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.

Step 1: Glue-All and Graphite Sample

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

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

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.

Step 4: Control Sample With Wire Glue (tm)

The fourth sample was commercially available Wire Glue (tm) from Think Geek. The Wire Glue(tm) needed to be stirred so another toothpick was used.

The Wire Glue(tm) was much runnier than the other samples so the lines were not as bulky. Less material being put down means a higher resistance since there is less carbon/graphite for conduction.

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 5: Preparation for Testing

All the samples dried for five hours and were labeled.

Close-up pictures were taken to show the thickness of each sample. In order they are:

  1. Elmer's Glue-All
  2. Titebond III
  3. Acrylic paint
  4. Wire Glue(tm)

To ensure the samples were tested uniformly two zip ties were tightened around ohmmeter test probes. This ensured the probe tips were the same distance for each test.

Step 6: Testing Elmer's Glue-All and Graphite

Each sample of Elmer's Glue-All and graphite was tested with the fixed-width probes and recorded.

Step 7: Testing Titebond III and Graphite

Each sample of Titebond III and graphite was tested with the fixed-width probes and recorded.

Step 8: Testing Acrylic Paint and Graphite

Each sample of acrylic paint and graphite was tested with the fixed-width probes and recorded.

Step 9: Testing Wire Glue(tm)

Each sample of Wire Glue(tm) was tested with the fixed-width probes and recorded.

Step 10: Results

The acrylic paint is the most conductive material in this sample set when painted with a toothpick. The materials are commonly available and inexpensively. The acrylic paint cost $0.78 and the graphite powder cost $0.75. All prices are in US Dollars.

The advantage of the Wire Glue(tm), which has the next highest conductivity, is that it has a lower viscosity so it could potentially be used with custom pen nibs. Store-bought pen nibs were used with the Wire Glue(tm) in a different experiment but it was inconvenient to apply.

This build took me two days and one more to write these instructions.

I run a blog where I talk incessantly about the things I build, including an unabridged version of this project with videos that show the viscosity of the samples. There are other neat things there like a device that lets you hear temperatures and a keyboard you can use from inside your pockets.

Does the percentage of the graphite matter? I bought graphite powder that was 95%
I haven't encountered graphite powder that had a percentage rating. If that refers to the carbon content then 95% should be fine. Give it a try and let us know.
<p>you can shop on ebay cheaper : <a href="http://www.ebay.com/itm/322377451443?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649" rel="nofollow"> http://www.ebay.com/itm/322377451443?ssPageName=S...</a></p><p>carbon conductive paint ; R=20 ohm , cheap ,waterproof when it is dry, the strong embedded in plastic, glass, metal. wood.etc</p>
<p>I'm doing a project that requires the paint to be conductive and while wet so paint can flow. Here are some results. Acrylic + carbon works best. I did 3/4 part carbon, 1 part acrylic paint and 1/2 part salt water. Even over long distances or drips its at 1.2k. Working well, doing some tests on how it looks dried, but not as important as having a proper conductivity while spilling :) Thanks for the help and advice!</p>
<p>Thanks for the recipe with salt water. I'm glad to hear you had success!</p>
<p>HAHA, YES!<br>I saw a video about conductive ink earlier, thought it was cool, but too expensive, so I thought: could it work if I ground up some pencil leads and mix it into something like acrylic paint?<br>Turns out that, not only it will, but that it might work better than the expensive stuff! :D<br>Thanks for the research! I'll definitely be trying this!</p>
<p>It's so fun to see people get excited about this geeky stuff. Good luck and happy painting.</p>
Thanks! :)
<p>Hi, I am striving to make fractal tv antenna using conducting paint, but as you have noted, that is a very expensive product. I'm wondering if you or perhaps pmdillion (in the classroom) might have tried something like this. For information purposes, the designs I'm using each use four dipoles (that have repeated angular shapes). One design will use dipoles that are each 18&quot; long (1/8&quot; wide line). The other has dipoles that are each 10&quot; in line length with 1/4&quot; wide line. Other reading leaves me with the conclusion that although the resistance of each dipole may be a couple hundred ohms, the fact that this is a &quot;very&quot; low voltage application using the conducting ink/paint might work.</p><p>Thanks in advance for any assistance.</p>
<p>I have never heard of anyone using conductive paint for an antenna so I hope you are on the brink of an amazing discovery! In college, I made a Yagi antenna for a class assignment and we used weather resistant aluminum. It never occurred to me to replace metal with conductive paint in an antenna. Resistance on the traces will be significantly higher than metal but I can see a lot of advantages, especially on the receiving end of things. I don't have much advice other than to suggest painting multiple layers for greater thickness. I'm eager to hear how this turns out.</p>
<p>hi there! I need conductive paint for the process of electroforming/electroplating (see:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-mwoFDOLU0 &ndash; at 2:07 she explains what you use the graphite paint for) Do you think this would work for this process?</p>
Several people have asked the same question. The consensus is that plating and forming will work but the high viscosity of the paint will obscure details. If you only want to make a simple shape without texture it should work well. If you want a very thin coat this will be a poor choice.<br>If you follow the testing procedure here and find a lower viscosity medium to carry the graphite then you will have the best of both worlds. And please tell us!
<p>Hi Brian,</p><p>Thanks for doing the tutorial on this.</p><p>I was intending on using your mix of acrylic &amp; graphite for repairing the demister/defogger array in the rear window of my car, which also doubles as the antenna for the car radio.</p><p> I'm wondering if you think that this mix would be suitable for the task? I'm thinking that perhaps the acrylic/graphite mix might melt &amp; run from heating by turning the demister on. Do you think this might be a problem? Would one of your other mixes be more suitable for this application?</p><p>Worst case, I'll just buy the right stuff. It's just far more expensive then it need be...</p><p>Thanks,</p><p>Hashy (DD) </p>
<p>It was my pleasure, Hashy.<br>I think the acrylic/graphite mix would be a good place to start. These <br>ingredients aren't prone to melting so the heat shouldn't a huge issue <br>and as long as it conducts well it shouldn't produce much heat itself. <br>It might be prudent to put something inflammable under it for a couple <br>days in case something hot breaks off during use.</p>
<p>hi! great info on the subject. I too make mix my own conductive paint. here's how I do it. I take water-based acrylic clear coats for flooring. I take three parts of acrylic clear coat to one part of water. Then I add about 6-8 parts of graphite. I always eyeball this as I work my way up to the consistency that I like. I always go a tad thicker than I want and then dilute it down with water again. I NEVER add any acrylic afterwards, I only add water and/or graphite. water is the key here, because you don't want too much of an acrylic resin in your mix and once the water evaporates it is literally gone completely out of your mix. too much acrylics to graphite increases the resistance. instead of acrylic clear coat (I think in US it is called water-based latex paint) you could also use an acrylic binder. usually the restoration supply stores carry it. the same that carry stuff for oil-painters and old painting restorers. you should thin that according to the instructions and play around a bit, because some binders can be highly concetrated and need to be heavily diluted. it is slightly different, but in essence both are similar processes. I have used that on my guitars for internal shielding. I get about 50K of resistance on a Strat but a factory Strat goes up to 140K with stock coating.</p><p>you always want your binder/paint/lacquer or anything else you are using in the smallest quantities possible but still allowing a good bond to the surface. I opt to use wood finishes instead of binders becase they have drying agents and additives for a hard final finish. it can be stored up to two years.</p>
<p>Just got my package of acrylic paint and Microfyne...gonna mix up some paint during our afterschool class and let the kids paint circuits. Thanks for the instructions. Aloha!</p>
<p>Whenever I'm working on a project like this I hope that it ends up teaching kids! Thank you.</p>
We are just back from break and I'll mix up a batch for our class tomorrow...let them play with it and see what they make.
<p>Great idea. Great instructable, I've already thought about doing such conductive paint and run some experiments. You saved me some testing time. I&acute;ll go with acrylic paint and graphite. Thanks for the instructable. Keep up the excellent work.</p>
<p>I hope your experiments turned out well.</p>
Do you think this paint could be used to do electroplating on plastics. Like a commercial conductive ink can.
<p>A bunch of people asked early on in the comments so I tested this under water. Unfortunately it dissolves when submerged pretty quickly so it's no good for electroplating or electroforming. It's also very thick for that kind of process.</p>
<p>Do you have any idea what graphite could be dissolved in so that it might be water resistant enough for electroplating?</p>
<p>I've heard people have made conductive silicone by combining equal weights of silicone caulk and graphite powder. I haven't tried adding that much graphite to silicone but I suspect it would be very viscous.</p>
<p>DUDE! You are my hero! I am working on some guitar projects w/ my son and conductive paint is very expensive, about $10.00 US an ounce. This is easy and DOABLE. Thank you!</p>
<p>Awesome! That's exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to do with this Instructable! I hope you post your guitar projects on Instructables.</p>
<p>We tried using graphite (275 mesh powder ~100% - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AIWVEU0?psc=1... mixed with enamel and could not get conductivity. </p><p>Any suggestions? Are we simplifying this too much? Does it have to be graphene?</p>
<p>I'm not sure if the enamel paint makes a difference. Can you do a sample of acrylic paint with the same graphite powder? The graphite powder link looks fine.</p>
<p>can powdered copper or stranded copper wire cut into tiny pieces mixed with glue work?</p>
<p>There are dangers with powered metal but it should work. I have my doubts about cutting wire into small pieces though. The conduction works by having particles touching each other while suspended in paint or glue. If your wire chunks are too large they could be isolated and they won't conduct. If you try please let us know how it turns out. Lots of people have asked about using metal.</p>
<p>I have a question. I'm half joking about applying conductive paint to skin (for reasons) but saw a note on bareconductive's paint that this is not recommmended with their paint. </p><p>Would you say that the acryllic paint version of your liquid conductor would be best suited? (I'm hesitant to use the glue based ones..) </p>
<p>No need to joke. It's a legitimate question. I even post on a board where people want to get permanent conductive tattoos. No success yet.<br>The idea of rapid prototyping a circuit on your skin is pretty appealing but I haven't seen anyone do it with this sort of material. People have made temporary tattoos with circuits but there is a small niche of people who can produce those and people who can use them. Right now they're mostly focused on medical monitoring devices. Not DIY and hackers.<br>There shouldn't be anything toxic in the paint, check first, so it won't poison you but this becomes brittle when it dries so it wouldn't work well as temporary tattoo circuitry. However! Some people have made imitation Sugru that conducts. I tried here and it failed but the people who reported success used WAAAAAAY more graphite than I did. The trick seems to be lots of graphite and a little silicone. Unfortunately silicone smells awful while it cures and I don't know about the toxicity of curing silicone. Also, this will obstruct your pores.<br>What kind of circuit do you want to make on your skin?</p>
<p>Great instructable! Thoughtful replies to questions also.</p>
<p>Thank you. I learned almost as much after publishing this as I did performing the experiments.</p>
<p>can i use pencil graphite......</p>
<p>Yes. Powered graphite is just convenient but it is the same stuff. No one has mentioned doing that so let us know how it works.</p>
<p>I Like it</p>
<p>I made this paint today with a 100mL tube of Acrylic paint and a 50g bottle of granite powder and it worked perfect with my circuit scribe kit.</p>
<p>Great instructable! I wonder if a power metal such as aluminum or nickel would work as well. Something to try out. Thanks</p>
<p>Amazing ...................</p>
<p>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??</p>
<p>How is your meter set up? Can you take a picture?</p>
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 <br>what is the problem ? <br>
<p>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.</p><p>Neat idea. It would be awesome if rubber cement could be used as a conductor.</p>
<p>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.</p>
<p>Awesome! Will you show your results here?</p>
<p>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? </p>
Was your paint / graphite mixture dry when you hooked up the LED?
<p>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!</p>
<p style="margin-left: 20.0px;">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.</p>

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