How To Make Homemade Watercolor Paints

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Today’s recipe started off being a just-for-fun idea to see if it would work, and instead ended up being cheap therapy.

No kidding.

I’ve been wanting to test this recipe for how to make your own watercolor paints for awhile now.  Because I don’t have any little kiddos around my house anymore to play with the paints, I knew it would be up to me to experiment with them to see if they worked.  So after mixing up my homemade watercolor paints, I sat down to fiddle a bit, and totally lost track of the time.


Before I sat down to paint my mind had been whirring around with what errands I still had to do, what blog work I wanted to do, the laundry that was in the dryer, the muffins I was going bake, etc. etc., etc.  Once I started painting, it was all forgotten.  I was temporarily just lost in the colors and the quietness and the enjoyment of creating, even if I wasn’t really creating anything in particular.

Like I said, it was some darn good cheap therapy.  I was calm and relaxed again.

make your own watercolor paints

Mixing Up Your Own Batch Of Watercolor Paints

Once again I was pleasantly surprised at what we can make for ourselves with supplies right from the kitchen cupboard.  These homemade watercolor paints are a mixture of nothing but baking soda, vinegar, corn syrup, and corn starch.  You then add food coloring in quantities to your choosing, and let them dry up for a day or two.

Here are a few things I learned from making my batch:

–  When measuring your baking soda, you should be careful to level it off in the measuring spoon so that you don’t use too much.  Also when measuring the vinegar, you want to be sure you fill the measuring spoon full.  I mixed up an initial batch of this recipe and was not so exact, and the batch turned out way too thick and had to be tossed out.  Careful measuring is important for this recipe.

–  I’ve shared below how much food coloring I used for each of the colors in my set, however this project is filled with the joy of color so of course you may use my suggestions but you are certainly free to branch out with any other color ideas or combinations you may dream up.  I used liquid food coloring for my watercolor set, but it may be possible to use the gel type of food coloring as well.

make your own watercolor paints

–  Another thing I learned was that as more drops of liquid food coloring are added, the wetter that mixture becomes, and the longer it will take to thoroughly dry.  If you are adding several drops of liquid food coloring to one of the sections, you might want to sprinkle just a tiny bit more cornstarch in too, or be prepared to be more patient.

–  You will also need some type of container with about a dozen little sections.  I used a mini muffin tin that worked perfectly.  Some other ideas might be an egg carton or an ice cube tray.

– I mixed my ingredients together in a measuring cup (my one-cup size worked fine).  This was helpful for pouring the mixture into the sections of the mini muffin tin.

Here are the complete instructions:




  • 4 Tablespoons Baking Soda

  • 2 Tablespoons White Vinegar

  • 1/2 Teaspoon Light Corn Syrup

  • 2 Tablespoons  Corn Starch

For tinting your paints you will also need:

  • Food Coloring

  • Toothpicks

1.  Measure out your baking soda into a measuring cup.

2.  Add the vinegar and let it fizz up, then stir it into the baking soda.

3.  Next, add the light corn syrup and the corn starch, and mix well.  You should end up with a mixture that’s about the consistency of Elmers glue.

make your own watercolor paints

4.  Pour the mixture into the sections of your container.  I filled each section of my mini muffin tin about 1/4 to 1/2 full.

5.  The next step is to tint your paints.  Add whatever drops of food coloring you are using into a section, and then stir the food coloring in using a toothpick until the color is evenly distributed.

make your own watercolor paints

The picture below shows the final results for the amounts of food coloring that I used.  For the pink paint that says “a half drop” of food coloring, I dripped some of the food coloring onto my toothpick and then stirred it in, instead of dropping the food coloring directly onto the section to be colored.

make your own watercolor paints

6.  Now you will need to let your new watercolor set harden up.  This will take a day or two.  Mine was pretty good after about 24 hours, except for a couple of the colors that had 4 or 5 drops of food coloring.  That being said, I was still able to use them to paint because they were almost dry, and you just put a wet brush on them anyway!

These homemade watercolor paints can be used the same as any other watercolor paint.  Keep a small bowl of water handy for dipping your brush.  Dip your brush in the water, then swirl it around on one of the sections of paint, and then start painting onto your paper.  Rinse your brush and dry it on paper toweling when switching colors.

With just these basic supplies from my kitchen, I was able to paint with all the colors of the rainbow . . . . .

make your own watercolor paints

So if you have some little ones around the house to keep busy, or if you’re like me and can use some occasional cheap therapy to calm your frayed nerves, why not give these homemade watercolors a try?  They’re easy, frugal, and fun.

Just perfect.

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  1. This is very helpful. My kids would surely love this. Both using and making them 😊 may I know how long can the paints be stored? thank you!

    1. I found these lasted for about the same length and in the same way as the store bought ones. After some use, they can get hollowed out and maybe a few tiny cracks can be seen when drying out again, but they can be used over and over for many months.

  2. I think this would be fun to do in a plastic candy mold(probably not silicone because it’s too bendy/messy). Thanks for sharing!🤗❤️

    1. I’m so glad this recipe worked for your art class Emma – it is indeed a simple and cool little recipe!

    1. I’m not sure what type of ink you are thinking about Nina. One of the benefits of food coloring is that it is washable so you can easily clean out whatever container you put your homemade paints in once they are used up. So I would say you can use other inks or colorings, but just keep in mind if you will want to use the muffin tin or ice cube tray (or whatever other container) again in the future, some colorings might be more permanent than others.

  3. This is so cool. I was looking at some DIY gift ideas and seeing what could be added into a little Altoids can. Someone put metal “button covers” inside one and filled with water color paints, but I wondered how to get water color paints the right color. THANKS! 🙂

    1. I love the idea of a DIY mini watercolor paint set in a recycle Altoid container, and you could definitely use my recipe in that way too. Cute!

    1. I did not have to try to wash these out of anything so I can’t say for sure, but because food coloring is used for these watercolors, I would say Yes, because food coloring usually washes out of things OK.

  4. Thank you! Buying supplies for my classes gets to be so expensive and I want my kids to experience art when I teach about the Renaissance. This allows me to bring the Renaissance to my students without bringing my budget into the red.

  5. Thank you so much! Cant wait to try this recipe! I am going to try this soon but going to use natural dyes. And I guess this cleans out of the tins pretty easily right?

  6. I keep seeing these instructions, I love that you tell us how many drops of color to get what you want. However, I am EXTREMELY allergic to corn protein and don’t have corn starch in my home. I’m also very reluctant to get any to or to handle making these for just this reason. I wish there were another way to do this.

      1. Thanks for the links! I’ve got to admit that I haven’t looked to hard for them, even though I knew they existed. These would be extremely helpful when the roomie wants to make a pie again – since our pies are so runny because of the no corn starch thing. I will say that I have used food color directly AS water colors back in my misspent youth to make those water “blot” type picture where you wet down the paper, apply color and let dry then draw in with ink or dry brush to make the picture.

    1. This project would be ideal for the kids on a day when they can’t go outdoors. I think they would enjoy mixing up the colors.