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.
- Gum Arabic powder
- Distilled water (only necessary if your faucet water is alkaline)
- Small deep bowl
- Small saucepan
- 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
- 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.