Wednesday, June 19, 2013

126 Loading your own tubes

As mentioned in previous posts I've been buying paint in bulk from RGH Artists Oils. With my last order I ordered all pigments in pint jars (473 ml). I like the jars because it is easy to use a spatula to scrape the paint out. Using the spatula I can keep the surface of the remaining paint flat which dries slower. If I'm still worried about drying I can add a few drops of walnut oil to seal the top layer.

Fellow artist Steve Ladd suggested buying in bulk or making your own paint from dried pigments and tubing your own paint. He places paint onto a piece of aluminum foil which he then rolls into a tube. The foil tube is then placed within the empty paint tube. A roller is then used to squeeze the paint from the foil into the tube (I use a brayer used in block printing). The slanted board helps the paint fill the tubes without bubbles but is not absolutely essential. I include some photos Steve made to illustrate his methods. (Click here for cheap tubes: Jack Richeson 150-Ml Empty Paint Tubes, Case of 144).

Photos of tubing process courtesy of and copyright by Steve Ladd © 2013


  1. Using an aluminum foil and a brayer sounds like a good idea (Thanks, Steve ladd).

    So far, the method I like best is grinding small batches of color that I leave on my glass palette (16"x20"). When the painting session is over, the palette goes into the freezer. I don't have to worry about tubes or jars.

    Besides the considerable cost savings, it seems to me that home made colors are brighter than commercial tube colors. Also, the consistency of the paint is left up to me.

    Incidentally, Brad, another nice painting! What are the dimensions?

  2. Keeping your paints cool )in a freezer or fridge) does slow drying. I wonder about toxicity issues though. I've been getting more concerned about such things as I grow older. Do you have any problems mixing your own paints? Steve suggested that some colors are quite hard to "wet" with the linseed oil.

    This painting is 9" x 9", pretty small for an abstract, but I love the way I got the reds to mix with the cool greens. Thanks for your feedback! I really appreciate it.

    1. Yes, the mixture of your reds and greens is delicious! Can't wait to see your next painting.

      You make a good point about the toxicity issue of storing paint in the fridge. I guess I need to do more research on that...

      Brad, I'm new at making my own colors. I only use a teaspoonful of pigment at a time. It seems the length of time needed to grind different colors varies. Some, such as Alizarin Crimson or Prussian Blue take 2 or 3 times longer. Cadmiums and Earth colors are easier. I haven't tried any of the Phthalo colors yet. Also, I've been using a stiff palette knife, which is not ideal. I've ordered a muller and I expect it to be more efficient.

      In any case, It seems to me well worth the effort to experiment and find out for sure if this is the way I want to go.

    2. I wonder about glass mullers. I have two, one large & one small ( wish I'd just bought one medium size ) and both of them 'suck down' on the glass plate like a rubber dart and have to be pried up with a palette knife. Then I scoop the pigment into a pile and mull some more freely for a few circles and the muller gets suctioned again and has to be loosened again. I thought it might be because the grindingsurface of the muller was too flat around the edge so I ground down the edge ( hard work!) and that helped a little, allowing paint and air to squeeze in under the muller. But I can't help but feel something's wrong; it can't be this troublesome. In old master paintings one sees their marble slabs which are a little concave and a rounded stone muller. I'll be they didn't have sticking problems when grinding pigment. I know it's best to grind the pigment fine but if I can get by with a palette knife I do it, especially for the easy earth pigments. Oh, also I make the glass plate textured with some carbon grit, otherwise I don't think I'd ever get the muller unstuck.

  3. If you're mixing powder pigment, research into the dodgy ones - cadmiums for a start - and be very careful. Mask and ventilation. Filling tubes: I stand the empty tube on its head. I make carboard funnels: cut out part of a circle of cardboard, roll it round at an angle and apply a bit of masking tape to hold it together. Stand the funnel in the empty end of the tube (most of the funnel protruding). Load the paint into the funnel. Then tap the tube on a hard surface and the paint starts to drop through the funnel into the tube. Careful with tapping or paint can shoot back out again! Any paint left in the funnel: scrape with a palette knife and scrape off into the inside of the tube. Then carefully flatten the open end of the tube, squeezing out air (but not paint). Fold over a small amount of the (by now flattened) end of the tube and squeeze (I use canvas pliers with a broad end). Do this once or twice more. I also wrap a label round the top of the tube and paint it with some of the colour left over, so I know what's inside + write the paint name on it.


Thanks for your comments!


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