Where does the colour in paint come from? Paint is made from pigments and all of these pigments used to come from natural materials.
Black was made from burning bones, and the most expensive pigments were made from rare and precious materials.
For example, ultramarine blue was made from precious stones that came from a mountain in Afghanistan. For centuries, artists have experimented with making their own pigments from the materials around them.
In this activity, you will learn about where colours come from and how to make your own paint from natural materials. You will discover what happens when you grind, filter and dissolve leaves, plants and soil to create pigments.

  1. Collect your materials – have a look around and see what is in the park or garden or kitchen cupboard. Here are some suggestions: flower petals, berries, green plants and vegetable leaves,charcoal, sand, soil, or clay.
  2. Choose one of your materials and put a small handful into your mortar bowl. Use your pestle to grind your material. Keep working on it until you have made a paste or powder.
  3. Scrape out your paste or powder from the bowl into a measuring jug and add water – about the same as if you were making a glass of orange squash. Give it a good stir and let the particles settle.
  4. When the larger particles have settled, pour the liquid into a shallow bowl, put it in a warm sunny place and leave it to dry out completely. You could speed this up by heating it gently in a pan lined with tin foil over a low heat or putting it into a tray lined with foil and leaving it in a warm oven until the water has evaporated.
  5. When all the water has evaporated, you will be left with a dry powder. Put it back into your mortar and grind it again until you have a very smooth powder.
  6. Take a small pinch of your pigment and mix it with a drop of water into a smooth paste. Congratulations! You have made your own pigment – and who knows, you may have even invented a new colour!

Rembrandt was a painter who lived in the 1600s. When we look at his paintings today, they look very dark and use lots of grey and brown. We can’t see any blue in his paintings but we know that Rembrandt did use a lot of blue when he made these works of art. He couldn’t afford ultramarine, so instead used a pigment called ‘smalt’.  Do some research to find out what has happened to the blue in Rembrandt’s painting and why it disappeared. What other colours have disappeared from his work?

I hope you enjoyed making your own paint.  We would love to see what you have created.  Don’t forget to email us a picture at lefthandedlemon@hurworth.swiftacademies.org.uk and you could win a prize!

If you want to have a go at tomorrow’s activity, you will need different samples of plastic.

Until next time, Keep calm and apply some Science!

This activity has been taken from the downloadable resources at https://www.britishscienceweek.org