Tools and equipment The starting point
The basic equipment and tools for making artists paint have changed
little in hundreds of years and unlike many fields of artistic
endeavor are relatively inexpensive. The biggest change for modern
practice has been a larger focus on safety issues, and the protecting
of artists health as an important part of the process.
The studio Organizing the
The studio needs to be inaccessible for children and pigments need to
be on high shelves or in a lockable cabinet. In powder form no pigment
should be regarded as harmless.
Ideally the work bench and grinding slab should be adjacent to minimize
the movement of pigment containers. The floor should not be exposed
concrete in the area where pigments are handled to minimize breakage of
containers. Storage in plastic containers has many advantages in this
regard as the possibility of pigment getting directly into the
bloodstream is very real when trying to clean up a broken glass
container coated in pigment and a sharp piece of glass cuts your hand.
There should be no piles of extraneous materials stacked around the
work area. A rubbish bin with lid should be beside the workbench.
Cleaning up supplies should be readily accessible.
It is desirable that running water and a sink is near the workbench. It
is also desirable that a well stocked first aid kit be nearby.
The grinding slab The
center of operations
In the old master days this was usually marble, serpentine, or porphyry
(the premium material according to Cennini) but glass is easier to
clean and in today's world usually cheaper, (and in many ways better.)
The best glass is white colored although it is acceptable to place
white paper beneath clear glass.
The glass needs to be ground so that it has a 'tooth' for grinding. It
is possible to buy glass that is already ground, but it is cheaper and
easy to ground plain glass yourself.
The slab should be tempered glass sheet at a minimum 1/4 inch or 6 mm
thick and 500 mm x 500 mm (20 in x 20 in) or larger. carborundum powder
medium grit (about 120) is required to make the ground surface. A thin
sheet of styrene the same size as the glass is needed to put under the
glass, this acts as a cushion. Corrugated cardboard will also do this
job, but needs to be replaced every so often.
If you have the room to have the slab in place permanently then it is
advisable to nail timber strips into the work bench around the slab in
order to prevent movement. Larger and thicker slabs are less likely to
move, but still benefit from 'framing' in this way.
Place a couple of tablespoons of carborundum powder on the glass and
mix it to a slurry with a palette knife, and spread it around the glass
surface. Using the glass muller (see below) grind in a circular pattern
using low to medium pressure for about 10 to 15 minutes taking care to
get an even movement over the entire surface of the glass Clean and
rinse off. If done correctly the surface should have an even frosted
glass look. It is now ready for use.
The muller Your grinding
In the past these were often made of stone and conical in shape, but
nowadays they are usually made of glass with a flat surface and
vertical handle. The glass mullers are to be preferred to the stone
which due to their weight can put a lot of strain on the wrist with
continual use. A good size is about 100 mm (about 3 1/2 in) or a little
Mortar and pestle Also
best made of glass
This is not the primary tool for grinding the paint but is needed from
time to time for
pulverizing lumps of pigment and gums etc. It can be used for making
pastels and putty, and for preparing
small amounts of Egg Tempera or Gouache paints but never is sufficient
for Oil Paint or Watercolor which require more careful grinding with
the muller on
the slab in every case. A small glass mortar can be supplemented with a
larger one for Pastel making and larger quantities of pigment. Ceramic
is also an acceptable material for mortar's.
Spatulas, knives and pliers The
True palette knives are long and straight with no bent shaft (called a
'crank') coming out of the handle. The ones with a crank and various
shaped blades are correctly 'painting' knives. The distinction is
important here as you need a palette knife and not the other.
When palette knives become extra long and wide they are called a
spatula. You also need a spatula about 150 mm - 200 mm (6 to 8 inch) in
length of good flexible steel. As this is important for mixing the
paste it is not wise to buy a cheap one that does not flex along the
bade as is is helpful.
A 100 mm (inch) scraper from a hardware store is also useful when
Canvas pliers are an excellent tool for closing tubes after filling
Empty tubes The best way
to store paint
Any art materials supply store that sell powdered pigments will also
sell empty tubes. In Sydney I recommend Parker at The Rocks (see
resources page) Sizes will vary according to the type and quantity of
paint you are making but observe this rule All tubes for water based
paints need to be coated on the inside to prevent corrosion. The
aluminum tubes seem to have almost totally replaced the lead/tin
types these days, but if you do find or use some be advised that any
pigment that is sulfide based )such as cadmium's) require the lead/tin
tube to be coated on the inside with wax or plastic.
Safety equipment For low
Examples are earth colors, Ultramarine, Viridian, Titanium White and
Zinc White, Pthalocyanine's, Quinacridone's and most arylide and other
organic pigments. An ordinary dust mask that covers the mouth and
nostrils is the main requirement here Those with sensitive skins should
avoid developing 'sensitization' by wearing latex or plastic gloves. A
first aid box should be nearby and running water to flush any dust
accidentally gotten in the eyes.
Safety equipment For
medium toxicity pigments
This group tends to be the heavy metal pigments such as the Cadmium's
and Cobalt's. A good fitting dust mask, impermeable gloves. It is
essential to cover the entire body including wearing long sleeved
shirts. All clothing worn during paint making should not be worn
outside the studio and should be washed separately to other clothes.
Goggles are not essential, but recommended to guard against accidents.
Running water and a first aid kit should be nearby.
Safety equipment For high
Examples are the lead or arsenic based pigments. It is not recommended
using these pigments and in some jurisdictions it may be illegal. If
you must use these pigments you will require a proper fitting dust mask
with organic mist filter (as spray painters wear) impermeable gloves,
goggles, A long sleeved smock which is used for only this purpose.
Launder these clothes regularly and separately from other clothing. In
many places there will be additional requirements for safety equipment
mandated by law. Running water and a first aid kit should always be
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