If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to try a new painting medium, check out milk casein.
This ancient paint is an emulsion of milk protein, pigment and water that’s very versatile.
It’s sort of like the precursor to Acrylic paints, as it can be used in various ways to create the look of oil, watercolor or egg tempera.
Getting Started With Casein
If you’re a DIY kind of artist, you can create your own casein paints. There are several recipes available that use different ingredients as preservatives. Ammonia, borax or lime are incorporated with the milk protein, water and ground pigment to prevent the emulsion from spoiling. It’s not hard to make this paint, but formulating it does cut into your painting time.
However, if your idea of art doesn’t include chemistry experiments, never fear. Just pop into your local art store or check out an on-line retailer and buy a set of ready-made tubes of color or packets of dry emulsions that only need to be mixed with water to use.
Tube paint gives you the convenience of the ability to paint immediately. You can squeeze out exactly the amount you need on your palette and get busy with flinging paint.
If you purchase powdered casein, you gain more control of the texture and fluidity of the paint. If you’re a control freak, this form of casein might be right for you.
8 Fun Facts About Casein
1. When you’re painting with casein, you use water to control the fluidity. It’s water soluble until it dries, and since casein is generally painted on a rigid, primed surface, you can remove it easily and start over.
However, once it’s dried, removing it is a little more difficult. Mixing nine parts water with one part ammonia creates a solvent that allows you to remove mistakes.
2. Keep this in mind when it comes to your brushes. You’ll need to keep your brushes cleaned as you paint or in a water container to prevent drying paint ruining your bristles.
3. Casein requires a rigid surface for all but the lightest of washes. Unlike acrylic paints that remain pliable when dry, casein dries to a hard finish that would crack and chip off if not painted on a firm, solid support.
Use it on primed Masonite or wood panel. It’s also appropriate for use on plaster, so it can be used on walls for murals. Another support that’s suitable is canvas or linen mounted on Masonite. Prime the surface before painting.
4. Casein dries far more quickly than oil paint, so you don’t need to wait days or even weeks to continue with your painting. However, it doesn’t dry instantaneously like acrylics, so you do have time to dawdle.
5. This paint does not lend itself to impasto painting. If you want texture in your work, create texture while you’re priming your support. Texturing a surface with gesso is easy and you can make it as rough or smooth as you want. Gesso texture is also a lot less costly than using paint to create a rough surface.
6. Casein dries to a soft, matte finish. This is a beautiful, velvety appearance that gives a feel of richness to any painting. The finished, dried painting is also very water resistant.
7. You can use casein in an opaque manner, or you can apply it in translucent glazes to build up rich depth of color. Its versatility allows you to create many different effects and styles of painting.
8. Since the paint can dry lighter or darker than it is in its liquid state, it’s a good idea to test the color on a scrap of paper or create a color chart. You’ll find that you need to punch up some colors, and you can even mix dried casein emulsion to tube paint to increase the pigment ratio.
Casein is an interesting and fun medium that will challenge and test your artistic skill. It’s the paint that many of the Old Masters used and it certainly will draw attention from everyone who sees your work. If you like to stand out from the crowd, casein paint will certainly give you that unique edge. Give it a try – you may find it’s your new favorite paint.