Most paints are made using Gum Arabic but what do you do if you’re making your own paints and don’t have any gum arabic?
You have to learn how to make paint binder without gum arabic. All you need is xanthan gum, glycerin and some water.
You can even follow the ancient Egyptians and use honey as a binder. I’ll give you the full ratios and instructions later in this post.
When it comes to art, there are a huge range of materials that you can use to create your art.
Paint tends to start to dry immediately, even before you actually put it on canvas or any other material.
Paint binder is used to help give you more time to work before the paint dries and before it sinks into the paper or canvas.
So, what is gum Arabic used for in art, is there an alternative, and how to make paint binder without using gum Arabic.
This post will cover not only how to make paint binder without gum arabic but will also address how to make watercolor binder without gum arabic as they pretty much follow the same recipes.
What is Gum Arabic?
Gum Arabic is a gum that is derived from the dried up sap of the acacia tree that mainly grows in Africa.
Gum Arabic is mainly exported from Sudan, Africa which is part of the reason that it costs so much and is difficult to get.
Currently, Sudan, Africa has been embroiled in a civil war which makes it difficult to get gum Arabic at this time.
There are other reasons that it might be a good reason to swap your mixing medium besides that fact that gum Arabic is harder to get now and more expensive.
There are a few different alternatives that you can use for your paint binder like carrageenan, sodium alginate, and even xanthan gum.
What is Gum Arabic Used for In Art?
Gum Arabic is often used as a paint binder to give the artist more time to work with the paint before it starts to dry and to help keep the paint from sinking into the paper before you are ready for it to sink in.
The gum is added to the paint to help make it stay malleable longer so that you have more time to work with it and more time to actually get your work done before it sets.
Typically, gum Arabic is only used with watercolor paint to help disperse the pigment so that it can be used as paint and so that it can disperse over the paper or canvas.
The gum acts much like linseed oil or other oils would work with an oil paint. Without gum Arabic or some other type of binder, your color is going to flake off and fall off the paper after it dries.
How to Make Paint Binder Without Gum Arabic
There is a formula for making watercolor binder without gum arabic that you can use to help make your paint. You need pigment, your binder, water and additives to help make your watercolor paint.
You are going to need to make your binder separately before you add it to your pigment to make your paint.
Gum Arabic substitute for watercolor
A great DIY gum arabic substitute for watercolor recipe is as follows:
- 1 part xanthan gum, 125gm
- 2 parts warm water
- 1 tablespoon of glycerin
You want to take your xanthan gum and make sure that it is ground fine so that it will dissolve in the warm water.
You then add your xanthan gum to the water and add one tablespoon of glycerin, some recipes say that you can use honey in place of glycerin.
Make sure you combine thoroughly before you add in your pigment to the binder.
You can keep your binder separate and then add the pigment when you are ready to use it. Or you can mix the paint all at once and store it until use.
If you use honey instead of glycerin, the paint is not going to last as long so you do need to make sure you are paying attention to the smell and texture of the paint.
Throw it out if it starts to smell foul or if it starts to change in texture.
Why Do you Need Binder in Watercolor?
Binder in watercolors is an essential part of the mix for the simple reason that without it, the watercolor pigment would stay malleable and liquid when it was wet, but would then flake off and rub off when it dried.
The binder acts as a glue or sorts that is added to the pigment to give it gripping power so that it binds to the paper or canvas or whatever you are painting on and so that it stays where you put it when it dries.
The sap is sticky, that is why the gum Arabic helps to stick or adhere the paint to the paper when it dries.
Xanthan gum, carrageenan and even sodium alginate work in much the same way as the gum Arabic to create that sticky layer that helps to adhere the paint to the canvas.
Another thing to note about binder is that it does create a layer between the paper and the paint before it dries.
This means you are going to have more play time with the paint to move it around, to lift off if you want, and to change the way it looks before it dries completely.
Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech). While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney. While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts. His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. Joseph’s art has been sold to private collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia. He is a trusted source for reliable art advice and tutorials to copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.
He also loves all things watches (ok it’s an addiction) so show him some love and visit his other website https://expertdivewatch.com