How to Make Watercolor Media from Arabic gum

Here’s the process I use for making media for my handmade watercolor paints. There are likely more precise ways to do this, but it’s the method I use that works for me.

Ingredients for Making Media

  • Gum Arabic
  • Water
  • Honey
  • Essential Oil of Cloves
Some of the other recipes I found online that I’ve tried gave me sticky paints that took a very long time to dry. Each time you use a different pigment, the media may need to be adjusted, but so far, this one has worked for all of the paints I’ve made.
Chunks of gum Arabic that I use for making media for my handmade watercolor paints.
Chunks of gum Arabic that I use for making watercolor media.
You’d never guess from my method that my career background took place in a laboratory. With art, I work on an intuitive basis, not necessarily strictly scientific. As you can see, my measurements are very precise…
Not very scientific or precise, but my marks on the jar at least keep me consistent. Making media for handmade watercolor paints.
Not very scientific or precise, but my marks on the jar at least keep me consistent.
Usually, I make this in the evening. I fill the jar with gum chunks to the bottom mark. Add sterilized water to the second mark. Let it sit overnight to dissolve, and turn the jar every once in a while to help it all get wet. The next evening, add more water if necessary to meet the second mark. The photo shows it right after I took it out to add the extra water. As the gum dissolved, the volume settled a little. Then add the honey. After that, add a dash of essential oil of cloves. Supposedly this helps to keep mold and bacteria from growing but I don’t know if it works or not. Then filter it all through the same sized sieve used below for sifting the powdered pigments. Store the media in a clean jar in the refrigerator and use as needed. If you have any gum left undissolved in the bottom of the ‘dirty’ jar, don’t throw it out. Just leave the lid off and let it dry out. Use the same jar just as it is, residue and all, for making the next batch. So there you go! This is my way of making media for handmade watercolor paints. Let me know if you try it how it worked for you. The next post I make will be about how to make the paint. Look for it tomorrow.