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]


  • 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


  • 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.

2 thoughts on “Making Liquid Gum Arabic

  1. Is the method section missing a step? I followed the instructions and left the powder in a jar, inside a pot of heated water (not boiling) on my stove for 8 hours and there was no sign of the powder turning to resin. It was still the same powder I started with.

    1. The method originally published was, indeed, wrong. A vital step was left out. Since I’m the person responsible for writing up the instructions, I apologize for not reading my own instructions more carefully before publishing them. The instructions have been revised and updated. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We really appreciate that. Meanwhile, we will replace your gum Arabic powder. — Bjo Trimble

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