Lapis Lazuli and Red Jasper Watercolors

Lately I’ve been experimenting with grinding various stones into powder and then making watercolor from that. Some of the stones I found myself but here’s two that I bought.

Lapis Lazuli Pigment

I’ve had this tiny piece of lapis lazuli for many years. The actual process of extracting lazurite from this is more than just hitting it with a hammer. From what I’ve read it involves oils and clay that’s used to remove impurities like pyrite and clear minerals, but I don’t have all the needed materials and my piece is so small that there wouldn’t be enough pure pigment for me to make paint. Therefor the impurities are going to stay, even if only to add some bulk. Grinding this was surprisingly easy.

Lapis Lazuli Watercolor

The paint I made from it was a gentle smokey blue that’s very granulating. You can’t see it in the photo but there’s little glints of sparkle from the pyrite. If it looks a little greenish it might be because the water I was using had already been used for other paints and needed to be changed. Maybe the impurities are a factor too.

Lapis Lazuli Pan

That little stone ended up being just enough for a full pan of watercolor. Some of the paint swatches it’s sitting on are from store bought tubes and some I made myself from dry pigment I bought, but there’s a few in the top right corner that were made from stones I found. These swatches are all from me trying to figure out which colors I want to include in my new travel case.

Red Jasper Pigment

This is red jasper that I mail ordered. It was completely different to grind because it was so much harder. The card that came with it said it was a hardness of 6.7. I don’t know the hardness of any of the other stones I’ve found but none were as hard to grind at this one.

The pigment was a little duller than the stone itself. A lot of pigments become lighter and duller as they’re ground more finely. The lapis lazuli was the same way.

Red Jasper Watercolor

Here’s the finished red jasper paint. It’s not as red as I was originally hoping, more of a brown, and still a little gritty. It has a nice granulation though and a good amount of darkness and opacity to the paint at full strength. Maybe someday I’ll order some yellow jasper.

There’s a lot of other stones that I’ve tried turning into paint and I still have more to experiment with, but I thought these were two of the more successful ones.

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16 thoughts on “Lapis Lazuli and Red Jasper Watercolors

    1. A lot of stones can be gotten in bulk (1/2lb, 1lb, 5lb, etc) from a few sellers on Amazon such as one called FBA King. The prices are actually really good compared to some of the rock shops I’ve been in and there’s a huge variety. Apparently some of the people who buy the rough stones put them in small home tumblers to polish them. 🙂

    1. I did wait many months before actually going through with it. The piece was so small that I thought a mistake might waste it all, but it turned out to be fairly easy. The more you try it with various stones the more willing you’ll become to experiment with another. 🙂

    1. I use a large glass muller and small glass grinding plate that I bought from Natural Pigments. With making oil paint you’re going to have a hard time if you don’t mull it, but with watercolor it depends on the pigment. I’ve made fairly watercolors using just a palette knife, though some pigments (like these two here) from natural sources have too much grit in them and need mulling to make a smooth paint.

    1. I’ve used gum arabic from a few sources. The last time I ordered some was a big bag of dry powder through Amazon. I mix that in a bottle using warm water that I heated on the stove, about 1:2 gum arabic to water. Once it’s mostly dissolved I add honey. I don’t remember exactly how much I used last time but I think it was a 1:2 ratio of honey to the liquid gum arabic, or around there. I use the lightest honey I saw in the store so it’ll have the least impact on the color, since I think it was the dark honey I used to use that turned my titanium white watercolor into a light cream color. I also add vegetable glycerin. I think I just eyeballed it with that, maybe half as much of it as the amount of honey. It’s been a few months since I’ve made a batch and I still have some left, so I’m not 100% sure. Lastly I add a tiny drop of clove oil as preservative. From what I’ve read if I was making an entire liter at once I’d need three drops of clove oil, but I made less than a third of that last time. Then I just put a top on the bottle I mix it all in and shake it a lot before letting it sit for awhile.

      1. Thank you! I knew gum arabic and honey were used, but didn’t know about the glycerine, and had no idea about proportions; I’ve heard you need to use differing formulas for different pigments. I don’t know if I’ll ever try this, but the idea appeals to me immensely.

      2. Some pigments take more or less medium in total, which I assume is mostly a function of the number of microns it was ground to. It might be that some pigments are ideally combined with different proportions of ingredients in the medium, but only a few times have I had a pigment that gave me various issues and I’m not sure if the cause was that. I mostly stick to earth pigments (cheaper, safer, huge variety, and I like them) so maybe my formula just happens to work well with most earth pigments.

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