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.
- 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 add it to dry pigment
- Use a muller to grind the pigment with the water-gum mix, working it until the paint it smooth
- 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
- 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.