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Oil Paint
Preparing the binder 
Adding wax to the oil
The following is the way Linseed oil was prepared for grinding colors during the Renaissance and since. Beeswax needs to be added in precise proportions depending on the pigment. Those pigments that make stringy paint (Ultramarine is the worst) may benefit from up to 4% wax, although about 2 % is sufficient for most purposes. The following method makes an oil with 2% wax. adjust quantities and proportions to suit your exact needs. This same method applies which ever type of oil being used.

Heat 250 ml (7 fluid ounces) oil in a double boiler. Heat very gently as over heating causes weakening and darkening of the oil paint film. Add 30 g (1 oz) of white refined Beeswax and stir in until it is completely mixed. You cannot afford to have imperfectly mixed oil. Once mixed thoroughly, take off the heat to cool. When cool make up to 1 liter (1 quart) by adding approximately 730 ml (24 fl oz) room temperature oil while stirring. Allow to stand for a day before use.

The oil should be stored in a well stoppered glass jar ideally with air excluded. This is achieved by adding glass marbles to the jar to raise the level to the top. To use the oil pour the required quantity for that days grinding into another jar carefully as this prevents any problems of marbles accidentally landing in your pigment and causing dust in the air. As you use the oil add more marbles to keep the level high as any oil that starts to skin has to be discarded. It is possible to make up 2 oil mixtures, one at 2% and one more at 3 - 4%. Some pigments will not need any wax, but most benefit. Be very careful with proportions as too much wax can prevent the oil from forming a hard film (think of oil sticks, they are able to be used like a pastel at least partially due to the high proportion of wax in their formulation)


Grinding on the slab Also called dispersal or milling or mulling
If you have predispersed the pigment place the paste at one corner of the slab, Put a small amount of the paste in the center with the spatula. If you have not done so yet, it is wise to read the notes on predispersing pigments for oil paint here. If you have not predispersed place the dry pigment in the center. Make a 'well' in the center of the pigment and pour a small quantity of oil into the well. Proceed to mix with a spatula. add oil only a little at a time. The mixture could easily have a crumbly look and be stiff and difficult to mix. Don't be tempted to add too much oil as you need to have as little oil as possible in the paint. Some pigments absorb more oil than others so judge how the grind is proceeding by observing the mixture on the slab. As a general guide some pigments will make paints with as much as 80% pigment while others might be only 60%. As oil both has a color of its own and tends to yellow over time the pigments that absorb less oil will tend to retain their color better. Now you know why those oil absorbency figures on tech sheets are important. Note that the pigment needs to be fed with just a little extra oil than the oil absorbency figures suggest, thus a pigment that has a figure of only 10 to 15% would actually take 20%, 35% would take 40% ond so on. That is just the gap between theory and reality showing. Your goal is to make that amount as small as possible without weakening the paint by under oiling.

Start to grind with the muller. Hold it as in the photograph, and grind in a circular motion gradually spreading the grind across the entire surface of the slab or at least until it is in a thin layer. There is no need to use a lot of pressure as the pigment particles are already finely pulverized, and the action of mulling is in order to coat every particle as thoroughly as possible but while using the least possible amount of oil. You will need to periodically lift the muller and scrape off the excess that gathers at the edge of the muller. This is not a fault, the muller shape is designed as a rounded wedge as this most easily helps the grind, but does require scraping from time to time.

Scrape the mulled paint into the center and inspect. Is it forming a stiff mass that will hold  shape and does not flow and collapse in a very liquid manner. Do a drawdown if you are at all uncertain about the grind (How to do a drawdown). In any case repeat the grind, spreading the paint in a circular mulling action across the slab and adding pigment as necessary. With experience you are likely to notice a subtle difference in paint character between when the pigment is insufficiently dispersed and when the dispersal is complete, as a well dispersed paint handles differently to one where the particles are clumped or otherwise imperfectly dispersed. It will also get a difference in surface sheen as it reaches the sweet spot. These differences occur because as you initially mull the oil coats groups of pigment particles. It is what would happen if the pigment was merely mixed into the oil rather than mulled. As mulling proceeds the clumps of pigment particle break up into smaller and smaller clumps until finally it is just single particles being coated. It is this transition to single particle coating that visually looks different and can only discovered by doing. After the second grind do a drawdown which will reveal any problems that may require further grinding, although most pigments should be well done by this stage.


Filling tubes and jars Storing paint
Having made your paint the storage method needs to be decided on. It suits many artists to store paints of all sorts in small jars. That may be necessary for paint that is used immediately and replenished like Tempera. For Tempera the jar is a convenient option that can be painted directly from, can be sealed with a lid for breaks in painting, or over night and so on. Encaustic is most conveniently left in its small pans where it solidifies, and then can be melted anew the next painting session. All other paints are most conveniently stored in tubes.

Empty tubes are obtainable where you buy your paint. Small ones as well as large ones are needed to meet every situation. The tubes are made of Aluminum. Make certain that they are coated on the inside so the paint cannot come into contact with the metal. They will have a plastic cap screwed on, and the base will be open through which you will put the paint with a palette knife. Hold the tube vertically in the fist with the open end up. Periodically force the paint to the cap end of the tube and at the same time cause air bubbles to rise out of the liquid by sharply tapping your fist against the table top several times. Do not overfill the tube. There needs to be a gap in the base for closing the tube. This is accomplished with the large tubes by bending the end over with canvas pliers, and carpenters pliers for the small tubes. Fold it over several times being careful not to make a hole in the metal as you do so. Look at the crimped base on a commercial tube of paint if you are not certain what to do. It is important to label the tube with media, pigment contents, and date of manufacture with a permanent marker at this point.

Watercolor makers who want to make semi-moist pans will find new empty pans available for sale in some places. If there are pans that will not be used for an extended period these need to be wrapped in Gladwrap.

Congratulations! You have just made paint in a tradition that dates back to the beginnings of art. Now it is time to conduct any further tests that you might want to conduct - details here. And then time to get the brushes out and subject the paint to the most important test of all - using it creatively to make some artwork. Enjoy.


Related Links:

Testing Paint

Studio notes

Basic Ingredients

Detailed Ingredients

Starting to make paint

Making Acrylic Paints

Making Watercolors and Gouaches

Making Egg Tempera

Making Hide Glue Chalk Gesso

Making Encaustic Paint

Making Fresco Colors

Making Pastels


References
Alberti, L B,    On Painting    1435 (Penguin Classics)
Cellini, B,    The Life Of Benvenuto Cellini,    finished 1562 but not published until 1730 (Heron)
Cennini, C d'A,    The Craftsman's Handbook.    1437 (Dover)
Doerner, M,    The Materials Of The Artist And Their Use In Painting,    1921 (Harcourt Brace)
Eastlake, Sir C L,    Materials For A History Of Oil Painting,    1847 (Dover)
Feller, R L,    Artists Pigments    1986 (National Gallery Of Art / Cambridge University)
Gettens, R J, and Stout, G L,      Painting Materials: A Short Encyclopedia,      1942 (Dover)
Gottsegen, M D,    A Manual Of Painting Materials And Techniques,    1987 (Harper & Row)
Maire, F,    Colors: What They Are And What To Expect Of Them,    1910 (Drake)
Mayer, R,   The Artists Handbook Of Materials And Techniques,    fifth edition 1991  (Faber & Faber)
Merrifield, Mrs. M P,    Medieval And Renaissance Treatises On The Arts Of Painting    1849 (Dover)
Muther, R,    The History Of Painting From The Fourth Century To The Early Nineteenth Century,    1907 (Putnam)
Parkhurst, D B,    The Painter In Oil   1898 (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard)
Patton, T C,    Pigment Handbook,    1973 (Wiley)
Porter, N      Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary,      1913 (Merriam)
Pliny, The Elder (Gaius Plinius),    Natural History,    77 AD (Penguin Classics)
Roy, A      Artist's Pigments: A Handbook Of Their History And Characteristics,      1994 (Oxford University Press)
Taubs, F,    A Guide To Traditional And Modern Painting Methods,    1963 (Thames & Hudson)
Theophilus,   On Divers Arts,    1125 (Dover)
Various,    Encyclopedia Britannica,    fifteenth edition 1981  (Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc)
Various,    Paint And Painting,   1982,  (Winsor & Newton / The Tate Gallery)
Various,    The Artist's Colormen's Story,    1984 (Winsor & Newton)
Vasari, G,   The Lives Of The Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors And Architects,    1568 (Penguin Classics)


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