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.

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