Natural pigment paint binders

Over the past 5 years I have spent a lot of time trying to mix up the "perfect" natural paint. But all paint binders have their pluses and minuses. And a binder that is great for watercolor paintings may not work well for mask-making, where flexibility and moisture-resistance are of great importance.

Another factor to consider is how easy the paint is to work with. For example, an oil based-paint that is slow to dry and difficult to clean up may not be ideal for a children's mask-making class.

This document shares some of the paint binders I have been using. There is no one "perfect" binder here, but I hope the information will help you narrow things down if you are ready to paint your mask (or other art project) with natural paints but have been wondering what to use.

Paper Mache Magpie Mask

This is a paper mache mask I built over a plaster face-form modified with oil clay. I used recycled grocery bag paper, reclaimed cellulose fiber, natural polymer starch, and it is painted with natural pigments. Below are fast-motion video clips, photos, and detailed descriptions of the steps I took in creating this mask.


Revisiting the Fox Mask



The fox mask was one of the most popular designs from my previous mask-making business (Goblin Art, 1999-2015), as well as being one of my personal favorites. And so it was one of the first mask designs I decided to revisit with my recycled coffee sack burlap and natural polymer starch (bioplastic) mask-making technique.

Mask-making face form using nursery pot and oil clay


Not everyone has a plaster face cast to use as a base for mask-making projects. Or sometimes you want to build a mask with a different shape from a human face. If you are willing to do some sculpting, here's a solution to that problem.

Burlap masks update, January 2020

Flexible detail coat added to burlap mask
Finally! I've come up with a method to add more detail to the burlap masks.

8 foot bear puppet, 2019

Giant parade-style bear puppet for a winter solstice
show, "A Winter Feast of Story and Song".
Paper mache, corrugated cardboard, burlap, wood,
celluclay, natural charcoal pigment.
December 2019, Portland OR.