How to make your own watercolour paint from plants

steps for making your own watercolour paint
(Image credit: SoMK Klesen)

Making your own watercolours with plants is a fascinating way to work with the world around you and invite the beautiful craziness of nature into your artwork. There are several ways to obtain colours from plants, but below is my tried and tested method – a simple 'lake pigment' recipe.


- 2 litres of distilled water
- An acid (Potash Alum will be perfect – KAl(SO₄)₂·12H₂O)
- An alkali (Natron is easily available, it is sodium carbonate decahydrate Na2CO3·10H2O)
- A big saucepan (glass, inox or any chemistry cookware)
- Miniscale of some sort, we have to weigh 5g/10g
- 2 tall transparent (glass/plastic) jars (mason jar/spaghetti storage glass vial/vase)
- Cheese cloth and sturdy coffee filters
- Disposable paper plates or a dehydrator
- Mortar/pestle
- Slab and muller for grinding
- Liquid arabic gum, cloves oil or other antifungal, liquid honey (the clearer the better)
- Small containers, half pans

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SoMK Klesen

SoMK spent several years at the creative end of the advertising business, and eventually ended up as a teacher of programming languages for the computer and medical industry. In 2001, blissfully unaware, she embarked on a full-time artistic career. Her STEM background drove her to play a lot with plants and extracting pigments – Covid confinement sealed the deal. She is now making most of her own paints from various plants growing in her garden. Be it in jewellery or illustration, SoMK draws her inspiration from a variety of sources - a combination of nature, history, fantasy, science-fiction, horror and whisky.