Make Your Own Thermocolor (Color-Change) Paint!

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About: 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 to get things done!

Intro: 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!

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    35 Discussions

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    RyanL246

    Question 6 months ago on Step 4

    Hi there. I want to paint something, for example our kettle. Have it look like one colour but when the kettle is boiling, it changes colour to black with a silver sports team logo. Can it be done?

    1 more answer
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    TheProcrastibakerRyanL246

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    Sorry for the delay in response. If you are still interested in doing something like this project you mentioned above, it would easily be possible!

    Using a heat-safe paint for the kettle that is formulated to stick to metal (Always prime metal first before painting as well!) you can paint the kettle black and add the silver logo freehand or by a stencil. If the kettle is already black with the sports team logo then you can skip this! The most important part is that the layer underneath the thermocolor paint is the color that you want it to be when it is HOT! When heated, the thermocolor paint (mixed for this application at least) would turn clear and reveal the layer underneath.

    If the kettle already comes "black w/ a silver sports logo" or you have painted it to look like whatever you want it to look like when boiling, then move on to the next step. Find a CLEAR painting medium that is formulated for what you are putting it on. If the kettle is ceramic, use paints for ceramic. If it is metal, use paints for metal. Mix your pigment of the desired color with the clear medium until you get the desired consistency of the paint - It takes quite a bit of pigment to get a solid color pigment (as you can see my blue was translucent, but turned clear when heated. If I had used more pigment it would have been a solid blue color but still become clear when heated). Paint that over the whole kettle, let dry, and then coat with a heat-proof and water-proof sealing agent (So that it doesn't peel w/ the heat or steam of the kettle).

    Once it is sealed and done, a kettle that normally looks, say blue (or whatever color you choose for the solid color at room-temperature) will turn black with the silver sports logo once it has been heated above 86 degrees F. Unfortunately, you can't really change that nature of the pigment, so it will turn colors before actually boiling the water (100 degrees F) but the basic function will be intact.

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    ElouanN

    12 months ago

    Hi! that's a nice project here, is it possible to apply this on clothes?

    3 replies
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    ImaanA1TheProcrastibaker

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    Very interesting stuff. Also interested in applying this to a clothes dye, any idea how would this be possible?

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    TheProcrastibakerImaanA1

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    Right now I have only been able to apply it as a fabric paint, sadly.

    The nature of this pigment is partially because of a coating on it, which makes the individual particles of pigment larger than most pigments used for dyes on fabric.

    I've definitely attempted a few ways to try and get the pigment to be absorbed or bonded with the fibers making up the fabric, but haven't found a way that gets good enough results.

    I'm planning on revisiting this idea in the coming year though, so keep an eye out - If I find a way, I'll post it on Instructables!

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    17175

    1 year ago

    Is it possible to switch this in more than two colors, and if yes what is the number of colors we can exercise this for ?

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    trisha.sherman

    1 year ago

    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.

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    noani

    3 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    3 replies
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    oldmanbeefjerkynoani

    Reply 2 years ago

    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.

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    RonM119oldmanbeefjerky

    Reply 1 year ago

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

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    Peporinoldmanbeefjerky

    Reply 2 years ago

    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.

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    birdeatert

    1 year ago

    Is this safe to put on skin?

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    SapphireDoodle

    2 years ago

    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?

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    OliverD20

    2 years ago

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

    www.sfxc.co.uk

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    MarijuanaKing__

    2 years ago

    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?

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    Keybrooks26

    2 years ago

    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!!

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    WendyL35

    2 years ago

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

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    NoéG7

    2 years ago

    Hi !

    Do you know if the paint change quickly ? I would like to make a rorschach mask, like the one in this website : http://www.rorschachmasks.com/