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Recipe for Making Liquid Gum Arabic

Making Gum Arabic

Resin binder used for tempera, watercolor and gouache; it stays water-soluble through the ages. Buy liquid gum in art stores or make your own from powdered gum. Making your own is far less expensive.

 You need:

  • Gum Arabic powder
  • Distilled water (only necessary if your faucet water is alkaline)
  • Small deep bowl
  • Small saucepan
  • Pipette
  • Whisk
  • Lidded container
  • Clove or other strong essential oil to help prevent odor and mold as liquid ages
  • Glycerin [optional]

Method:

  • Put 1 tsp gum Arabic powder into a jar with 1 cup of water
  • Stir well to remove lumps in the powder; a small whisk is handy
  • Place jar in a saucepan filled with hot but not boiling water
  • Keep saucepan over heat long enough to dissolve the powder
  • Gum Arabic slowly dissolves and looks like water with resin odor.
  • Add 1part gum Arabic liquid to 5 parts glycerin for smoother liquid [optional]
  • Let stand 2-4 hours, to overnight
  • To mix paint, use pipette to add 2 parts water to 1 part gum Arabic, then mix with dry pigment

Short-cut Method:

  • If in a hurry, do this:
  • Stir gum Arabic powder into 1 cup very hot but not boiling water
  • Keep stirring until the powder dissolves
  • It may be necessary to heat the powder / water mixture until powder dissolves
  • Rushing things can leave undissolved powder in the liquid

Storage:

  • Well-capped, gum Arabic liquid keeps at room temperature for several days
  • To keep 6-8 months, add 1drop clove oil and refrigerate.
  • If gum thickens, add a few drops of distilled water

Image: Our finely powdered gum Arabic, ready to be made liquid when needed.

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Recipe for Watercolors & Gouache Paints

Making Glair (Egg-white Binder)

This binder makes transparent watercolors or gold-leaf adhesive. It’s a protein, so is water-soluble only while wet; fairly permanent when dry.

You need:

  • 1 egg white
  • Small deep bowl
  • Pipette*
  • Whisk
  • Lidded container
  • Clove oil
  • Soapy water for dirty brushes
  • Paper towels for cleanup
  • Small trash bag
  • Art brushes
  • Gum Arabic*
  • Practice paper
  • Paper, parchment, etc. to paint on

 Method:

  • Separate white from yolk, remove opaque ‘eye’ thread.
  • Whisk white to stiff peaks like making a meringue
  • Cover bowl loosely to keep dust-free and set overnight.
  • Next day, scrape off foam and feed to the dog or toss it
  • Pour liquid into container, add drop of clove oil if desired.
  • Add about 1:1 glair and gum Arabic
  • Mix with pigments as with making egg tempera.
  • Glair will keep 1 week in refrigerator if well sealed.
  • Once old glair gets moldy, it’s not good for art, so toss it out.

 

Gouache (Opaque Watercolor)

This recipe creates watercolor paint with white filler‡

  • Mix 1 part whiting to 6 parts pigment.
  • Adjust for depth of opacity as desired.
  • Some artists like a semi-opaque paint. Go for it!

‡chalk*, kaolin* or titanium dioxide*

* Item sold by Ancient Earth Pigments

 

Image: Red capital “N” with green and russet watercolor edging, from unknown Medieval manuscript. Note that the capital is “inhabited” by a monk-like scribe or artist.