Making Liquid Gum Arabic

Making Gum Arabic

This is a resin binder used for tempera, watercolor and gouache; unless mixed with egg yolk or other additive, gum Arabic stays water-soluble through the ages. If not interested in mixing dry gum Arabic into a liquid, you can purchase liquid gum in art stores. 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 add it to dry pigment
  • Use a muller to grind the pigment with the water-gum mix, working it until the paint it smooth

Short-cut Method:

  • If in a hurry, do this:
  • Stir gum Arabic powder into 1 cup very hot but not boiling water
  • Keep stirring or whisking 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 essential oil to prevent mold from forming 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.

10 thoughts on “Making Liquid Gum Arabic

  1. I am interested I have a milling machine. A roller milleing machine can i used it to mille Arabic gum

    1. We’ve never milled gum Arabic before, so we don’t know what will happen. If you want to make a finer powder from the dry gum, it might work. But if you are adding liquid, it might create problems with the milling machine. We have not been able to find any more information. Sorry, but you have asked a completely unique question! — Bjo

  2. Hi! Can this recipe be used to make watercolour paints for dry storage in watercolour pans? It seems like it’s a very ‘liquid/watery’ solution compared to other recipes I used.

    Thank you! : )

    1. Yrs, it can be used to make waterrcolor paints for dry storage. Just pour the liquid into the pan & let it dry. This has been done for centuries.

  3. can this be used as a clear coat over earthen or pigment tempera paints – to help seal them/ water proof them?

    1. No, gum Arabic will not seal or waterproof anything. It is water-soluble, so while it makes great watercolors, it won’t seal them. For that you need modern materials such as waterproof artist’s fixative spray. I hope that helps. BTW, we are retiring from the pigment business as of May 20, so if you have any orders to make, please do so soon.

    1. No, you cannot wash gum Arabic. It is very water-soluble. Not even a varnish coating will make it washable. Sorry! You can use gum Tragacanth for a water-soluble pigment binder. I’ve never tried washing it, but there would be a better chance of success than using gum Arabic.

    1. I’m not sure what acacia powder is, but it is probably the bark or inner wood right? For gum Arabic, you need the tree resin. So far as I know, gum Arabic is not a cleaner; it is the binder for powdered pigments.

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