Painting with Casein Milk Paints

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If you are growing tired of your current medium, give thought to the idea of using an ancient paint that emulates many of the mediums you may have used in the past.

Casein paint is produced using a milk by-product, emulsifier, dry pigment and water to create an eco-friendly medium.

It has none of the noxious fumes of oil paint and its associated thinners and dries impervious to water.

Got Milk?

There are various recipes to create casein milk paint in the studio. However, many painters have limited time to devote to their craft, so becoming a chemist is not necessarily a high priority. There are a number of manufacturers producing both tube and powdered casein. This gives the artist the option of the ready-to-use convenience of the tube, or the control the powdered version affords.

Painting With Casein

Casein is a versatile medium that is used in a number of ways. The amount of water and medium used will dictate how the artist applies it to the support. It can also be used on a number of different supports with equal success.
Casein Used In Watercolor Style

Use a generous amount of water with the paint to create watercolor-like paintings on paper. Some of the same techniques a watercolorist uses will work with casein, except for the fact that when it dries, it is not easily removable. Watercolor can be rewetted and reworked. This is not the case with casein, and work must be completed on a section before it dries.

Casein Painted In Acrylic Style

When using milk casein in the manner of acrylic paint, you need not add much water to get the consistency that emulates acrylic characteristics. Go ahead and get all the juicy texture you wish with casein. There is one caveat, however. When the artist paints in a thick or many-layered method with casein, he should use a rigid support, as casein is not elastic. Acrylic paint always retains a flexible quality, so it can be used on stretched canvas. The artist should also be aware that casein paint could chip or flake if it is extremely thick, so he should use discretion in very heavy applications. To use casein in impasto painting, prepare a Masonite board with two coats of gesso so the paint will adhere to the surface.

The completed painting will not have the gloss of acrylic paintings. Two coats of casein varnish will give the work a shiny luster that will impress any acrylic artist.

Egg Tempera Painting With Milk Casein

Since Casein dries to a matte finish, it certainly can emulate the appearance of egg tempera painting. As it dries to an impervious finish, the artist cannot blend or remove any paint that has dried. Crosshatching and small brushstrokes typical in egg tempera techniques work great with casein, as well as larger free-motion strokes. The exact color you want will not be accomplished with a single coat. Paint a series of glazes to achieve color depth, and unify the entire area with a final overall glaze in a tint that complements the subject.

Use a gessoed Masonite board as a support when painting in this method. A satin or gloss varnish should be applied to the piece when it is complete to prevent chipping or flaking.

Casein And Oil Painting

Casein has served as a base layer in oil paintings for hundreds of years. Many of the old masters used casein as an underpainting to lay out their composition and begin the color process.

Begin the oil painting with an initial layer of casein paint. Use lighter variations of the colors that will be used with the oil applications, as the oils will give the full color to the composition.

After completing the casein underpainting, isolate it from the oil with a coat of varnish. When the varnish has dried, the oil paint can be applied. Using copal varnish to add translucency to the oil paint, apply glazes in multiple thin coats. A soft, sable brush is best suited for this technique, but there are synthetic bristle brushes that are useful as well.

Using this method with oil paints will give a lustrous depth and luminosity to the painting. Finish in the preferred method of varnishing the work once the painting has dried and cured.

Tips On Using Casein Milk Paint

Casein paint has a short shelf life. If you are using powdered product, make up only what you will use in a day or two. Casein is organic and spoils, so keep paint refrigerated in an airtight container.

When casein dries, it is waterproof. Therefore, one must clean brushes immediately after use. Use two containers of water when painting with casein paint: one to mix with the paint and one for rinsing and cleaning the brush.

When finished with a painting session, wash brushes with soap and water to remove any traces of paint.

Work in thin glazes to minimize the potential for paint flaking off.

Paint an underpainting with India ink, establishing darks and light areas of the composition. Use casein paint to build up glazes of paint over the ink to develop a rich depth of color and interesting effects.

Painting errors can be removed using a solution of nine parts water to one part ammonia. Apply the solution and rub away the offending passage with a clean, damp cloth.

Casein Milk Paint Manufacturers

Casein does not have the popularity it once had. Modern technology has pushed it aside, so there are fewer paint manufacturers who continue to produce Casein products. There still is a variety of products available, and an artist does have a choice of paints and mediums.


Shiva developed casein paint in tubes in 1933. Today, Jack Richeson and Company produces the casein line for Shiva, dedicating itself to restoring the original formulations and qualities of the original line.


Pelikan Plaka is bottled emulsion paint that is ready to use and has a very high opacity.


BioShield produces a dry powder that is mixed with water to form the paint base. Pigment is added to this off-white emulsion to create the blend. They have a selection of ten pastel shades to add to the basic off-white emulsion. Natural pigment can also be mixed with the emulsion.


Kreidezeit is a German company that has produced natural paints and supplies since 1988. They have a line of casein paint that includes 21 colors in dry formulation that are mixed with water to form the paint.

Real Milk

Real Milk boasts a line of 28 powdered pigments that are ready to mix with water. They are organic and will remain usable for several weeks.

Earth Pigments

Earth Pigments makes a line of natural pigment for use in preparing casein milk paint from a recipe. They have an extensive line of colors as well as a water based milk paint dry powder.

Milk Casein Paint is a medium that has been used for over 9000 years. Its durability and versatility has only been surpassed by the advent of acrylic paint. However, there is an old world appeal to the rich luminous glow that an artist can achieve with this paint that cannot be duplicated with modern technology.

An interested artist should investigate this engaging and rich painting medium. Everyone’s diet needs a little milk.

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