Posts Tagged ‘Casein’


Making Casein Paint: Titanium White

July 21, 2017

I’ve been wanting to get back to using one of my favorite paint mediums for awhile, casein. I took an inventory of the tubes I had available for my next project, and noticed I was short or low on a few colors, particularly titanium white, so it’s time to make some more.

I have a bathroom next to my studio space that I use exclusively for this type of work, so I clean off an area by the sink, and set up my tools and supplies. I have a large sheet of textured glass that I use for mixing the paint. There’s a mortar and pestle for smoothing the dry pigment, an empty tube for the paint, a squirt bottle of distilled water, about 4 ounces of casein binder, and white pigment.

The pigment is a little lumpy, so I use the pestle to break it down some, and place about 2.5 tablespoons of pigment on the glass with about 2 teaspoons of binder and just enough water to get the consistency of paint I want, and spend a few minutes with the spatula smoothing it out.

I test the paint I’ve mixed to see if it spreads easily with a brush without having to add any water, and check the opacity on this sheet of colored paper. It looks fine, so I repeat these steps about 2 more times to make more paint to fill the tube.

There’s enough paint now to fill up this 50ml tube and another 22ml. I seal the ends by squeezing it shut at about 1/2 inch below the end. to give me enough room to crimp.

I fold over a little of the end, and crimp it tight with some pliers, and repeat this about 2 more times to get a tight seal.

Here I have two tubes of white casein labeled and ready to use.


Sinopia Casein Gesso Update: Jar Problem

May 2, 2017

I’m interrupting my series of posts on the new painting to point out a problem I discovered today with a jar of Casein Gesso from Sinopia. This follows up on two posts I made in the past: one is a review of this product, and another was how I store paint containers like this upside down.

I bought this jar of gesso a little over a year ago, and keep it inside a drawer in my studio. I haven’t used it in awhile, but today I decided to open the drawer to try it out again, only to find the contents had leaked out. The lid was screwed on tight, but that wasn’t enough to stop air from getting in, and some of the contents leaking onto the drawer. Fortunately that was plastic, so it was easy to clean (that’s what that clean piece of gel is in the picture,) but I had to use a plumber’s wrench to get the lid off, and found that about 1/3 of the paint had dried out. That rounded disk inside the lid is about 1/2 inch layer of dried paint, and more dried on the sides of the jar. It had been stored upside-down.

As I mentioned in the article link above, I store containers like this upside down just for this reason. Screw-on lids of this type make very poor containers for paint, since air gets in easily. Even if this was stored upright, air gets in, and would have dried out the paint even worse. Some jars you can buy come with cushions inside the lid, sponges or thick paper, that help seal the jar. Another solution I’ve used in the past is to wrap wide tape around the outside. That has to be replaced frequently, but it’s better than throwing away paint.

Metal cans for paint make a better seal than a screw-on lid, unfortunately, a quart size can is the smallest available. Tubes are also better since the opening is smaller, so less air gets in. The best option is to use it up quickly. Prime several sheets of paper stock or canvas that you have on hand, and don’t store the left over paint for very long.


Homemade Casein Fixative

October 27, 2016

I’ve been meaning to make fixative out of casein for some time now, but until recently I haven’t done much art in a medium that need it. Today, I was in a conversation with an online friend about types of fixatives, and this subject came up, so I thought it was a good time to make some and test it out. Conclusion: it works very well.


If you’re possibly new to the term “fixative” and its use, it’s a coating that is added on top of dry media (charcoal, pastels, graphite, etc.) to keep it from smearing. Most commercial fixatives come in aerosol cans that use an acrylic resin. There’s a commercial brand of casein fixative on the market called SpectraFix. I’ve tried it, and it works okay; although, I’m not too fond of their pump sprayer.

I first heard of using casein as a fixative in a book about Paul Gauguin and his pastels where he learned this technique from Camille Pissarro. I later found a recipe for it in the Reed Kay book “The Painter’s Guide to Studio Methods and Materials.”
1 part by volume casein solution
2 parts by volume grain alcohol
5 parts by volume (distilled) water

The casein solution I used is the same as I always make for a base medium to start from. I describe it here in my most recent batch I made back in April. It has a couple drops of Thymol preservative in an 8 ounce mixture. It’s very easy to make. This batch 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 work.

Mixing it was simple enough, so to apply it I used the Preval sprayer I wrote about a few years ago. I’ve used it occasionally for spraying primers and it works great. I found that the spray comes out with a little more force and volume than most aerosol cans I’ve used. As such, I knew to step back about 2 feet with the art surface upright, and move across the art in a quick sweeping motion; starting the spray off the art and finishing off the art.



The plastic sheet above has the fixative on it, and the sheet below it has none, so you can see how it turns the plastic very dull. When sprayed on paper, even black paper, I don’t see anything. Held up to the light, I can’t see any reflections. Each coat dries very quickly, under 10 minutes. When soft pastels were sprayed with two coats, I didn’t get any smearing.


At first, I got worried when I sprayed the grey pastels above. The whole image almost disappeared, but it came back as the fixative dried. It lost a little of it’s brightness, but otherwise worked fine. On the white paper sample, the color pastels didn’t seem to change value at all. It also works well on soft graphite pencils and charcoal.

I would have no concerns using this fixative on my finished work. I could also layer it; although, I would be reluctant to build it up too much – 3 to 4 coats max. The water content could cause paper to buckle, especially thin paper, unless it was stretched or taped down before the drawing was started.


Painting Sketch: Filing Her Nails

July 15, 2016

This was going to be just a monochromatic sketch with oil paint, but I’m now thinking I’ll take it a little further into a more finished piece, at least adding some more color.


It’s from on an old photo I took of my friend, Valerie, as she sat filing her nails. The background is all made up. I’m using a red ochre and naples yellow oil paint, thinned with casein medium. The surface is a canvas sheet, with acrylic ground, 12 x 9″.


Casein Made from Kalona Brand Milk

March 28, 2016

Here’s a follow up to my previous post, with me now making a batch of casein glue from the Kalona brand milk I bought. It looks like it will work just fine.

As a reminder, this milk is different than the sort normally sold at a grocery store here in the US. It’s non-homogenized, low heat pasteurized, and about the closest type to raw milk you can buy. Here’s how I made the casein glue from it:
First I poured 8 ounces of the milk at room temperature into a small pot, and heat it to about 150 degrees, making sure it doesn’t get over 190. I stir in two tablespoons of white vinegar. In a few seconds it congeals into a ball of casein.


I crumble the casein into a fine mesh strainer, and wash it under the tap for a few seconds until the water is clear to remove all the whey and any byproducts that may be in the milk.


Next, I dilute a 1/2 teaspoon of borax in 2 tablespoons of distilled water. This alkali will change the casein into a glue. I put the casein in a small jar, and stir in the borax liquid.


I stir the contents every 20 minutes or so, and after about four hours it turns into a thick gel. It’s still a little lumpy at this point, so I would want to let it sit for a few more hours before using it for anything. I added a drop of thymol as a preservative.


So, this brand of milk works well as a source for making casein glue as a binder for paint or gesso. The biggest drawback is that it’s pricey. It’s twice as expensive as the last jug of raw milk I bought, and three times the price of regular commercial milk. It would be better if I could get it in a smaller size, since this is way more milk than I need. Unfortunately, it’s only available in 1/2 gallon. I can also use it for food, of course. It tastes okay, a little more buttery than regular milk. I could make cheese from it, but would want to use something other than vinegar, perhaps lime juice.

Well, the lime juice worked. I substituted it for the vinegar, using half a lemon, and the casein separated from the whey easily. It took a few extra seconds, and more stirring, but the results were the same. I’m not certain, but the casein felt not quite as firm this time, however. I saved the whey and lime juice liquid, and added it to my pasta sauce for tonight’s dinner. I mixed some oregano into the casein (a.k.a. cheese) and crumbled it on top of the spaghetti. Tasted good.


Testing Kalona Brand Milk for Making Casein

March 26, 2016


I was recently introduced to a person who makes her own cheese, and in out conversation I mentioned that I like to use raw milk from a local dairy farm to extract my own casein to make a paint medium. She suggested a particular commercial brand of milk I could try that she uses for her cheese process. It was called “Grassmilk” from Organic Valley, and was carried by a local natural foods store where I live. I went by there this morning, but unfortunately, they didn’t have the fat-free version that I needed. However, there was another brand from Kalona that had all the same features.

The one small drawback to using this for making casein is they are required by law to add palm oil for the vitamin A. Raw milk suppliers don’t have to do that. The amount added is very small, however, and I think I can safely wash out most of it in the processing. They don’t add soy oil for vitamin E that other commercial brands do, and a bonus is that it is non-homogenized (“cream-top”) and vat pasteurized at low temperatures. Non-homogenized is important since it makes the casein easier to extract, and VAT pasteurized makes the casein firmer than the typical ultra-pasteurized process of most commercial brands. The Kalona is more expensive than the raw milk I was buying, but the store is closer and easier to get to. If you’d like to make your own casein, but don’t live close to a dairy farm that sells fresh cow’s milk, these brands may be a good alternatives for you.

Soon I’ll make up a batch of casein from this, and see how it works out.


Painting Final: Channel Surfing

March 6, 2016


I added a little more modeling to her front forearm, and made a few other small tweaks, so I’m going to call this one finished. (9 x 12 ” oil on drafting film)



The oil medium I used for this was a mixture of some oil (Winsor & Newton Refined Linseed) with a casein medium of my own making. Although the medium is quite fluid, I wouldn’t describe it as thin, since there’s no solvent used other than the water in the casein. This mixture usually dries fast, but on this drafting film surface it takes an extra day or two. The only brushes used were a #3 Round and #0 Round.