Towards a Greener Carnival – Paint Recipes

Since 2019 Route Canal Arts and Simon Tipping has been developing a sustainable ethos in the materials, we use to create carnival costume and large processional sculptures. Mainly looking at the possibilities of eliminating or reducing the amount of petroleum-based materials used in the carnival sector.

How to make Paint for carnival &art projects for school and community workshops.

Step away from shop bought paints – lets discover the tradition of easy to make paint for ingredients found in the kitchen with the peace of mind that the paint is safe to use and from sustainable sources.

Sustainable products are those products that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits while protecting public health and environment over their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal.

The key to making these resources work for you is approaching them with creativity and openness and using them as tools to suit your own purposes. They do not require artistic expertise just a sense of fun and enthusiasm.

Part 2 – How to Make Your Own Paint

Instead of shopping for manufactured paint, make your own out of a few inexpensive ingredients. Paint that is safe for children of all ages can be made quickly with flour or corn syrup. More experienced artists can mix their own paint using raw pigment and a medium. If you need to paint a DIY project, try making chalk paint for furniture or a flour-based paint for walls. Make your own paint for a satisfying, yet entertaining project that also saves you money.


Recipe 1 – Making Flour-Based Drip Paint

Recipe 2 – Making Flour-Based Wall Paint

Recipe 3 – Adding Colour

Recipe 1 – Making Flour- based drip paint


340g   Plain white flour

240ml warm water

2tbls  Salt

Pour white flour, water, and salt in a bowl. Pour 240 ml, of warm water into a large mixing bowl, add 340 g of white flour and table salt. Mix the ingredients into a smooth liquid.

This creates a quick-drying, non-toxic paint safe for children of any age.

Adjust the amount of each ingredient you use to create more or less paint. Keep the ingredients in the same ratio.

Add more water to thin the paint. Paint made using a flour mixture may seem pretty thick at first. To thin the paint, gradually pour more water into the container. Mix the ingredients together until the paint is exactly how you want it.

Since the paint is non-toxic, you can safely touch it with your fingers as well as pour it from the container.

Use the paint on paper and refrigerate excess. The best paper to use is watercolour paper from an art supply store. The paper is made of wood pulp or cotton and may hold up better than regular printer paper. You can also try similar flat surfaces such as cardboard, cardstock, or canvases. Store excess paint in a closed container in the refrigerator.

This is a white/cream colour base paint recipe for ideas on colour see ‘adding colour’, the paint should be safe to use for about 2 weeks. However, it may harden over time.

Recipe 2 – Making flour- based wall paint


1 ltr    cold water

450g   Plain White flour

350ml Hot water

230g   Powdered clay

2 tbl   Salt

Mix cold water and flour into a mixing bowl. Pour 470 ml of water into a bowl combine it with 450 g of flour, stirring until the mixture is smooth.

Boil 350 ml of water on the stove in a large saucepan. 

Turn the heat down and gradually stir the paste mixture into the hot water. Lower the heat, stirring the mixture continually with a whisk or another mixing tool. The mixture should turn into a thick paste within 3 to 5 minutes. Once it becomes a paste, remove it from the heat.

Check the paste’s consistency to ensure that it is thick. If it seems runny, give it more cooking time.

Stir up to 470 ml of cold water into the paste. Use only cold water so the paste doesn’t thin out too much. Slowly pour it onto the paste, mixing the entire time. The water will thin the paste to a paint-like consistency as you stir.

Adding the water too quickly can thin the paste out more than you want, so it won’t be thick enough to cover your walls.

Mix screened clay and powder filler in a separate bowl. In a mixing bowl, combine about 230g of screened clay (use a white clay for a base or Red clay for earth colour). These ingredients give the paint colour and stability, preventing unsightly peeling and cracking on your walls.

Screened clay, Bentonite or Diatomaceous Earth can be ordered online.

Slowly add the clay mixture to the paste, stirring it the entire time. Mix the ingredients together until the paste reaches the consistency you desire. You can then spread it over your paint surface with brushes like you would with any regular paint.

  • You can thin the paint further by boiling it for up to 30 minutes, then mixing in about 950 ml of linseed oil. Let it cool to the touch before using it.

Use the paint and store the excess in a sealed container. Brush the paint over your painting surface, then wait for the paint to set. The paint will dry out in about 1 hour and cure within 24 hours. You may then wish to give your painting surface a second coating. Move the excess to a sealed container, such as a paint can, in a garage, or similar area.

This mixture will create an inexpensive, non-toxic base paint to which colour can be added (see adding colour). This paint recipe can be used to give walls, art projects and other surfaces a matte finish. This paint is like store-bought paints, so it will last for many years.

Adding Colour

Divide the paint into separate containers. Distribute the paint evenly among a few small bowls or squeeze bottles. Resealable plastic bags also work well with this kind of paint. With a zippered plastic bag, you can cut a corner later to let out a steady drip of paint. This eliminates overturned paint containers and reduces messes.

Pour 2 drops of food colouring into the paint. Choose a paint colour, then squeeze 2 or 3 drops of food colouring into the paint. Give yourself a colour palette by mixing a different colour into each container. You can add more drops as needed if the paint’s colour isn’t dark enough.

If you can’t find a specific food colouring, mix drops of other colours. For example, try adding 3 drops of red and 1 drop of blue to make purple.

Stir the paint to mix in the food colouring. If your paint is in open containers, stir it with a spoon or another utensil. For bottles or bags, close the container and shake or squeeze it. Keep doing this until the paint becomes a consistent colour.

Other sources of colour or pigment

Spices such as turmeric or paprika

Juice from food: Beetroot, blackberries, red cabbage which will give you a blue.

Soot for black, wood ash for grey to black

These should all be natural and sustainable sources of colour

This project has been supported by Carnival Network South, The Arts Council England and Route Canal Arts.

Please feedback on this article so that we can evolve the use of sustainable materials, costume design and carnival.

Using sustainable materials in the carnival arts

Since 2019 Route Canal Arts and Simon Tipping has been developing a sustainable ethos in the materials, we use to create carnival costume and large processional sculptures.  Mainly looking at the possibilities of eliminating or reducing the amount of petroleum-based materials used in the carnival sector. As most of Route Canal Arts workshops takes place in primary schools and with community groups we are taking a practical look on how this will impacted on activities through developing methods in creativity using sustainable material and whether it will increase the time spent with people, increase preparation time or impact on the quality of work produced or have a substantial effect on groups of special needs.

We believe that climate change and sustainability are manifestations of cultural values. Our vision is contingent on values that recognise our place in the ecosystem.

Our values come from a deep appreciation of the world around us; some understanding of how we affect it; and a commitment to bring to it our very best.’

Julies Bicycle values

Evaluating materials in the creative process

As carnival artists we have tended to use bright colours, fibre rod and lots of shinny stuff using modern materials produced from petroleum, in the classroom they have had the benefit of being quick and easy to use to produce stunning costumes with people of all ages. Many artists are socially responsible sourcing recycled materials to use in their practice and in educational settings but unfortunately most of these are plastics which once altered invariably cannot be recycled and end up in landfill or rivers or oceans. Reducing the amount of plastics has now become a hot topic and we need as a sector to look at the implication and impact it has on our activities.

Sustainable materials are materials used throughout our consumer and industrial economy that can be produced in required volumes without depleting non-renewable resources and without disrupting the established steady-state equilibrium of the environment and key natural resource systems.

Paper, paper pulp, tissue paper and cardboard

Paper and cardboard are cheap and easily accessible materials to obtain and recycle. Idea for making large sculptural and puppet like structures, carnival masks and headdresses

Using a little bit of maths, science and a lot of hard work its possible to make a boat to hold 3 or 4 young out of paper products which will float for up to 40 minutes on water before sinking.

Bamboo cane and poles

Cardboard puppets on bamboo frames and backpacks

Rubber, rubber inner-tube and motorcycle tyres

  • True rubber comes from the rubber plant but can also be made synthetically, rubber inner-tubes can replace cable ties while motorcycle tyres can be cut up and stuck together to make outdoor sculptures

Sustainable glues and tapes

plant and animal based, rubber latex glue, biodegradable PVA, Gluten glues.

Rubber latex glue or Copydex can be used to stick textiles together or lantern making, also it’s biodegradable. It’s possible to make your own glues from food stuff found in the kitchen. (See our blog on How to make glue at home)

A group of people in a park

Description automatically generated
Transformers, St Paul’s Secondary School, Parade of Colours, Milton Keynes. Cardboard and paper Mâché costumes

Natural fibres

plant and animal based – Hemp, organic cotton, silks

The process to make natural fibres into usable products is not always environmentally friendly.


Hardboard, MDF and plywood are manufactured with glues from unsustainable sources


Baskets, Lantern making and sculptural work. Willow can easily be grown and coppices in backgardens.

Water soluble paint and textile dyes

Bright, shinny, or fluorescent colour is the hardest to reproduce from sustainable sources, but we are working that. Most natural colour is pastel or earthy in tone. Like glue it’s possible to make your own base paint from food stuff found in the kitchen and then add colour. (See our blog on How to make your own paint at Home)

Aluminium and steel

Although aluminium and steel is not grown it’s considered sustainable as it can be melted down and refashioned again and again. Useful in making Bicycle powered vehicles, sculpture, backpacks, wire bending, frames, puppets etc.

A picture containing white, sitting, building, black

Description automatically generated
Colourful Aluminium cans can easily be cut with scissors and used in decoration

What sustainable ethical questions should we ask before choosing materials for workshops or art projects?

  1. Are the materials used in carnival arts sustainable and environmentally friendly?
  2. Are materials from sustainable sources biodegradable or recyclable
  3. If materials used need to be from unsustainable sources what is the criteria for using them e.g. artistic merit, weight, longevity, commercial – hired out over a 10 year period.

Other considerations to think about apart from the materials used is the transportation of our King and Queen structures, costumes, masquerades, carnival bands and instruments.


  1. Will the use of Sustainable materials reduce who we are able to work with in educational environments?
  2. Are the materials easy to use and manipulate?
  3. Will using sustainable materials impact on budgets?
  4. Will using sustainable materials increase preparation and making time?
  5. Will using water-soluble products increase drying time?
Towards a Greener Carnival, 13th & 14th March 2020, a Carnival Network South Conference.

The creative design thinking will require a new dimension where the retrieval, dismantling and reuse of carnival costume and structures will be designed into the product from the beginning.

This project has been supported by Carnival Network South, The Arts Council England and Route Canal Arts.

Please feedback on this article so that we can evolve the use of sustainable materials, costume design and carnival.

A carnival day in school making carnival hats with year 3

Who is Route Canal Arts?

Established 2017

Simon Tipping: Creative Director and Founder of Route canal Arts is passionate about delivering high quality experiences in the indoor and outdoor arts sector, he brings a wealth of experience in engaging the young and the old in creative learning, making art accessible, relevant and participatory for everyone.

Simon loves carnival, having attended the Trinidad, Viareggio and Venice carnivals, participated at the Rio carnival with Paul Davies and his Embaixadores da Alegria, travelled to Bei Jing, China with Ali Pretty’s Kinetika and her Imagination Our Nation project, as well as show casing the work of Festive Road at the Thames festival night time carnival.

Over the past 35 years Simon has worked regularly and extensively across schools and communities including Special Needs, working with inmates at HM Prisons, Adult Learning, Sure Start, Youth Clubs, Events & Festivals in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, London, Northamptonshire, and Somerset as a freelance artist, in partnership with other fellow artists or as Route Canal Arts.

Is art education the glue that holds the school together?

The arts in Schools is often placed outside of the subject areas considered as ‘core academic subjects. As educators and artists, we must use the core subjects of English, maths and science to be able to deliver our creativity with a sprinkling of history and geography. Students taking part in school-based extracurricular art, drama or music activities is, along with feelings of connection to peers, the most important contributor to school engagement.

Walking with Giants carnival parade, Milton Keynes

Whether your project is large or small Route Canal Arts can offer help and advice at every stage.

One of Route Canal Arts specialisation is Project management with a proven record in delivering art projects, workshops, carnivals and lantern parades within cost, schedule, and resource constraints. We have hands-on skills in organising parades, bringing together local communities, recycling, using materials from sustainable sources, funding advice, Health and Safety, Risk assessments, road closure and road management, a network of artists, dancers, and musicians help to ensure that project goals are realised from start to finish.

Creative Partnerships makes a positive difference to how teachers teach, people and students think

Route Canal Arts offers participants including business, a break from their routine to engage in creative Team Building activities which promote the benefits of working in collaboration, unlocks hidden talents and constructively addresses issues.

Workshops are facilitated by expert practitioners who have years of experience creating motivational environments and empowering participants to overcome their inhibitions. Activities are designed to stimulate creative thinking, break down communication barriers and boost confidence, whilst providing valuable opportunities for individual growth.

As visual artists we love Carnival because it involves skilled art forms across music, movement, sculpture, recycling, textiles, and costume. These art forms are not just rooted in the UK but traditions from all around the world. 

Mk Dhol drumming band 2008 to 2017

As a provider of a service to the community, Route Canal Arts accepts the responsibility to promote equal opportunities and challenge discrimination wherever it occurs.

Route Canal Arts values the diversity of the local population. We want our services, facilities and resources to be accessible and useful to every citizen regardless of gender, age, ethnic origin, religious belief, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or any other individual characteristic which may unfairly affect a person’s opportunities in life.