Casein Paint Binder: Raw Milk or Powder?

June 11, 2010

As I mentioned last time, I’ve been planning a demonstration of how to make casein paint at a local gallery. I’ve been making more casein binder for the paint and my preference is to use raw milk and extract the casein protein directly from that.

Paint binder from raw milk

Above you can see a glass jar holding the end result of casein made into a glue using raw milk as the source and a small amount of borax. It has the consistency of a thick yogurt, but dries extremely clear. I get the milk from Dyer Dairy up in Georgetown, TX. Kudos to their cows.

Casein powder

I think it’s interesting to see the difference between some previously made casein binder using dried powder and compare that to one using raw milk. The milk-based one is on the right in the above image. Notice how much whiter is appears.

Both of these mixtures are made exactly the same way. The only difference is one began as a dried powder. However, if you look at the binders painted on a sheet of paper they’re both equally transparent. For painting purposes, the amber or white coloring is inconsequential.

If we go back to the image above with both samples in the picture, you’ll notice a small amber square shaped object in the center. That’s a sample of “casein plastic.” Essentially it’s two tablespoons of dry powder made into a glue and left to dry on a plastic lid for a few days. It became extremely hard. A small bubble of air got trapped beneath it as it dried and you can see a thin membrane of it that is also hard but more transparent. The shape is about an 1/8 inch thick overall. I’m making a similar one from the milk based casein that’s still drying. So far it’s very white, not surprisingly.

If you search on the term “casein plastic” you’ll see other similar things. Also search on the word “Galalith.” Those who think of casein as a brittle substance should especially take note. It aint necessarily so.



  1. Hi, most interested in making my own paint using casein made from milk, but: in New Zealand Borax type cleaners are not available … what is the purpose of the Borax and what cold be substituted?

    • Adding an alkali, like borax, changes the casein into a glue, otherwise all you have is a sort of crumbly cheese.
      Other alkali you can use are slacked lime, ammonia hydrogen carbonate, potash, or baking soda. Baking soda might be the easiest to come by, but I’ve never been able to get it to work. Ammonia (aka hartshorn) would be the next thing to borax I’d recommend.

  2. I don’t typically reply to posts but I will in this situation.
    my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght in the end there, not leave it
    with ‘we depart it to you to decide’.

  3. I have no control over how anyone interprets what I post. I don’t see how you can conclude that I’m leaving it up to you, however. To me the results seem clear, literally.

  4. I just found this site (late in the day perhaps) and find it helpful. I want to paint with casein, but now, my first interest is making casein gesso. It is now available on the market, but with a couple of drawbacks for me personally, and one can purchase dry casein and borax, etc. I want to make my own from scratch, however. Can you provide guidance on recipe/ ratio amounts or some similar more specific how to do.

    I am also guessing that the borax laundry detergent is not the same borax, or is it?

    Negative comment, when not presented in a positive constructive way is just criticism in the negative sense and should be ignored. Some people just have no class or home learning, if you know what I mean?

    Perhaps you have answered my questions elsewhere and can direct me to that/those posts?

    Thanks and all good things to you sir.


    • Hello, Jim.
      On my website I have several articles related to making casein, including the binder, making it from raw milk, and making gesso.


      One thing I’ve found helpful after mixing the gesso is to let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight before applying the coats. This tends to let any bubbles release that may be in the mixture, and gives you a smoother surface.

      As for the borax, as long as it’s not cut with anything else and is 100% borax, it will work fine. The brand I got at a local grocer was “20 Mule Borax” from the Dial Corp.


      Feel free to ask if you have any further questions.

  5. […] came from raw milk, but it can also be made from dry casein powder, which I’ve talked about before. The grain alcohol I’m using is Everclear, which is 190 proof. A good clear Vodka could also […]

  6. […] casein glue I’ve made I would say the gel from raw milk is more opaque, and gel made from dry casein powder is has a slightly darker amber tone. It does feel slightly sticky, so I would guess it will work […]

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