Natural Earth Tone Paints




About: I am merely a lover of doing things with my hands and finding new, creative methods for designing crafts. I dabble in a bit of everything related to crafting or creating. I especially love miniatures of any ...

This paint is made from natural materials made from pigments found in nature. Egg white is used as a binder. I've included directions to make four basic, earth tone colors: Brown, Black, Red-brown and White/Cream.

I used this paint for a hands-on project teaching about cave painting and also for decorating coil pots.

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Step 1: Supplies

  • Mortar and pestle
  • 5 small jars or bowls
  • 1 egg
  • 5 plastic spoons
  • Newspaper to cover work space
  • Old fine-meshed strainer or sifter
  • Approx. 1/4 cup of dirt (not potting soil)
  • A lump of charcoal/ash or burned wood
  • A ball of red clay larger than a grape
  • White chalk (I know, not completely natural but I couldn't find anything else that ground finely enough)

Step 2: Preparing Materials

First you have to prepare the pigments which will make the colors. This is the part that takes the longest but once you have them all ground to powder you can store it for any amount of time. Then you can just add liquid to make paint whenever you need it. You will make white from chalk, brown from soil, red-brown from clay and black from charcoal.

To begin, lay newspaper down over your work space.

Crack the egg and separate the white from yolk. Put egg whites into a bowl. Beat lightly.

(Tip: Grind all your materials as fine as possible for a smoother paint.)

-Begin with chalk since it is the lightest color. Grind the pieces into a fine powder in mortar and pestle. Transfer to one of the bowls. Wash out mortar and pestle in between colors. Dry it thoroughly.

-Grind soil lightly with mortar and pestle to break up lumps. Sift into second bowl, this will remove any debris or larger lumps. You only need about 1 tablespoon.

-Break clay into small pieces and place in another bowl. Add a few drops of water and let it sit, this will help soften it making it easier to mix later.

-Grind the charcoal into a fine powder and sift into last bowl. It's best to prepare the charcoal last as it gets quite messy. Again, 1 tablespoon will be sufficient.

Step 3: Adding the Egg

Assign one spoon to each dish.

The egg acts as the binder in the paint. Its purpose is to make the paint flow and stick to the surface you paint.

Add a small spoonful of egg into the first pigment and stir with the spoon to that dish. Continue adding egg after that drop by drop stirring thoroughly between drops. Keep adding egg white until it obtains the consistency of, well, paint. Although, this paint tends to be thicker as its grainy texture keeps it from absorbing completely.

Repeat with remaining pigments. You may actually need a second egg depending on the amount of powder you are using and the amount of paint you want in the end.

Step 4: Using the Paint

You finished making your paint, now you need as use for it. Don't be disappointed if your paint did not turn out quite as you expected it to. You must remember this is natural paint, it will not act quite like regular paint. It is much thicker and quite coarse. It may not flow very well off of a brush (thus it is not ideal for small details) but it can be spread easily.

As I mentioned in the introduction, I used it to teach about cave painting. We painted on stone (and cement) with sharpened and flattened sticks.

I've also painted pottery (coil pots) with it.

You really have to experiment around with it and find how you can best use it.

The paint will keep about a week in the refrigerator tightly covered.

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    7 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Nice instructable, simple yet effective. Could I suggest using something like lampblack instead of charcoal (as it is far finer than can easily be made from charcoal) for the black? It is quite easy to make, though it does take a while, and just as natural.

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    I knew about making ink with lampblack but didn't think to use it for this. I think it would definitely work, I'll try it out. Thanks!


    Reply 2 years ago

    I'd be interested to find out how that goes, as the most I have tried is using lampback for ink. Do be careful as the amount needed for a paint is quite a bit, and even a small amount can get everywhere and make a bit of a mess.


    2 years ago

    Once the paint has dried, how water resistant is the picture? How difficult is the clean up? Would this function as finger paint?

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    The paint will clean up with soap and water. (The only one that might take some scrubbing would be the charcoal) Unfortunately this means it also isn't very water resistant. It works pretty well as finger paint, it's thick so it is easier to spread than trying to paint it on with a brush. It also works best on a rougher surface, if you use it on paper, consider a heavier weight paper or cardboard.

    Side note: I'm not sure if the paint could be called non-toxic so I don't know about use with young children.


    2 years ago

    this is very creative and unique