Introduction: Make Your Own Thermocolor (Color-Change) Paint!

Have you ever wondered how items such as cups or pencils that change color when exposed to heat or cold work? They involve some form of thermocolor (also referred to as thermochromic) pigment. This Instructable will show you how to make your very own custom thermocolor paints using those pigments!!

What is thermocolor paint?

  • Thermocolor paint is paint that changes color based on the temperature

Why make my own?

  • There are limited brands on the market, and they can be expensive.
  • With limited brands come limited colors & color combinations, this allows you to mix and match to create your own colors!

Are you sold yet? Lets begin! This Instructable will show you how to make 2-color and a color-to-transparent thermocolor acrylic paints that change colors when exposed to heat.

The 2-color paint is more opaque, and the color-to-transparent paint is very sheer

Here is What You Will Need:

  • Transparent Gloss Medium (For color-to-transparent paints)
  • Acrylic Paint (For base color of 2-color paints)*
  • Thermocolor (Thermochromic) Pigment Powder (You can get this on Amazon in whatever color you want, you want the kind that turns transparent at 70-90 degrees F, such as this)*
  • Some kind of container with a tight fitting lid to save the paint
  • Plastic Spoons
  • Paintbrushes

*Whatever colors you pick for your acrylic base and powder will combine to make the color the paint will be at room temperature. It will turn into the base color when exposed to heat.

Step 1: Pour Your Paint

Now, I usually only make a little bit at a time unless I am doing a big project, so I am doing a small amount because I only need a bit of paint for my upcoming projects. (stay tuned!)

The more paint you use, the more pigment. This isn't an exact art, but I use the same amount of pigment for 1 part acrylic paint as I do for 2 parts acrylic gloss medium, so if you're making transparent paint you will use more paint and less pigment.

I didn't measure, but an estimation was that I used 1 tablespoon of paint for the 2-color (yellow) and 2 tablespoons for the color-to-transparent paint.

Step 2: Add Your Pigment.

This stuff is powdery and gets ALL OVER if you aren't careful.

I added about half a plastic spoon (heaping) to each cup of paint, like I mentioned in the last step, I use the same amount of pigment for 1 part acrylic as I do 2 parts transparent gloss medium.

Once again, this isn't an exact art, so experiment a little with your pigment to get the color you want. You can even mix pigments to create your perfect color. For deeper colors you may need more pigment, but wait until you mix it in to add more, as you can't really remove it once it is there without adding more of your base (acrylic paint or transparent gloss medium).

Step 3: Stir It Up!

Stir it up until you have no more pigment lumps in your paint. You may notice some marbling due to the heat from stirring. Also, it might not be it's final color yet, due to the friction heat from stirring.

If it is lighter than you'd like, let it sit for a few minutes to cool down before adding more pigment.

Also, the paint tends to dry a little darker than it looks in the container, so you may paint a test swatch on paper or cardstock (I used some blank index cards!)

Step 4: HAVE FUN!!!

This paint can change color using just body heat, so once it is completely dry, play around with it to make sure it is what you want!

You can tweak it a bit by adding more base or more pigment to create your ideal thermocolor paint!

This paint isn't glow in the dark or UV reactive unless you used a base paint that is. The pigment has low UV tolerance, though, so it is probably best reserved for use inside the house.

If you enjoyed this Instructable, or found it helpful, please check out my others, and don't forget to vote for me in the contests!


UNSEPARABLE+TECHSCIENTIFICS made it!(author)2017-07-16


; D

trisha.sherman made it!(author)2017-02-04

New to instructables, not sure if you answered this question. Could the powder be used in fabric dyes/paint? If used in fabrics would it be chemically safe? Also, would I need to seal the fabric dyes/paints if mixed with the powder if I were to use on swimwear since the fabric could possibly be in water for long periods of time?
Thanks for your time.

noani made it!(author)2015-05-17

what brand of pigments have you used? I'm looking at amazon store and none of the pigments that I see have any customers' ratings. thank you.

oldmanbeefjerky made it!(author)2016-03-03

there is no brand. All thermochromic pigment ultimately come from 3 manufacturers who all produce leuco dye pigment. They vary slightly in that you might have some from one which isnt especially deep but lasts longer while another has water impurities that slowly explode the resin capsules the pigment is made from if its warm for more than hours at a time which is stupid.
The other supplier charges heaps and the pigment is really good, like, deeper blacks, bloodier reds, and its easier to get the pigment to turn completely white, or seem to/almost total transparency at a thickness that gets you the deepest possible coloration when cold, but nobody resells from them, they only deal in like 100kg at a time, they just pretend to, which is why you see pigment marked at $30 for only 10g, people used to buy from me in 100g quantities then triple the price and resell it.

RonM119 made it!(author)2016-12-06

Can you tell me where I could order the pigments in large quantities like you did (100KG)? Thanks

Peporin made it!(author)2016-03-18

Would you mind telling me what manufacturer you got the 100kg pigments from? I don't mind buying the pigments in bulk as I would like to get some good quality pigments with deep rich colors.

birdeatert made it!(author)2016-11-03

Is this safe to put on skin?

SapphireDoodle made it!(author)2016-07-24

If the surface I'm painting is already one color, will that color be visible when this paint is activated? Like if I painted a purple notebook with green thermochromatic paint, would the purple be visible when the green is warm enough?

OliverD20 made it!(author)2016-04-20

I bought my thermocolor pigments from a company called SFXC in England. They also sell color changing paint that's ready to use.

MarijuanaKing__ made it!(author)2016-04-14

if I mixin base paint and gloss ... whats the medium gloss for? I just painting shoes

I should just use the acrylic paint and pigment ?

or the medium is like a sealer or smtn?

Keybrooks26 made it!(author)2016-03-28

What's the transparent gloss medium. Is that for the base acrylic paint to make the color changing paint? I'm tryna paint my shoes this color...HELP!!

WendyL35 made it!(author)2016-03-28

If i made a "transforming coffee cup" do you think i would need to spray in a coating?

No%C3%A9G7 made it!(author)2016-03-19

Hi !

Do you know if the paint change quickly ? I would like to make a rorschach mask, like the one in this website :

erut99 made it!(author)2015-07-05

If i mix red pigment with yellow paint will i get orange paint?

oldmanbeefjerky made it!(author)2016-03-03

ironically no. the pigment is not the same as acrylic dye/pigment, consider that by turning white, it becomes fully transparent. Ive tried, its very hard to get a nice orange even with red thermochromic

Cat00x made it!(author)2015-05-17

I curious what kind of projects you would use this with. How long does the effect last, forever? Thanks so much for this instructable!

oldmanbeefjerky made it!(author)2016-03-03

it will effectively last forever but will fade under UVB and lower (lower nm wavelengths)
so in theory, it lasts forever, but in practice it could be anything from 1 year to 100 years. with a UV blocker overcoat youd probably get like 20 years out of it in the sun

alwaysdiycustoms made it!(author)2015-10-05

Hello great instructable! Can you mix in the fabric medium that allows the paint to become more flexible?

oldmanbeefjerky made it!(author)2016-03-03

yes you can, look up how to use fabric medium, it makes no difference with thermochromic pigment.

clrwl04 made it!(author)2015-05-21

Can this be used to print on t-shirts?

TheProcrastibaker made it!(author)2015-05-22

I'm not sure! I haven't tested it with fabric paint yet, but stay tuned I just might! That sounds like fun!

bpark1000 made it!(author)2015-05-21

A electronic display could be made with this! All you need to add is a bunch of small heaters and the paint.

TheProcrastibaker made it!(author)2015-05-21

That sounds like an interesting project!

charlie-sam made it!(author)2015-05-17

Thank you, GREAT job.

ohkindia made it!(author)2015-05-17

Amazing sis...

nsegantini made it!(author)2015-05-15

Great instructuble!...You know if the pigment can be mixed with a normal car paint? Thank you

TheProcrastibaker made it!(author)2015-05-15

Yes! Make sure you use a paint with UV protection though, as the pigment has a low UV tolerance.

NathanSellers made it!(author)2015-05-13

Cool. Thanks for sharing the tips.

About This Instructable



Bio: I am a Mad Scientist and IT gal with a passion for projects. I love figuring out puzzles, solving problems, and finding out new ways ... More »
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