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Old 10-02-2006, 04:45 PM
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Thumbs up Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

I thought I'd write up a demo of sorts on how to mix up your own casein emulsion and create your own paint. It's a relatively simple process. Please feel free to add any comments, experiences, or questions you may have.

Making Casein Emulsion and Paint

Stage 1 – Creating the Glue:

1 ounce casein powder
5 ounces distilled water (room temperature)

Stir into a container, cover it, and let sit overnight (@ 8 hours.) It turns into a stiff gel.
Water amount can vary. A very wet emulsion will cause the paint to act more like watercolor or ink.
The gel will smell like musty cheese. If it smells bitter or like vinegar (sour milk,) don’t use it.

Stage 2 – Making the Emulsion with Borax:

1 ounce borax
5 ounces distilled water
Casein glue mixture

Heat the water (not to boiling – just hot to touch,) stir Borax in water until dissolved.
Add Borax solution to Casein solution slowly and stir until it’s all combined.
Let mixture sit for @ 2-4 hours.
Pour mixture into a double boiler on low heat until it liquefies (heat to @ 140į.) See note below.*
Let it cool to room temperature and it’s ready to use.

Stage 3 – Wetting Pigment:

1 ounce pigment
Ready supply of distilled water

Caution: almost all pigment is hazardous, so handle with care. Protect yourself from inhaling it or getting into open sores. Don’t work in the kitchen, even for washing. Refer to paint-making sites for health and handling issues.

Place pigment powder in a pile on work area. Glass or marble works nicely.
Make a small hole in pile and add @ 1 teaspoon water.
Fold pigment into water. A long flat palette knife works well.
Add drops of water until you get a paste that doesn’t cake, and not too fluid.

Stage 4 – Add Emulsion to Paint:

Add small amounts of emulsion to pigment paste (not paste to emulsion,) about 1 teaspoon at a time.
Mix it together until you reach desired opacity and viscosity. Amount will vary by chosen pigment.
Test on spare paper for proper adhesion. If it’s too weak (rubs off easily when dry) add more emulsion.
If paint gets too liquid, you can thicken it by adding it to more pigment paste, or add whiting, or chalk.
Those fillers can make the paint pale when it dries.

Notes:
The casein powder can be found at various paint-making places, and “milk paint” suppliers. For example:
http://www.kamapigments.com/
http://www.sinopia.com
http://kremer-pigmente.de/englisch/catalog.htm
http://www.milkpaint.com/
http://www.realmilkpaint.com/
This site shows how to make it from cottage cheese, which I’ve never bothered to do:
http://www.angelfire.com/yt/modot/painting.html

*In Stage 2, the use of double boiler heating is not absolutely necessary, but will help make the emulsion less viscous.

Raw pigment can often be rough and gritty, so invest in a mortar & pistil or glass muller for further grinding. A good source for pigment is places that supply ceramic or pottery material for glazes; although, they tend to not have vibrant colors.

Different pigments require varying amounts of emulsion to get a decent paint. There’s no standard amount that works for all, so experiment. The measurements above are approximated to give me a decent wet paint. They can vary to your own taste, especially the pigment paste Step 3.

In place of borax, ammonia can also be used, ideally ammonia hydrogen carbonate. Ammonia thins the gel somewhat and adds that odor you need to deal with. I’m investigating if trisodium phoshate (TSP) works the same, or with any drawbacks. I’ve read of certain preservatives that can be added to extend it further (formaldehyde & Dowacide A,) but I prefer not to use them, and I’d have to account for the thinning they cause.

Glycerin is a nice additive to use to increase flow and slow the drying of the paint without severely thinning it as you would with water. Use in small amounts. Tip: works with gouache too, and possibly egg tempera.

This glue is very strong and is a good substitute for PVA or hide-glue applications. The emulsion makes a good glue for gesso (whiting and pigment,) a good sizing alternative, and when diluted, coating paper to make it a little less absorbent for casein paint. It dries somewhat brittle, so keep it thin and don’t use on a flexible surface (unmounted or thin paper,) or else expect to see cracks. Remember that it is still milk, so certain pests may enjoy tasting it.

-DBC
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Last edited by dbclemons : 10-02-2006 at 04:48 PM.
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Old 10-02-2006, 04:53 PM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

Addendum credits:
The milk powder shown is courtesy of Kama Pigments. The borax came from a local grocer. The pigment is a pottery stain from Mason Color Works by way of Armadillo Clay.
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Old 10-02-2006, 05:29 PM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

David you are a veritable fountain of information. Thank you. And now for a totally innane question.....Does anyone know of a way to save off an entire thread in a document format? Is it possible on WC?

Cause this is one I'd love to save in one of my special methods folders. Its got gems of information in it.

Thanks again David.
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Old 10-02-2006, 06:00 PM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

Thanks David for this info!!!

For anyone in the Netherlands looking in on this thread and looking for casein powder (caseÔnepoeder), Peter van Ginkel art supplies has it:
http://www.petervanginkel.nl/index.php?id=155

Quote:
Originally Posted by Weezy
Does anyone know of a way to save off an entire thread in a document format? Is it possible?
Hi Weezy, yes it is possible.

* Go to the tab "Thread Tools" at the top of this thread and
* click on "Show Printable version" in the drop down menu.
* Then go to your web bowser tool bar and click "select all"
* and then "copy"
*and then open up a Word doc and paste it in as is, or you can select to paste it in non-html print which leaves out the WC! logo and all that.
(Sorry, my Word program is in Dutch so I'm not sure what the English really is anymore for the commands ... )

Edit to add: You won't get the attached image however, but you can always right click that and save it as a jpg. and paste it in your doc.
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Old 10-02-2006, 07:53 PM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

You're most welcome. I hope people find it helpful.

If ordering from Italy is any easier for some, I hear good things about a company called Zecchi. They carry what looks like a nice range of items, but I've never ordered from them.
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Old 10-03-2006, 09:39 AM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

This thread is worth its weight in gold. Thanks to the two of you for some really good information. This is why I love WC. Cause if you don't know soemthing, somebody out there does, and with this crowd is willing to share and help. You just can't find that everywhere else!
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Old 10-03-2006, 10:42 AM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

Re: TSP
Well, I made up a test batch again last night using TSP this time in place of borax in equal portion. All I can say is it didn't explode. I don't see any difference in the mixture or smell. I'm not sure there's any benefit to using TSP or risk to the paint or paint surface, so at this point until I know more, I'm not recommending it. From what I've read of phosphates, there's a pollution concern with disposing of it improperly, and borax is often listed as a better replacement.
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Old 10-05-2006, 01:45 PM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

THANK YOU!!! I'm going to wait a little longer before I print this thread. It is a 'must have' for sure!!

I wonder clove oil will help keep critters away without causing problems? Someone - I don't remember the name- here on WC mentioned using it in Egg Tempera for preserving purposes, and keeping critters away.

How well/ long does the emulsion mixture keep and stay fresh for use?
How do you store it?

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Old 10-05-2006, 05:03 PM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

I use this:
You have three components:
Borax-powder,
water to dissolve the borax, and, yes,
simple curd.
The low fat one from the supermarket.
----------
The weight ratio of these three components is :

1 part borax : 8 parts water : 20 parts curd

So, if you have, for example 1000 gram curd, you need 400gram water to dissolve 40gram borax.
The same goes for ounces ;-)
-----------
You put the curd in a non-metallic container, dissolve the borax in hot non-boiling water, and add it to the curd. Mix it good! I use a power drill with a mixing- thing applied to it. Leave it alone for two or three hours, then mix again.
Thats casein. That is NOT an emulsion! Add linseed-varnish or any other oil or dammar (it keeps it fresh, it is bactericide) WHILE MIXING, then it is an emulsion. I never use pure casein. It is pretty agressive stuff.

Sincerely

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Old 10-05-2006, 05:58 PM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

Quote:
Originally Posted by gerdbrunzema
...
Thats casein. That is NOT an emulsion! Add linseed-varnish or any other oil or dammar (it keeps it fresh, it is bactericide) WHILE MIXING, then it is an emulsion. I never use pure casein. It is pretty agressive stuff...

Well... TECHNICALLY ( ) it IS an emulsion. An emulsion is anything mixed with something else in liquid form. In this case we've got casein, borax, and water. You actually had casein even before you started, since casein is the protein that's in the curd, so you just removed everything else. ...But, let's not quibble. What you've got there sounds like a good home-grown recipe. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 10-05-2006, 06:03 PM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

Quote:
Originally Posted by Meisie
...I wonder clove oil will help keep critters away without causing problems?

...How well/ long does the emulsion mixture keep and stay fresh for use?
How do you store it?

Thank you , Meisie.

I've heard that about clove oil before also, plus it smells nice , but haven't tried it. If you get to it first, let us know how it works out.

I've never had a batch that hung around longer than a couple weeks. The longest I've heard recommended is about 1 month, perhaps longer if you add a preservative of some kind.

I keep it refrigerated. That's why I don't make more than I need, as there's not that much room in the fridge.
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Old 10-05-2006, 06:17 PM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

Since I had a bit extra casein left over, I thought I'd make up some sizing and gesso with it, and post up another demo of how it was done. This should give folks an idea of how versatile casein can be.

Casein Size and Gesso:

Iíve adapted various recipes for making traditional gesso by substituting casein emulsion for the hide-glue. Itís recommended to only be used on firm supports such as wood panels. Iíve read that itís more brittle over time than hide-glue, and more absorbent; although, tempering (mentioned below) helps prevent that. Itís a bit easier to manage than hide-glue, I think, since it doesnít require using a double boiler. Iíve used this surface for both oil and casein paint, but casein paint doesnít need as many coats. The whole process takes about 4-5 days, not including final drying time, so doing several panels at once is a good idea.

You will need:
Casein emulsion
White pigment (titanium, or titanium and zinc)
Whiting (calcium carbonate, chalk, marble dust, or gypsum)
Denatured alcohol (or vodka [!] for the pigment/whiting putty)
Distilled water
Cheesecloth for straining gesso
#300 & #2000 grit sandpaper
Alum (optional)
Shellac (optional)
Wood stirring spoon/sticks & spatula for mixing pigment
Several bowls for mixing
Measuring cups and spoons

Making the Size:
Dilute the emulsion to a sizing liquid by a ratio of 1:10 (10 times the water) by volume*. One tablespoon as a unit makes about Ĺ cup or so. This should be plenty for about 2x2 ft. with two coats. It dissolves well if you set the container inside a larger bowl of hot (not boiling) water and stir gradually until itís all diluted. Apply two coats on all sides of the panel, and let it dry well for 2-3 days before adding gesso.

Making the Gesso:
Mix 1 part pigment and 3 parts whiting**. Mix a few drops of alcohol diluted in your sizing liquid (1:1) and add gradually to the powder until it mixes into putty. This helps the glue adhere to the powder better. Let this sit for at least 15 minutes.

Pour some of your sizing liquid (@1oz.) into a large bowl, and add a ball of the pigment putty. Keep adding more liquid or more putty until it gets to a creamy consistency, and you have enough for your needs. If it gets too thin, pour a little of that into another bowl and add more putty. It also shouldnít be too thick, but milky and opaque. Test its properties on a scrap surface. Stir it slowly until the mixture is blended.

Cover another bowl with cheesecloth and strain the gesso into it slowly. Stir the gesso with a clean spoon. Strain as much of the grit out as possible.

Itís always better to make slightly more than you need. A Ĺ cup should be plenty for @ 1x1 ft. panel.

Apply the Gesso:
Start applying the gesso by stippling the brush (sponge brushes work well) in a rather thin amount across a small area. If youíre leaving brushstrokes, itís too thick. Use short back and forth strokes in one direction, making sure thereís no uncovered spots or bubbles. If the coat seems too ďstreakyĒ the gesso may not be thoroughly mixed.

Let this coat dry for at least 30 minutes, lightly sand with #300 paper, and then dust off. Iíve tried accelerating that with a hair dryer, but it seemed to cause cracks to appear, so just I recommend waiting. Apply another coat in the same manner with brush marks going in an opposite direction. Six to eight coats make a thick, smooth surface. Panels that have a mix of dark and light grain patterns will need the most coats. Give a final sanding with the #2000 paper.

To harden the surface more, soak an alum solution of 1 teaspoon into a pint of boiling water that has cooled before using. When the last coat of gesso has dried, dab this thinly with a sponge onto the surface in a single coat.

Tip: If you can use a large cylinder, like a tall jar or large bowl, to hold you gesso, itís easier to remove excess from your brush by dragging it inside the container, rather than across the rim, which can add air bubbles.

For storage, a glass container with a lid works best, and a plastic wrap inside the lid helps keep out bacteria. Don't use metal containers. It will keep for 1-2 weeks refrigerated, but I generally donít make up that much.

Let the panel dry for at least one week before painting. If youíve never used a traditional gesso panel before, I think youíll love the smooth feel. Itís similar to slate or chalkboard. Very nice.

Tempering with Shellac:
Tempering the final coat of gesso makes the surface less absorbent, plus it keeps the gesso from lifting off with the first layer of paint. You can do this with a single thin layer of bleached de-waxed shellac cut 1:1 with denatured alcohol. Dried shellac flakes are better to use, since the commercial cans often contain lubricants or waxes to extend the shelf life and add gloss which you donít need. Wait for the final coat to cure for one week before you cover it. The shellac layer should dry for at least an hour before you start painting.
------------------------------------------------------------------
* This ratio of 1:10 varies for RSG sizing recipes Iíve found, sometimes as high as 1:14. Strong glue can cause small cracks to appear later, so if you see that happening, use a more diluted mixture next time.

**Remember, when handling pigment to use a respirator to avoid breathing it in, and donít wash your hands or tools in the kitchen. The powder easily flies off everywhere.
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Old 10-06-2006, 01:09 PM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

Thank you Dave! Wow, this is a great 'do-it-yourself' medium

As a matter of interest, do you know what one would use to make a black gesso? especially a substitute for the chalk/calcium carbonate ingredient?

Gerd, does the supermarket curd not have additives that could affect the final product? Otherwise it sure sounds like a good way to make a trial batch...

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Old 10-06-2006, 05:40 PM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

Meisie, I have mixed in greys and umbers on occasion, along with white to get a toned surface, but not regulary. They often turn out more streaky or spotted. It seems reasonable to me to keep them as bright as possible. Usually I just go with white and paint a toned imprimatura later. All grounds I know of, even oil and acrylic, include a filler of some sort, usually marble dust.
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Old 10-12-2006, 11:28 AM
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Re: Casein: How to make emulsion & paint

Thanks Dave!

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