word

I know so many artists who stay up on their reading lists by listening to audio books while they work on paintings and creative projects. From the Game of Thrones series to murder mysteries, there is an audio book to suit any taste. I tend to like nonfiction more than fiction when I’m working. Podcasts are also super popular with anyone who works with their hands for a long period of time. I have a sculptor friend who told me about how he was 12-hours into a podcast series on zombies…not for me but he was loving it! He said it kept him alert for hours on end–to the good of his work deadline!

The Wrong Grooves

The music that jangles your nerves in a no-good way — that’s what to avoid when you are painting or doing creative projects. In a strange way, I can’t listen to music that I love the most (Motown) because I just can’t stop dancing around. So for me, it is nothing too distracting in a good or bad way. I also keep my phone on silent when working (text pings are the worst disruptions) and if a studio mate goes on a bout of throat clearing or sighing, I’ve got to drown it out or go crazy.

What Tune Is Right for You?

Leave a comment telling me your favorite “creative” song or the musical genre you like to listen to most when working on a painting or drawing. What music do you love to listen to? What you can’t stand? And get ready to pump up the volume as ArtistsNetwork.tv is now offering a Free Trial Weekend–four days of access to 600+ videos to start your art journey. Beginner or intermediate, landscape lover or still life obsessed, you will find the online workshop that lets your creativity shine. Sign up now at ArtistsNetwork.tv and enjoy!




The post What’s Your Song? appeared first on Artist's Network.

Color Mixing for Acrylic: How to Master Shades of Green

Color mixing greens | Chris Cozen, ArtistsNetwork.com

I’m always happy to talk about color, and this past year has taken me on a few colorful adventures. Since I always travel with my camera, I make a point to record things that inspire me.

I spent seven months last year in Northeast Ohio and enjoyed greens I haven’t seen since my many years of living in California. With the West’s dusty, drought-tolerant greens or its deep forest shades, I had forgotten the lively array of colors the warmer Ohio seasons bring.

With spring’s perky, acid-toned bright greens and the soft pale colors of the first leaves to the luscious and full greens during the summer. Each variety brings its own special formula into the picture. And, speaking of formulas, let’s learn about mixing greens in acrylic.

Avoid Being Green with Envy with Other Artists’ Color Mixing

In my book, Acrylic Color Explorations, there’s a lesson on how to get a range of greens using a single color of blue pigment and just changing the yellow pigments. It’s good to start your mixing lessons with transparent pigments so you can see the clarity of the greens created.

Get to know your paints. Scribble on a piece of paper with a pencil. Paint over your scribble. This will tell you how cloudy or clear your color is.

When you look at areas of green in nature, notice how they are not all exactly the same. For a natural look, you want a variation of green to imply where something might be hit by sunlight or hidden in shadow.

When you start mixing greens, take note of the ratio of yellow to blue for the brighter, sharper greens or the ratio of blue to yellow for the deeper ones. Once you have developed a solid range you’re satisfied with, introduce Titanium White to your mixes and see how the paints lighten up.

Your ratio of white to the mixture is also important. Too much white can overwhelm the green mixture and wash it out. Try the same exercise with a little Bone Black added to your green mixtures. This will bring a deepness and richness to your formula.

Color mixing greens | Chris Cozen, ArtistsNetwork.com

The Roads We Traveled (mixed media on canvas, 18×18) by Chris Cozen. This analogous composition builds on the range of colors of yellow-green through blue-green on the color wheel. With the addition of Titan Buff paint and paper elements, this active composition balances the bright and soft tones of these compatible colors and takes advantage of the full range of values possible.The collage elements also add movement and focus to the composition.

Get Your Glaze On

What happens when we go too far one way or the other? That’s where glazing comes in. You can always create a lighter or darker green glaze. Just mix your original formula with glazing medium, and apply the color over your original.

Sheer glazes are built by using a 6:1 ratio of medium to paint. Remember, the more pigment you use the less sheer the glaze will be.

Glazing is an excellent way to play with the surfaces of green areas as well. Want to create a shadow? Add a little glaze layer of Dioxazine Purple or Payne’s Gray over an area and see it shift.

Favorites for Green Color Mixing

Mixing Greens in Acrylic | Color Mixing Techniques | Chris Cozen | ArtistsNetwork

Acrylic Painting by Chris Cozen

Of course, there are plenty of green pigments/paints out there in the marketplace to choose from. I have a few favorites of my own. I use green-gold (Golden), chromium oxide green, and sap green hue as mixers.

  • Green-gold leans heavily toward yellow. I often substitute it for yellow to mix with my blues when I want a unique green.
  • Chromium oxide green is a dense opaque pigment, which is a great base color for starting a field of green. Mix loosely with white and Titan Buff, brush on rapidly with lots of movement and you’ll get a lovely “start” for a field.
  • I turn to sap green hue when I want some quick depth, especially in a glaze. Its formula has some black in it which adds a lot of richness to the glaze.

All in all, mixing greens is pretty fun. You can take any color on the blue to blue-green spectrum and add any yellow to create an array of greens to work with.

Color mixing is an adventure as well as an investment in your painting process. The goal is to get to know the pigments you own and fully explore their potential! You should aim to be fluent in color so you can readily mix any color you may need.

You can find more great ideas in my book as well as in the instructional videos I created as a companion to Acrylic Color Explorations by checking out my bundle at North Light Shop. Each of the DVDs covers techniques for using color in various ways.

Check out the preview trailer below for one such video workshop, Exploring Acrylic: Color Discoveries, which you can stream now on ArtistsNetwork.tv.

Additionally, be sure to check out my website, ChrisCozenArtist.com. Happy exploring, artists!

The post Color Mixing for Acrylic: How to Master Shades of Green appeared first on Artist's Network.

Urban Sketcher Marc Taro Holmes’ Tea, Milk and Honey Technique for Applying Watercolor

The Urban Sketcher Talks About an Odd Process That Yields Amazing Watercolor Results

Sometimes it is the weird and offbeat approaches that stick in my head and make the most sense. Urban sketcher Marc Taro Holmes is cut from the same cloth. I knew from the moment he offered to share his three-pass tea, milk and honey watercolor technique of applying color. I said, “What?!” But when he explained it, the whole world of watercolor opened up a little bit more for me. It was like going from black and white to Technicolor. See if Marc’s approach sticks in your mind like it has in mine!

Fluid, Opaque, Rich & Sticky

Marc refers to watercolor washes as “tea,” “milk” and “honey” to correlate with their translucency, coverage and application. Tea is a very fluid wash; milk, on the other hand, is a bit more opaque, requiring less water and more paint; and honey is a rich, sticky mix of paint and a minimal amount of water applied sparingly.

Basically, he works from lighter to darker and larger to smaller, beginning with tea, which is followed by milk and then honey. The initial tea wash covers the entire composition with large shapes. The following passes of milk and honey cover the underlying tone, building strength and solidity in the shadows.




Knowing that he is going to do most of the work with watercolor, Marc doesn’t put more effort than necessary into his drawing. It’s just a clean, fairly descriptive pencil drawing that includes the major outlines of color shapes. This scene was at midday with the sun behind a thin haze of cloud, calling for a generalized glaze everywhere and a washed-out sky.




The transparent tea mix should flow freely and tint—but not obliterate—the drawing. Apply the color wash quickly. See how Marc works the three big shapes in the image wet-into-wet while staying loose and splashy with lots of color variation.

Also attempt to keep the dry edges between the live shapes sharp. And work quickly! Marc spread the wash over the entire image in 5 minutes or less, but the combination of swiftness and accuracy takes some practice.

While working, stay aware of the color variation and go back for a slightly different hue each time, modifying the base color with warm and cool neighbors. Notice that Marc left a few small flecks of white throughout the midground to create random glints. A wash should never be too smooth or perfect.

CRITIQUE: Marc assessed his painting at this stage and says: “I should have hit a richer color in the sky, because it’s too pale, and the warm white of the stone building is too bleached out. Mostly, though, I find it’s important to accept whatever happens at this stage.”







After the tea pass dries, move to the second pass of color—milk. It needs enough paint to be cloudy to cover what’s gone before. Work from lighter to darker with this wash; you only need to deepen midtones and shadow shapes.

Be careful to leave the lit areas alone and let the tea stain glint through. For this pass, you don’t want uniform coverage; instead, create a light-dappled texture, letting the layers intersect. Allowing little gaps in this pass created the illusion of light bouncing off the upward-facing surfaces.

Don’t hold back on the paint in this pass! Remember how little honey there is in a cup of tea (or the final pass). The darkest darks are only for the final pop of contrast.

This stage is the most fun for Marc, as there’s a lot of exciting brush calligraphy and charging-in.





After letting the milk pass dry, move on to the honey pass. If you think about Marc’s analogy, there’s usually just one teaspoon of honey in a cup of tea. It’s the same for creating the darkest darks when painting—a little goes a long way. They’re only two to three percent of a typical sunlit image. Even when a subject is dark and shadowy, the spot blacks are only for the deepest contact shadows.

A sketch doesn’t really come together until the darks are properly placed, because they’re the basis of the gradient of interest. We know the weight of the darkest darks attract the eye. In a painting like this, the viewer’s eye will travel from eye magnet to eye magnet, moving around the space.

St. Joseph's Oratory, Montreal (pen, ink and watercolor, 15x22) by Marc Taro Holmes

St. Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal (pen, ink and watercolor, 15×22) by Marc Taro Holmes.

The honey pass is the mostly about the deepest darks, but it’s also the last chance to re-touch the lightest lights. Marc uses white gouache mixed to a honey consistency–thick and sticky–to sketch in the lilies in the flower bed.

The Urban SketcherFor a more in-depth look at Holmes’ tea, milk and honey approach, as well as urban sketching techniques, tips, exercises and more, turn to The Urban SketcherThroughout the book, Marc proves himself to be an exciting and engaging art instructor who makes the process of drawing and painting exciting and understandable. You’ll enjoy the resource cover to cover. Guaranteed! 


The post Urban Sketcher Marc Taro Holmes’ Tea, Milk and Honey Technique for Applying Watercolor appeared first on Artist's Network.

10 Painting Principles Every Artist Should Know

Yes, many great artists urge their peers to break the rules. And, yes, letting loose and being in the moment set a solid foundation for a successful painting session. However, as one of the arguably greatest artists of all time, Pablo Picasso, used to say:

Painting Principles, Principles of Painting Gregg Kreutz | Oil Painting | ArtistsNetwork - Pablo Picasso

So before you start breaking any rules, we are here to break down 10 key painting principles. Brought to you by accomplished oil painter, Gregg Kreutz, these pointers are geared to help you boost your creative process and start painting like a pro right now–just try to finish reading all 10, first.

10 Painting Principles from Oil Painter Gregg Kreutz

1. The four stages of painting are placement, background, shadow and light.
2. To paint something convincingly, you have to determine local color, shadow color, turning color and highlight color.
3. Dynamics (high contrast, color, paint thickness, and so forth) bring passages forward (see Fish Market Dawn, below).


Fish Market Dawn (oil on canvas, 25x32) by Gregg Kreutz

Fish Market Dawn (oil on canvas, 25×32) by Gregg Kreutz


4. Paint relationships—not isolated things or people.
5. Everything is either light against dark, dark against light or same against same.
6. Paint passages in the light thickly (see Fall at the Farmer’s Market, below).


oil painter

Fall at the Farmer’s Market (oil on canvas, 16×20) by Gregg Kreutz


7. Light turns gently into shadow and emerges crisply from the shadow.
8. Every object needs a form shadow (see Up the Lane, below).


oil painter

Up the Lane (oil on panel, 12×14) by Gregg Kreutz


9. Shadows are dark versions of local color.
10. Highlights are never on the starting edge (see Golden Earring, below).


oil painter, painting principles

Golden Earring (oil on canvas, 24×20) by Gregg Kreutz


Which of these painting principles are your favorites? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to share with us any painting must-dos that were not listed above.

And, don’t forget to subscribe to The Artist’s Magazine for more art insight, inspiration and instruction from expert artists, including Kreutz. You can also find past issues of the magazine here. Happy art-making, artists!

*Article contributions by Gregg Kreutz, oil painter; Michael Woodson, assistant editor for The Artist’s Magazine; and Maria Woodie, web producer for ArtistsNetwork

Rev Up Your Creativity

Need a creative pick-me-up before applying the painting principles above? Or do you just want a break from the workday? (I know I do!) Check out these fast and fun drawing exercises from Artists Network University.

The post 10 Painting Principles Every Artist Should Know appeared first on Artist's Network.

Understanding the Different Grades of Watercolor Paper

Demystifying Watercolor ‘Paper’

Watercolor Paper, Watercolor Painting, How to Pick the Right Watercolor Paper, Comparing Watercolor Pressure | Johannes Vloothuis | ArtistsNetwork

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


The usage of the term “paper” with regards to watercolor is a misnomer. In a way, this name devalues the price for watercolor paintings in galleries. It suggests the surface is not permanent because the image is painted on paper, and isn’t much different than a print or a poster.

If manufacturers of these materials dispelled the word “paper” and substituted it for “cotton sheets,” watercolor would have more associated formality because oil and acrylic paintings are also painted on cotton surfaces. This will not only add value to watercolor paintings but collectors may also stop viewing their investment as having a short life span.

Be careful when buying watercolor paper. Art stores actually do sell wood pulp paper watercolor blocks. Unless the product says 100% cotton on the cover, you may end up with the wrong product that will terribly hinder your watercolor success. These student watercolor blocks are a waste, in my opinion. I refuse to do any touch-ups on my workshop attendees’ paintings when they bring these.

The surface of professional watercolor paper is real cotton and 100% acid-free, which means the white surface will not turn yellow over the years. Consider cotton baby diapers: Add a gelatin sizing to it, compress it and you have a sheet of compressed cotton that absorbs wet paint. The sizing reduces the sheet’s flexibility when dry and allows a slow seeping of wet paint into the fibers.


Types of watercolor paper | Johannes Vloothuis, ArtistsNetwork.com

A watercolor painting on Arches cold pressed paper

Know Pressure

The amount of pressure during the compression process determines the different kinds of watercolor paper surfaces: hot pressed (very compressed), cold pressed (semi-compressed) and rough (loosely compressed).

The pressure of watercolor paper is important to know because the degree of compression results in the fibers being closer or more separated from one other. This will make the paper behave differently by the sheer absorption process.

As an analogy, it works like this: A kitchen towel sucks more water than a cotton shirt. That’s because a towel has more gaps between the fibers, which allows the water to penetrate deeper into the fabric.

Knowing watercolor pressure will help you make the right choices. Read on for a closer look at the applications and setbacks of each grade.

Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper

  • Very little pigment penetrates beyond sitting on the surface.
  • Hot pressed is not adequate for general watercolor painting.
  • It’s suitable for fine detail, such as pen and ink.
  • This type of paper works well with gouache.
  • Wet-on-wet application with diffusion will not work.
  • Glazing will lift the underlayer.

Do you have your copy of Landscape Painting Essentials yet? Get it here today!

Types of watercolor paper | Johannes Vloothuis, ArtistsNetwork.com

A watercolor painting on Fabriano cold pressed paper

Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper

  • Some pigment penetrates deeper into the fibers.
  • A painting on this type of paper ends up with a nice velvety look.
  • Diffused wet-into-wet application can be achieved on cold pressed, but there’s a risk of losing the forms from excessive pigment bleeding. The artist working with this paper must be quite skilled at controlling the degree of fugitive paint.
  • It works well for scraping out rocks with a credit card when painting landscapes.
  • Cold pressed is not optimal for glazing because the new layer tends to disturb the first layer.
  • It’s too smooth to apply the dry brush technique many artists use to create bushes and trees when creating landscapes.
  • This type of paper makes it easier to spray off an area that needs correction.
  • It has an excellent surface for combining pastels with watercolor, especially pan pastels.


Types of watercolor paper | Johannes Vloothuis, ArtistsNetwork.com

A watercolor landscape painting on Arches rough paper

Rough Watercolor Paper

  • The pigment seeps even deeper into the fibers of rough paper.
  • The wet-into-wet application works well on this type of surface.
  • Glazing works better because the paper grips the first layer quite well.
  • It does not work well for scraping out rocks when painting landscapes.
  • The rougher surface is conducive to dry brushing, which is great for creating the illusion of foliage.
  • It’s harder to remove unwanted paint (with water from a spray bottle).

Get Your Weight Know-How Up

Each of the three paper types discussed comes in 22- by 30-inch sheets, which you can cut into various sizes. The stocks are as follows:

  • 90 lb. is not ideal for painting with watercolor, but it is good for printing copies.
  • 140 lb. must be stretched to avoid buckling.
  • 300 lb. does not require stretching but is more expensive. It will still curl like a potato chip if it’s moistened in large areas, so I recommend fastening it to a stiff surface.

Watercolor blocks are handy for plein air painting and transporting to workshops but, with the 140 lb. version, the paper still buckles*, which basically defeats the purpose of paying the extra money.

The 300-lb. blocks are handy, but you’ll pay considerably more for them. If you use 140-lb. sheets, I highly recommend working with a Guerilla Watercolor board, a fantastic product that stretches the paper so it won’t buckle when you rewet it.

Knowing how to prevent buckling is important. When cotton paper is soaking wet, it will expand, creating bumps like hills on an uneven terrain. This makes respecting the contour of a form during wet-into-wet application more difficult because the paint settles into the paper’s grooves.

Stretching the paper before you begin painting is a necessary practice. Wet the paper, fasten it to a stiff surface, then allow it to dry. When you rewet the paper, the expansion will be less, which will reduce the buckling.

How to Choose Your Ideal Paper Grade

What you need to know about watercolor pigments | Johannes Vloothuis, ArtistsNetwork.com

Watercolor painting by Johannes Vloothuis

Considering the advantages and disadvantages of each of these papers, I suggest selecting the grade based on the subject you are planning for your painting. For me, I love painting landscapes. When I paint tons of close-up foliage, I turn to rough paper. Likewise, this paper type works well if there is a lot of edge diffusing that requires some control.

If a scene contains rocks and not many soft edges, I go for cold pressed. This grade of paper also works well when I want to incorporate pastels to create the appearance of mist, add texture or enhance my watercolors. Additionally, the velvety look with cold-pressed paper works well for flower paintings.

Determining Brand Loyalty

When it comes to watercolor, there are several different brands to choose from. Arches is one of the most common, as well as Fabriano.

Recently, I discovered Daler Rowney Langton Rough, which is not as grainy as the other papers but offers an in-between of cold and rough, and has many of the advantages of both. Although there are brands I have not yet tried, I am sticking with Daler Rowney for now.

Stonehenge Aqua is a new paper emerging in the market. If you want to create detailed realism or portraits, this brand works well because it still offers the velvety aspect of cold pressed compared to other brands but has the absorption capabilities of rough paper. This means when you work on top of a pre-existing layer, it won’t disturb the layer underneath as much.

However, choosing the right brand for you will come down to trial and error. If you’re new to watercolor, try experimenting with a few different brands until you find your perfect fit.

And, if you’re also trying to figure out which watercolor paints to use, I review different watercolor pigments and their properties, as well as explain how to control fugitive wet-into-wet application and offer recommendations where these should be present in your artwork in another blog post, which you can find here.

Check out my website, ImproveMyPaintings.net, to download past courses, buy my book Landscape Painting Essentials and/or to register for my live online art classes.


The post Understanding the Different Grades of Watercolor Paper appeared first on Artist's Network.

Finish Your First Perfect Painting

Pouring Paint, Tips and Tricks

Contemporary paintings often showcase a wide variety of special effects—especially when the imagery is abstract. (Think Jackson Pollock, Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler.) Many of those effects can be achieved by pouring acrylic paint. Pouring is a great way to smooth out unwanted texture, get marbleized effects, rich colored glazes, and add some fun to your painting process. Although pouring is a relatively simple technique, it is not always easy. There are two categories for pouring acrylic paint: coated pours and wash pours. Each requires a different process and will produce different effects. The following helpful tips and tricks for pouring acrylic paint can help you navigate around the most common pouring problems…

Tips for Coated Pours

A coated pour can resemble oil paint and will intensify colors since glossy binders reflect light. Coated pours generally use a combination of acrylic paint and medium, with little to no water added. The paint creates a fluid shape or layer that sits upon the painting surface, as in Jackson Pollack’s layered drips and high-gloss finishes.

  • For best results, use a pouring medium and keep any water additions to less than 40%.
  • Pouring mediums come in both thin and thick viscosities. Each will produce different effects. To determine quantities, a good rule of thumb is to plan on about 2 ounces of thin pouring medium to cover an 8” x 10” (20cm x 20cm) surface, and three ounces for thicker pouring mediums.
  • Avoid haphazardly adding water to thin pouring mediums. Try using the medium on it’s own first to determine whether adding water is necessary.
  • Allow any excess medium to spill over the sides of the painting surface by propping up the surface with containers or blocks at all four corners.
  • Use a leveling device to ensure the pour will remain level while drying.
  • Use a rigid substrate to prevent buckling while pouring acrylic paint. If using stretched canvas, be sure to prop up the center to keep it from sinking.
  • Before pouring, apply a stain sealer, then prime with gesso. This will prevent stains from coming through the surface into the poured layer.
Dragon Breath  Bonnie Teitelbaum Acrylic on panel 22" × 22" (56cm × 56cm)  Several coated pouring mixtures were pre-made using color and medium in separate cups, then poured while all were still wet, allowing the colors to overlap.

Dragon Breath by Bonnie Teitelbaum, acrylic on panel, 22 × 22.Several coated pouring mixtures were pre-made using color and medium in separate cups, then poured while all were still wet, allowing the colors to overlap. Article contributions by Christina Richards. 

Tips for Wash Pours

A wash pour can resemble watercolor and will mute colors since it uses heavy amounts of water to dilute the acrylic. This encourages the paint to sink into the painting surface, as in Helen Frankenthaler’s stained canvas effects.

  • For best results, do no use any mediums.
  • Heavily dilute the paint with water, at least a 1-1 ratio.
  • Consider the effect the surface absorbency will have on the result. A wash pour on a glossy surface will break apart into interesting shapes variegations. A wash pour on matte and absorbent surfaces, such as watercolor paper, will soak into the surface to produce an even colored stain.
  • Change the surface absorbency by adding acrylic paste or gel before you begin pouring acrylic paint.
  • Try to minimize handling of the piece. Instead let the paint and water move around on their own while drying. The most interesting effects with wash pours often come out of happy accidents.
  • Fluid acrylics will offer more intensity of color in wash pours than heavy body acrylics will.
  • You can also substitute acrylic inks, high-flow acrylics and airbrush colors in most wash pour techniques for alternate effects.
pouring acrylic paint wash pour

Big Yellow by Mary Morrison, acrylic on canvas, 42 × 46. A variety of soft and hard-edge forms are created with wash pours on canvas. Modern colors are used for the washes, keeping the color intensity bright.

Nancy Reyner & More Solutions for Perfect Paintings

Nancy Reyner has been painting for more than thirty years and she exhibits and teaches both nationally and internationally. Her video workshop, Perfect Painting Solutions, offers a multitude of techniques and ideas with the intent to give artists everywhere the ability to turn any painting into perfection. That means troubleshooting colors that go too dark, correcting problems in both realist and abstract work, how to take your inspiration and turn it into a painting that will attract a viewer’s eye, and more. Let Nancy coach you through all the issues you will face so that you get a painting that is perfect for you–all with Perfect Painting Solutions. Enjoy!

Leave a comment and let me know what troubles arise with you when you are painting and I will see what I can do about getting you the answers you need. All my best, artists!



The post Finish Your First Perfect Painting appeared first on Artist's Network.

Make Your Own Paint

How to Make Your Own Paint | Acrylic Earth Pigments | ArtistsNetwork

Don’t Knock It Until You Try it

You may already know that you can make your own paint, but have you ever actually engaged in this tactile process?

The notion of making my own acrylic paint is appealing as an artist’s experience in the same way I’ve wanted to learn how to make my own paper in the past (as a first step in binding my own books).

When I think of wanting to use a stamp or stencil in a work, I prefer to cut my own. Anytime there is an opportunity for me to become a more intimate part of the creative process, I’m intrigued enough to give it a try—to insert more of myself into the finished thing I create. (I also love to make my own flour tortillas for tacos when time allows, but I digress.)

If this sounds like you, too, I highly encourage you to take some time to make your own paint. At the very lease, try it out once for the experience. I was worried it would be more complicated and messier that it turned out to be; I was delighted at how and rewarding fun it actually was.


mandala painting earth pigments | How to Make Your Own Paint | Acrylic Earth Pigments | ArtistsNetwork

Finished mandala painting, using only earth pigments

3 Advantages to DIY Paints

Because I may not be able to sway some of you on the “artist’s experience” alone as a reason to give making your own paint a try, here are some advantages that might interest you.

  1. Cost. Buying pigment and medium separately generally end up costing less than purchasing ready-made artist’s grade acrylic paint. (Probably oil, too, but I’m more familiar with acrylic.) Exceptions might be with rare pigments.
  2. No toxic additives. If you’re concerned about what might be in your paint besides pigment and the vehicle/medium, you can purchase earth pigments (I ordered from earthpigments.com) and rest easy that your paint is as pure and simple as possible.
  3. Control. Because you decide the pigment/medium ratio as well as the amount to mix up at any particular time, you can mix up only what you need. You can also control the opacity and the body depending on pigment-to-medium ratio and the acrylic medium you use.

In full disclosure, as I discovered, there are a couple of disadvantages, also. One is that like any free-spirited recipe, unless you make meticulous notes and measure your pigment and medium, reproducing results may be challenging.

Another con is that you may feel more limited in the colors you can create—particularly if you decide to use earth pigments as I did. For example, I would have loved to create a vibrant fuchsia, but just couldn’t seem to make it happen with the primary pigments I ordered. (Learn more about the pros and cons of premixing your own colors, here.)

How to Get Started

So, enough talking about it, right? Let me share with you how to make acrylic paint!

What You Need

  • Acrylic medium of your choice
  • Dust mask
  • Dry pigments
  • Fexible metal spatula or palette knife
  • Glass surface (I used Plexiglas, but highly recommend glass)
  • Pipette
  • Water


How to Make Your Own Paint | Acrylic Earth Pigments | ArtistsNetwork

1. Gather materials to get started: a chosen acrylic medium, one or more dry pigments, a metal spatula or palette knife and a hard, flat surface—glass is highly recommended—as well as a dust mask, a small amount of water and a pipette (optional, but helpful).


As mentioned above, I chose a few colors from Earth Pigments: Black Iron Oxide, Red Iron Oxide-Y (warm), Red Iron Oxide-B (cool), Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue and Yellow Iron Oxide. For my medium, I used Liquitex’s fluid matte medium.

This brand of pigments recommends using approximately twice as much medium in the mix as pigment, so I used that information as a starting point.

In my research, I also learned it was recommended to first mix the dry pigment with a small amount of alcohol or water to disperse the pigment before diving in and adding all the medium. I likened this to beating eggs before adding a lot of dry ingredients.

I also read that using alcohol rather than water made dispersion easier because there’s less of a weight difference than there is with water. However (and maybe I was using too much alcohol), I found even a few drops of alcohol to dry things up pretty quickly. Using water worked just fine.


dry paint pigment | How to Make Your Own Paint | Acrylic Earth Pigments | ArtistsNetwork

2. Don your dust mask and place a small amount of pigment on the glass. For my first attempt here, I used about a tablespoon total. This made more paint than I expected and used about half this amount from here after. If you’re in need of a lot of paint, a tablespoon may be just right.


How to Make Your Own Paint | Acrylic Earth Pigments | ArtistsNetwork

3. Use a pipette to add a bit of water. Again, I had no idea what to expect here, so I was conservative with the water. Now that I’ve done it several times, I can safely say this isn’t critical, just add some drops—enough that it’s easy to mix into a saucy consistency more than a dry, pasty one. At this stage, try to get out as many lumps as possible, even the teeny tiny ones if you can.


How to Make Your Own Paint | Acrylic Earth Pigments | ArtistsNetwork

4. When your pigment-water mix looks pretty well incorporated, add your chosen acrylic medium—approximately two times the amount of pigment mix. Look for any remaining grains of pigment and work those out with your knife or spatula. Your paint is ready to use!


It’s worth mentioning there is a tool made for the purpose of grinding pigment as you make your own paint. It’s called a glass muller. Think of this as a mortar and pestle setup for paint.

As a first-timer, I decided to give a humble palette knife a whirl—and it seemed to work well for me. However, if I continue to make my own paint, I’ll probably explore this possibility.

dry pigments to make warm grey | How to Make Your Own Paint | Acrylic Earth Pigments | ArtistsNetwork

Experiment with Color-Mixing and Paint Consistency

Some things I learned playing with different combinations of pigment are that some are dispersed easier than others. Also, some are more powerful in that less goes a long way.

I also learned if you don’t grind the pigment sufficiently, those little granules will not only be visible on your painted surface, but they can also be activated in subsequent layers as you brush over them, creating cute little lines of unintended color. (Oops . . .)

The only pigment I used without combining it with any other was Titanium White. I used this to paint a mandala over my background.

I then wanted to see how mixing my own glaze would go, so I tried three different mixed glazes—yellow, periwinkle and an olive green. For these, my ration of pigment was about one part pigment to four parts of medium. It seemed to work well.

Learn the basics of color theory and begin experimenting on your own by taking advantage of this free  artist’s guide to color! 

<form id="form-

  • *

Below are some process photos of my finished painting. I used no paint other than what I mixed from the earth pigments. While I couldn’t make every color I possibly wanted, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of beautiful colors I was able to create.


make paint underpainting | How to Make Your Own Paint | Acrylic Earth Pigments | ArtistsNetwork

The underpainting using my DIY Paint

make paint background | How to Make Your Own Paint | Acrylic Earth Pigments | ArtistsNetwork

The background, using my own paint mix

mandala painting from earth pigments | How to Make Your Own Paint | Acrylic Earth Pigments | ArtistsNetwork

The finished mandala painting — all from my own paint mixtures

earth pigments palette | How to Make Your Own Paint | Acrylic Earth Pigments | ArtistsNetwork

Here’s a palette showing the main colors I mixed to create my painting, the final three at the bottom being glazes.


The pigments I purchased will never expire and will always be ready to be mixed up for whatever I’d like to paint. This is a huge pro in my book!

Likewise, how little pigment I actually needed to complete a small painting (each of my four panels was a 5″ [13cm] square) was a pleasant surprise. If I ever need a large quantity of paint for a large canvas, this would be a great way to go.

Ready to try making your own paint? Let us know your thoughts, results from your own experiments, and any tips you might have for DIY paints or color mixing in the comments below!




The post Make Your Own Paint appeared first on Artist's Network.