How to Make Your Own Paint

Vibrant gouache color set in double use
Tatiana Kolesnikova / Getty Images

You can save money and make your next painting project extra special by mixing up your own paint. Most of the ingredients you need are probably lying around your house. Start saving jars, empty film containers, or pill bottles to store your paint. Try mixing up a batch of finger paint, dimensional paint or puffy paint. You can even make your own sidewalk paint.

Homemade Paint Recipes

Most homemade paints are great for kids' projects because they use safe household ingredients.

Many, but not all, are non-toxic. As for washability, any formula that uses store-bought paint or food coloring will not be washable.  

  • Chalkboard PaintMake your own chalkboard paint by mixing acrylic paint with plaster of Paris. Because you're starting with acrylic paint, the resulting chalkboard paint can be any color you like. Paint any hard, smooth surface to turn it into a chalkboard.
  • Dimensional PaintDimensional paint is a thick mixture that you apply with a squirt bottle then spread and shape with a craft stick or other tool, creating a 3-D effect. This version is made with water, salt, flour and food coloring. 
  • Dish Soap PaintMake this paint using dish soap and powdered tempera paint or food coloring. It washes off easily and is ideal for temporary artwork on windows and mirrors.
  • Cookie PaintMake this edible paint for decorating sugar cookies. It uses egg yolks, corn syrup, water and food coloring, so you can mix any color you like and make a batch of different colors at once. 
  • Fingerpainting With PuddingAll you need to mix up this paint is instant pudding mix and milk or water. Color is by flavor: chocolate brown, off-white vanilla, light brown caramel, lemon yellow, mint green pistachio...
  • Homemade Finger PaintMake this paint on the stove top by mixing together flour, salt, water and food coloring. You'll never run out of paint again!
  • Homemade Puffy PaintThis puffy paint is made using shaving cream, glue, and food coloring. It's great for window clings, painting clothes or decorating custom greeting cards.
  • Sidewalk PaintLearn how to make sidewalk paint using cornstarch, food coloring and water. Create messages and scenes on driveways and sidewalks, using a foam or bristle paintbrush. 

Ideas for Using Your Homemade Paint

Try to use your paint shortly after mixing it, at least until you know what kind of a shelf-life it has. And don't be afraid to experiment; you can always make more paint!

  • Homemade StencilsGet ready to use your homemade paint by creating custom stencils. You can make them with paper, acetate or self-adhesive vinyl.  
  • Chalkboard WindowMake this charming chalkboard with an old wood-frame window, substituting your homemade chalkboard paint for the store-bought stuff. 
  • Puffy Paint It!From window clings to jewelry to all kinds of 3-D effects, what can't you do with this crafter's favorite? Here are 10 clever and fun ideas to get your next project started.

Tools for Applying Homemade Paint

Look around the house for anything that might become a unique paint brush. If it can pick up and hold a little paint and make its own pattern on your canvas, it'll work!

  • Squirt bottles: These are ideal for thicker paints, like dimensional paint, puffy paint, and even cookie paint. Just remember to clean out the bottles before the paint hardens inside them. 
  • Foam brushes: Cheap and available in many different sizes, foam brushes work for every type of paint and can be easier to use for the littlest Leonardos. 
  • Bubble wrap: Wrap your hands or feet in a layer of bubble wrap, carefully dip it into the paint, then stamp straight down onto the canvas. It's polka (dot) time!
  • Clothespins: You don't paint with the clothespins (unless you want to); you use them as handles for any kind of painting tool: pipe cleaners, pom poms, feathers, sponges...you name it.
  • Brushes: That is, other than a paintbrush. Any type you can find (and don't mind getting paint on): toothbrush, dish brush, scrub brush, cosmetic brush, whisk broom...