Old fashioned ways to make paint

_To make Flaxen Gray._

Ceruse, or white lead, still predominates in this color, which is treated as the other grays, but with this difference, that it admits a mixture of lake instead of black. Take the quantity, therefore, of cernse necessary, and grind it separately. Then mix it up, and add the lake and Prussian blue, also ground separately. The quantities of the last two colors ought to be proportioned to the tone of color required.

This color is proper for distemper, varnish, and oil painting. For varnish, grind it with mastic gallipot varnish, to which a little oil of pinks has been added, and then mix it up with common gallipot varnish. For oil painting, grind with unprepared oil of pinks, and mix up with resinous drying nut-oil. The painting is brilliant and solid.

When the artist piques himself upon carefully preparing those colors which have splendor, it will be proper, before he commences his labor, to stop up the holes formed by the heads of the nails in wainscoting with putty.

Every kind of sizing which, according to usual custom, precedes the application of varnish, ought to be prescribed as highly prejudicial, when the wainscoting consists of firwood. Sizing maybe admitted for plaster, but without any mixture. A plain stratum of strong glue and water spread over it, is sufficient to fill up the pores to prevent any unnecessary consumption of the varnish.

The first stratum of color is ceruse without any mixture, ground with essence added to a little oil of pinks, and mixed up with essence. If any of the traces are uneven, rub it lightly, when dry, with pumice-stone. This operation contributes greatly to the beauty and elegance of the polish when the varnish is applied.

The second stratum is composed of ceruse changed to flaxen gray by the mixture of a little Cologne earth, as much English red or lake, and a particle of Prussian blue. First, so make the mixture with a small quantity of ceruse, that the result shall be a smoky gray, by the addition of the Cologne earth. The red, which is added, makes it incline to fleshcolor, and the Prussian blue destroys the latter to form a dark flaxen gray. The addition of ceruse brightens the tone. This stratum and the next are ground, and mixed up with varnish as before.

This mixture of colors, which produces flaxen gray, has the advantage over pearl gray, as it defends the ceruse from the impression of the air and light, which makes it assume a yellowish tint. Flaxen gray, composed in this manner, is unalterable. Besides, the essence which forms the vehicle of the first stratum contributes to bring forth a color, the tone of which decreases a little by the effect of drying. This observation ought to serve as a guide to the artist, in regard to the tint, which is always stronger in a liquid mixture than when the matter composing it is extended in a thin stratum, or when it is dry.

_To make Oak-wood Color._

The basis of this color is still formed of ceruse. Three-fourths of this oxide, and a fourth of ochre de rue, umber earth, and yellow de Berri; the last three ingredients being employed in proportions which lead to the required tint, give a spatter equally proper for distemper, varnish, and oil.

_To make Walnut-wood Color._

A given quantity of ceruse, half that quantity of ochre de rue, a little umber earth, red ochre, and yellow ochre de Berri; compose this color proper for distemper, varnish, and oil.

For varnish, grind with a little drying nut-oil, and mix up with the gallipot varnish.

For oil painting, grind with fat oil of pinks added to drying oil or essence, and mix up with plain drying oil, or with resinous drying oil.

_To make Naples and Montpellier Yellow._

The composition of these is simple, yellow ochre mixed with ceruse, ground with water, if destined for distemper; or drying nut-oil and essence, in equal parts, if intended for varnish; and mixed up with camphorated mastic varnish; if for delicate objects, or with gallipot varnish, give a very fine color the splendor of which depends on the doses of the ceruse, which must be varied according to the particular nature of the coloring matter employed. If the ground of the color is furnished by ochre, and if oil painting be intended, the grinding with oil added to essence may be omitted, as essence alone will be sufficient. Oil, however, gives more pliability and more body.

_To make Jonquil._

This is employed only in distemper. It may, however, be used with varnish. A vegetable color serves as its base. It is made with Dutch pink and ceruse, and ground with mastic gallipot varnish, and mixed up with gallipot varnish.

_To make Golden Yellow Color._

Cases often occur when it is necessary to produce a gold color without employing a metallic substance. A color capable of forming an illusion is then given to the composition, the greater part of which consists of yellow. This is accomplished by Naples or Montpellier yellow, brightened by Spanish white, or by white of Morat, mixed with ochre de Berri and realgar. The last substance, even in small quantity, gives to the mixture a color imitating gold, and which may be employed in distemper, varnish, or oil. When destined for oil, it is ground with drying or pure nut-oil, added to essence or mixed with drying oil

_To make Chamois and Buff Color._

Yellow is the foundation of chamois color, which is modified by a particle of minium, or what is better, cinnabar and ceruse in small quantity. This color may be employed in distemper, varnish, and oil. For varnish, it is ground with 1/2 common oil of pinks, and 1/2 of mastic gallipot varnish. It is mixed with common gallipot varnish. For oil painting, it is ground and mixed up with drying oil.

_To make Olive Color for Oil and Varnish._

Olive color is a composition the shades of which may be diversified. Black and a little blue, mixed with yellow, will produce an olive color. Yellow de Berri, or d'Auvergne, with a little verdigris and charcoal, will also form this color.

It is ground and mixed up with mastic gallipot, and common gallipot varnishes. For oil painting, it is ground with oil added to essence, and mixed up with drying oil.

_To make Olive Color for Distemper._

When intended for distemper, it will be necessary to make a change in the composition. The yellow above-mentioned, indigo, and ceruse, or Spanish white, are the new ingredients which must be employed.

_To make Blue Colors._

Blue belongs to the order of vegetable substances, like indigo, or to that of metallic substances, like Prussian blue; or to that of stony mineral substances, as ultramarine; or to that of vitreous substances colored by a metallic oxide, as Saxon blue. Ultramarine is more particularly reserved for pictures. The same may, in some degree, be said of Saxon blue.

When prussiate of iron or indigo is employed without mixture, the color produced is too dark. It has no splendor, and very often the light makes it appear black; it is. therefore, usual to soften it with white.

_To make Blue Distemper._

Grind with water as much ceruse as may be thought necessary for the whole of the intended work; and afterwards mix it with indigo, or Prussian blue.

This color produces very little effect in distemper, it is not very favorable to the play of the light; but it soon acquires brilliancy and splendor beneath the vitreous lamina of the varnish. Painting in distemper, when carefully varnished, produces a fine effect.

_To make Prussian Blue Paint._

The ceruse is ground with oil if for varnish, made with essence, or merely with essence, which is equally proper for oil painting; and a quantity of either of these blues sufficient to produce the required tone is added.

For varnish, the ceruse is generally ground with oil of pinks added to a little essence, and is mixed up with camphorated mastic varnish, if the color is destined for delicate objects; or with gallipot varnish if for wainscoting. This color, when ground and mixed up with drying oil, produces a fine effect, if covered by a solid varnish made with alcohol or essence.

If this oil color be destined for expensive articles, such as valuable furniture subject to friction, it may be glazed with the turpentine copal varnish.


A vitreous matter colored by oxide of cobalt gives a tone of color different from that of the prussiate of iron and indigo. It is employed for sky-blues. The case is the same with blue verditer, a preparation made from oxide of copper and lime. Both these blues stand well in distemper, in varnish, and in oil.

Saxon blue requires to be ground with drying oil, and to be mixed with gallipot varnish. If intended for oil painting, it is to be mixed up with resinous drying oil, which gives body to this vitreous matter.

_Blue Verditer_

May be ground with pure alcoholic varnish added to a little essence; and may be mixed up with compound mastic varnish if the color is to be applied to delicate articles. Or mastic gallipot varnish, added to a little drying oil, may be used for grinding, and common gallipot varnish for mixing up, if the painting is intended for ceilings, wainscoting, etc. This color is soft and dull, and requires a varnish to heighten the tone of it, and give it play. Turpentine copal varnish is proper for this purpose, if the article has need of a durable varnish.

_To make Green Color._

Every green color, simple or compound, when mixed up with a white ground, becomes soft, and gives a sea-green of greater or less strength, and more or less delicate, in the ratio of the respective quantities of the principal colors. Thus, green oxides of copper, such as chrome green, verdigris, dry crystallized acetate of copper, green composed with blue verditer, and the Dutch pink of Troyes, or any other yellow, will form, with a base of a white color, a seagreen, the intensity of which may be easily changed or modified. The white ground for painting in distemper is generally composed of Bougival white (white marl), or white of Troyes (chalk), or Spanish white (pure clay); but for varnish or oil painting, it is sought for in a metallic oxide. In this case, ceruse or pure white oxide of lead is employed.

_To make Sea-Green for Distemper._

Grind separately with water, mountain-green and ceruse; and mix up with parchment size and water, adding ceruse in sufficient quantity to produce the degree of intensity required in the color. Watin recommends the use of Dutch pink of Troyes and white oxide of lead, in proportions pointed out by experience; because the color thence resulting is more durable.

In the case of a triple composition, begin to make the green by mixing Dutch pink with blue verditer, and then lower the color to sea-green, by the addition of ceruse ground with water.

_To make Sea-Green for Varnish and Oils_

Varnish requires that this color should possess more body than it has in distemper, and this it acquires from the oil which is mixed with it. This addition gives it even more splendor. Besides, a green of a metallic nature is substituted for the green of the Dutch pink, which is of a vegetable nature.

A certain quantity of verdigris, pounded and sifted through a silk sieve, is ground separately with nut-oil, half drying and half fat; and if the color is intended for metallic surfaces, it must be diluted with camphorated mastic, or gallipot varnish.

On the other hand, the ceruse is ground with essence, or with oils to which 1/2 of essence has been added, and the two colors are mixed in proportions relative to the degree of intensity intended to be given to the mixture. It may readily be conceived that the principal part of this composition consists of ceruse.

If this color be destined for articles of a certain value, crystallized verdigris, dried and pulverized, ought to be substituted for common verdigris, and the painting must be covered with a stratum of the transparent or turpentine copal varnish.

The sea-greens, which admit into their composition metallic coloring parts, are durable and do not change.

The last compositions may be employed for sea-green in oil painting, but it will be proper to brighten the tone a little more than when varnish is used, because this color becomes darker by the addition of yellow, which the oil developes in the course of time.

_To make Bright Red_

A mixture of lake with vermilion gives that beautiful bright red which painters employ for sanguine parts. This red is sometimes imitated for varnishing small appendages of the toilette. It ought to be ground with varnish and mixed up with the same, after which it is glazed and polished. The mastic gallipot varnish is used for grinding; gallipot varnish for mixing up, and camphorated mastic varnish for glazing.

_To make Crimson, or Rose-color._

Carminated lake--that which is composed of alum charged with the coloring part of cochineal, ceruse, and carmine--forms a beautiful crimson. It requires a particle of vermilion and of white lead.

The use of this varnish is confined to valuable articles.

_To make Violet-color._

Violet is made indifferently with red and black, or red and blue; and to render it more splendid, with red, white, and blue. To compose violet therefore, applicable to varnish, take minium, or what is still better, vermilion, and grind it with the camphorated mastic varnish to which a fourth part of boiled oil and a little ceruse have been added, then add a little Prussian blue ground in oil. The proportions requisite for the degree of intensity to be given to the color will soon be found by experience. The white brightens the tint. The vermilion and Prussian blue, separated or mixed, give hard tones, which must be softened by an intermediate substance that modifies, to their advantage, the reflections of the light.

_To make Chestnut-color._

This color is composed of red, yellow and black. The English red, or red ochre of Auvergne, ochre de rue and a little black, form a dark chestnut color. It is proper for painting of every kind. If English red, which is dryer than that of Auvergne, be employed, it will be proper, when the color is intended for varnish, to grind it with drying nutoil. The ochre of Auvergne only be ground with the mastic gallipot, and mixed up with gallipot varnish.

The most experienced artists grind dark colors with linseed oil, when the situation will admit of its being used, because it is more drying. For articles without doors nut-oil is preferable. The colors of oak-wood, walnut-tree, chestnut, olive, and yellow, require the addition of a little litharge ground on porphyry: it hastens the desiccation of the color, and gives it body.

But if it is intended to cover these colors with varnish, as is generally done in wainscoting, they must be mixed up with essence, to which a little oil has been added. The color is then much better dispersed to receive the varnish, under which it exhibits all the splendor it can derive from the reflection of the light.

Return to The Household Cyclopedia of General Information