Instructables
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Picture of Conductive Paint
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The goal of this experiment was to try to find an alternative to commercially available conductive paint. It is incredible stuff but expensive. I've read other Instructables like Makerboat's $1 Conductive Ink and IceCats' Paper Electronics. They helped me arrive at my own recipe, which uses only two ingredients but I think my testing is more reliable.

To make the winning recipe you need:

  • Graphite powder*
  • Acrylic paint
  • A jar with an airtight seal

To complete every test you need:

  • Elmer's Glue-All
  • Titebond III Wood Glue
  • Acrylic paint
  • Wire Glue (tm)
  • Graphite powder
  • 4 wooden toothpicks
  • 4 jars with airtight seals
  • Paper
  • Ohmmeter
  • 2 zip ties

*Be careful with graphite powder because inhalation can lead to respiratory problems.

 
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Step 1: Glue-All and Graphite Sample

Picture of Glue-All and Graphite Sample
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For the first recipe graphite powder was mixed with Elmer's Glue-All until the consistency was spreadable. Be careful when adding the glue because squeezing the bottle will shoot a blast of air into the jar and graphite powder will blow everywhere. The third picture illustrates this.

The ratio was:

  • 2 parts Elmer's Glue-All
  • 1 part graphite powder

The result was fluid but very thick. It could still be used as an adhesive.

Two lines were drawn with the toothpick. One thin line and one thick line. The toothpick was wiped off on the side of the jar and allowed to dry next to the lines.

Step 2: Titebond III and Graphite Sample

Picture of Titebond III and Graphite Sample
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The second recipe was Titebond III and graphite powder.

The ratio was :

  • 1 part Titebond III
  • 1 part graphite powder

The result was fluid but not runny.

Two lines were drawn with the toothpick. One thin line and one thick line. The toothpick was wiped off on the side of the jar and allowed to dry next to the lines.

Step 3: Acrylic Paint and Graphite Sample

Picture of Acrylic Paint and Graphite Sample
2014-07-20 21.31.17.jpg

The third recipe was acrylic paint and graphite powder.

The ratio was:

  • 1 part acrylic paint
  • 1 part graphite powder

The result was slightly thicker than paint.

Two lines were drawn with the toothpick. One thin line and one thick line. The toothpick was wiped off on the side of the jar and allowed to dry next to the lines.

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chloe.stamper2 months ago

I made a 50/50 mix of graphite powder and acrylic paint and I am getting /absolutely no ohm reading off of it. I don't understand! What could be going wrong??

24Eng (author)  chloe.stamper2 months ago

How is your meter set up? Can you take a picture?

hyunho 24Eng7 days ago
i used a rubber cement and liquid tape as a solvent but when i mixed metal powder into them i didn`t get a ohm
what is the problem ?
24Eng (author)  hyunho7 days ago

Silicone had the same problem. My guess is that the rubber cement and liquid tape isolate the metal bits from one another so there is no electrical path. It may be possible to use more metal powder and get conductivity. But rubber cement may not be a good option.

Neat idea. It would be awesome if rubber cement could be used as a conductor.

I think I got it now. I added more graphite and stirred it more. I made it a day prior to painting and I think it may have settled. Seems to be working on the test strip I did a few minutes ago. I did a few more test spots before I commit to painting all the conductive points in the design.

24Eng (author)  chloe.stamper2 months ago

Awesome! Will you show your results here?

petercolon19 days ago

I love the instructional but I'm not getting good results. I used the graphite powder and acrylic paint but I get minimal conductivity. I put 2 parts graphite powder, possibly 3 when I got frustrated and just added more graphite powder, and 1 part paint but the LED lit just slightly after touching the LED legs mm from the power source. When I touch the LED to the power source itself it lit like a Christmas light. Should I add more graphite powder to the paint?

24Eng (author)  petercolon19 days ago
Was your paint / graphite mixture dry when you hooked up the LED?
stepli29 days ago

i love this paint

Matz11 month ago

Hi. I am a newbie here. I was looking for a conductive paint that I could use to repair a tv remote control. One website that sells remotes has a kit that includes what appears to be a conductive paint to coat the rubber buttons that contact the circuits board. Do you think your acrylic/graphite mix would be a good choice for this? Thanks!

24Eng (author)  Matz11 month ago

I suspect this would work well for television remote repair. You could test by mixing up a batch of this conductive paint and dipping a cotton swab into the mixture. When the paint dries touch the painted swab to the board where the button would normally contact and see if the remote recognizes the input.

Matz1 24Eng1 month ago

Thanks very much for the reply!

24Eng (author)  Matz11 month ago

You're welcome. If it works for you, snap a picture so we can all see. Better yet, make your own Remote Control Repair Instructable!

sbergstc3 months ago

Thank you for your thoughtful comments :o) There's not much of an "instructable"... Just floor polish and graphite powder in equal parts or until fluid enough to brush the object's surface. The liquid product is a floor "polish" NOT a cleaning/polishing product... Future Floor Polish is what I looked for, but it's no longer available. I believe the replacement product is Pledge Floor Polish by Johnson & Johnson. The graphite powder is EZSlide by Van Sickle Paint and is also available in sizes up to 5 lbs. The graphite and the floor polish were purchased at Mills Fleet Farm; 16 oz. for $6.29 and floor polish at $7.49. The graphite can be found online as well as stores like Tractor Supply, Farm & Fleet, and maybe at a few local hardware stores (Ace, TruValue, etc.).

If I ever put together an "Instructable", I will let you know. More importantly, I would like to mention that this is not my original idea. I found the information about using floor polish with graphite on the internet during some lengthy searches to find a good quality home-made conductive paint for electroforming. How I also found your Instructable, actually. This other person suggested floor wax would be a good liquid component due to it's water-repellent properties, especially for the purpose of electroforming.

Lastly, would you be so kind as to answer my first question about what resistance your ohmmeter was set? ie, x10, x100, x1k etc.? My meter has x10, x100, and x1k? My resistance at 1k is .50 to .75 and I think this is pretty good, yes?

Thanks again...

24Eng (author)  sbergstc3 months ago

I think it would make a great Instructable! People may be curious what you used to stir the concoction or how long you dried it. Plus you can show off some of the things you've metallized. Right now your recipe is tucked away in this comment thread. You certainly have all the knowledge to make it.

It seemed like you had figured out your meter so I didn't answer. You read 0.5KΩ, or 500Ω. Setting your meter to "1K" was correct. My meter had a different scale so it was set to different scales in different pictures but always measuring kiloohms. The resistance you got can't be directly compared because we don't know that the gap between our probes was the same. BUT, since they look pretty similar and you clearly got good results it's pretty safe to say that your reading is comparable. Your water resistant recipe did get good conductivity. Perhaps if you make an Instructable you can experiment with different ratios and graph the results. Like a science fair project!

Thank you for finding AND PROVING a water resistant conductive paint.

sbergstc 24Eng3 months ago

Thanks... Maybe I will make an Instructable in the future. Right now I'm busy making EF "things" for jewelry purposes. I never thought I had much interest in Science, but this has been fun and not too expensive. Did you know you can also use the electroforming process to "electro-ETCH"? Oh yeah, I'll be trying that next. Might be less messy than using ferric chloride (etchant) and since I already have the setup... Not a big change just reverse the polarity of the rectifier clamps and adjust the voltage... oh don't get me started :)

Take care,

SBerg

sbergstc3 months ago

For electroforming purposes, I'm experimenting with a floor wax/graphite powder mixture that shows a .5k ohm (analog meter; dial set to 1k) resistance with 2-3 coats (pretty thick) and is water resistant/waterproof for at least 8+ hours. I half filled a 1 oz. jar with Halloway QuickShine Floor Finish and added enough graphite powder (EZ Slide) until it was a desired consistency. The shell pictured is my first ever attempt at electroforming and results were OK, but I think will improve with a thinner coating of the paint. This one had a few coats as I wasn't getting the results I wanted and kept repainting. My impatience was the problem. Once I sat back and left the shell alone the electroforming process worked fine. This coating took between 6 & 8 hours.

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24Eng (author)  sbergstc3 months ago

Interesting choice for a medium. And fantastic. I am so glad you posted your results. If you can make an Instructable for your recipe I bet a lot of people would appreciate it. It seems like you've read the comments on this page and electroforming is sought after. The waterproof feature is really important, as you know, so I bet you would make some people happy. The shell looks great!
Since you've already proven your recipe works for electrofmrning works I would be more than happy to link to your Instructable once it is published.

hyun ho3 months ago

why you use this glue as a solvent? and is it okay to use a powdered metal instead of graphite?

24Eng (author)  hyun ho3 months ago

I used glue and paint as the mediums because they are very easy to buy. Several people have asked about powered metal and I think it would work well but there are more safety concerns when working with powered metal. If you take good precautions I would be excited to hear if you have good luck with powered metal. Good luck and be safe!

sbergstc3 months ago

Hi...

Can you tell me at what resistance your ohmmeter is set? ie, x10, x100, etc.? I'm trying to make a comparison to a graphite/floorwax mixture I'm testing. My meter has x10, x100, and x1k.

Thx,

Sberg

24Eng (author)  frankieedgar3 months ago
Thank you.
AdrienD3 months ago

This is a great discussion! I had a few ideas as I read through the comments.


Since the medium carrying the pigments reduces conductivity, would it not be possible to apply a metal powder and water mix to a surface and bake it at high temperatures so that it fuses sort of like how a glaze works with pottery? A lead powder might work since it has a low melting point... though the fumes are dangerous.

Second though: I am wondering if one were to paint the glue on first and while it is still tackly "roll" the object in graphite or other metal powders so as to create a surface that is un-impeaded by the medium and therefore more conductive.

Also, I have read that burnishing a conductive ink/ paint increases the conductivity as well as applying the paint when in a magnetic field. This alines the fields in the graphite molecules. For example. place a large magnet under the piece of paper you are drawing circuits on.

I am still trying to figure out a way of electroplating plastics. Any advice would be great.
Cheers!

biomorphics5 months ago

Thinking of making this using copper powder as I would be using it for electroforming and all the paints I have seen for that are either copper or silver based. I'll see how it goes!

24Eng (author)  biomorphics5 months ago

Definitely post your results here. Where you do you buy copper powder?

biomorphics 24Eng4 months ago

http://www.onlinesciencemall.com/copper-powder-pure-laboratory-chemical-reagent-30g.html?utm_source=gpla&utm_campaign=ProductListingAds&gclid=CjwKEAiA28ilBRCy5cXrgtfTxTISJABgX7E2ZRgf5VbAVMM1O7PyVijA6bXG-i0IwKa4Whojkj3rjRoCPvjw_wcB

24Eng (author)  biomorphics4 months ago

The idea of powdered metals makes me nervous because they can be flammable and I don't always work in a very controlled manner. This is really a problem on my own part. Thank you for putting this resource here because I really believe that a more conductive medium, like metal, would create a more conductive paint. Maybe someone will make it and let us know if it's waterproof!
Also, that powdered copper is cheaper than I thought it would be so that's encouraging.

24Eng (author)  biomorphics4 months ago

The idea of powdered metals makes me nervous because they can be flammable and I don't always work in a very controlled manner. This is really a problem on my own part. Thank you for putting this resource here because I really believe that a more conductive medium, like metal, would create a more conductive paint. Maybe someone will make it and let us know if it's waterproof!
Also, that powdered copper is cheaper than I thought it would be so that's encouraging.

Peraloca4 months ago

Judging for the results, this is more a resistive paint than a conductive paint, you get similar results drawing a heavy line on a paper with a soft graphite pencil. Anyway, thank you for sharing your ideas and your experiences, they are invaluable.

24Eng (author)  Peraloca4 months ago

What do you mean more resistive than conductive?
You are certainly correct about drawing a heavy line with a graphite pencil!

jbhensoniii7 months ago

Im trying to paint a room to protect against EMF-Microwave radiation from cellphone towers and looking for a low cost alternative to paints you buy from other companies.They work but I dont have the cash to fork out 89 dollars a liter, however I want to protect my 3 year old from the radiation.

Maybe you can use "Polyfoil" (The kind of metal shining envelope used to wrap gifts). It is far more conductive than any conductive paint, or maybe you can find something useful here.

http://www.lessemf.com/fabric.html

I hope this can be helpful for you.

24Eng (author)  jbhensoniii7 months ago

nevtxjustin posted a couple links below to some inexpensive graphite based paint which he or she claims is conductive.

I will repost the links here but nevtxjustin deserves credit for them.

http://www.vansicklepaint.com/ezslide/

and you can buy it from TSC

http://www.tractorsupply.com/en/store/ez-slide-gra...

winkleink made it!6 months ago

Made and used this for glowing LED cards for Halloween with my kids. Worked great.

Used 50g Acrylic Paint and 20g Graphite Powder. Also, have a batch that's 50/25 that also works. 50/20 for me gives the best balance between conductivity and ease of painting.

Really has to dry out before it's conductive. I used a hair dryer as the kids wanted instant results.

Painting it on with a stiff bristle brush works best. Fine brushes like water colour brushes have a problem with the thick consistency of the paint. Doesn't have to be an expensive brush just stiff bristles.

Thank you for doing this instructable,

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24Eng (author)  winkleink6 months ago
Thanks for sharing your cool cards. I'm glad you got some mileage from this paint and I appreciate that you even included your proportions.
M4n0v3y made it!8 months ago

It really works! I used acrylic resin and that glue that shoemakers uses to fix shoes ( I don't know the name of this in English... Glue for footwear). My formula allows to apply a post process of electrolysis for deploy a fine layer of copper over the circuit.

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24Eng (author)  M4n0v3y8 months ago

That's awesome!
What kind of consistency does it have? What proportions did you use?
A lot of people will be grateful to see your work.

M4n0v3y 24Eng8 months ago
Hello!

I am about to publish a flat cable and a flexible circuit project based in this conductive paint. In this publish I will describe the detailed process to produce the tint.

It will be published very soon!
24Eng (author)  M4n0v3y8 months ago

Awesome. I'm so pleased this could help you make your own project. Be sure to post a link here and you might even be able to put it in the Remix Contest.

lazemaple9 months ago

so can this conductive paint be used for electroforming or electroplating?

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