How-To: Make Your Own Watercolors with Mica Powder

watercolors made with mica powder in half pans

Want to customize your watercolor paints? Fortunately, it’s very easy to create your own watercolors. You just need a special ingredient: mica powder.

If you want to create unique watercolor colors, mica powder is the perfect colorant. Mica pigments are available in a rainbow of colors, and when you add mica to a watercolor binder, you can create truly unique colors. Plus, mica naturally shimmers, which will add a glimmering, iridescent effect to your artwork.

The process for creating watercolors with mica is simple. It’s a two-step process. First, you’ll create a watercolor binder using a few easy-to-find supplies. Next, you’ll add mica to the binder and start blending colors.

Need some inspiration? This DIY watercolor guide includes a watercolor binder recipe and color mixing tips. Read on for to learn all about blending your own watercolors.



What You’ll Need

First, you’ll need some mica powder. There are natural and synthetic mica, as well as glow in the dark pigments. (Not sure which to choose? Try our primary colors mica set or our mica starter kit.)

Next, you’ll need watercolor binder ingredients. Here's a list for the recipe below:

  • ½ cup powdered gum Arabic
  • ¼ cup honey (Note: You can also use other moisture-preserving humectants like glycerin, agave syrup or simple syrup.)
  • 2 drops clove essential oil (preservative)
  • 1 cup distilled water

supplies for making watercolors with mica powder

In addition, you’ll need a few tools, safety supplies and containers. Other tools and supplies for making watercolor paint include:    

  • Palette knife
  • Glass muller (stone works too)
  • Glass or stone working surface
  • Measuring cup (1/4 cup)
  • Measuring spoon (tsp)
  • Empty half pans
  • Magnets (to go on bottom of half pants)
  • Tin container (Upcycled Altoid containers for the win!)
  • Mask and rubber gloves

Looking for more inspiration? See our mica beginner's guide for project ideas and more.

How to Make a Watercolor Binder

There are pre-made binders available, but many are made with ox gall from cows. Fortunately, a natural DIY with powdered gum Arabic as a base is very easy to make, long-lasting, and usually costs slightly less.

To make the binder:

Mix the above ingredients (gum Arabic, honey, clove oil and distilled water) in a glass bowl. Then, refrigerate the mixture for 24 hours.  

Do I Need a Binder?

Binders play an important role. They hold the mica pigment in place. For example, you could mix mica directly in distilled water. But without a binding agent, the mica wouldn’t adhere to the paper or canvas and can easily rub off. 

Create Your Colors: Mixing Mica with Watercolor Binder

red watercolor paint made with mica

Once your binder has set, it’s time to start creating colors. Follow this rule of thumb when mixing mica with your binder:

Ratio: Use 1 part mica to 3 parts binding agent. 

You might start with 1 part mica and 1 part binder. Remember, a little mica goes a long way. Beginning with a third of the binder will allow you to get the feel of how the pigment powder blends and help guide any adjustments to the 1:3 ratio. 

Wondering how much to start with? A rule of thumb: Most watercolor half pans are 2ml and a tablespoon is 15ml. Therefore, your batch doesn’t have to be too big to fill multiple half pans. 

Here’s a simple mixing process:

  • Begin with pigment (add your mica directly to the working surface)
  • Add 1/3 of the binding agent
  • Mull
  • Add additional 1/3 of the binding agent
  • Mull a bit more
  • Assess the color. Does it need more mica? If so, add a bit more, and mull until fully blended.
  • Add the remainder of the binding agent.
  • Use a palette knife to funnel the mixture into your empty half pans. Depending on how thick or thin your mixture, you can expect it to settle once dry. Fill the half pan as much as possible to optimize the half pan.

Important Note: Mica powder is quite fine, and easily inhaled. It can stain uncovered surfaces (and your hands). Therefore, use gloves and a mask when mixing.

That’s It! You’re Ready to Paint


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