Natural paints have become increasingly popular as eco-conscious consumers seek to reduce their environmental footprint and create healthier indoor environments. But long before the current trend, natural paints played a crucial role in human history, providing a means for artistic expression and architectural preservation.

How was natural paint made?

This article delves into the origins of natural paint, exploring the methods and materials used by our ancestors to create these sustainable and environmentally friendly coatings.

The Origins of Natural Paints

Natural paints can be traced back to prehistoric times when humans first began using pigments to create art on cave walls. These early paints were derived from locally available natural materials, including plant extracts, soil, and minerals. Over time, as civilisations developed and trade routes expanded, the variety of pigments and paint-making techniques increased.

Historical Natural Paint Production

The production of natural paint relied on the availability of three key components: pigments, binders, and solvents. The methods and materials used varied across regions and time periods, but the basic principles remained consistent.

Natural Pigments

Pigments are the substances responsible for providing colour to the paint. Historically, pigments were derived from various natural sources, including:

Natural Minerals

Minerals like ochre (iron oxide), malachite (copper carbonate), and azurite (copper hydroxycarbonate) were ground into a fine powder to create a range of colours, including red, yellow, green, and blue.


Some plant-based pigments, such as indigo and madder, were extracted from leaves, roots, or berries through a process of boiling or fermenting the plant material.


Charcoal, produced by burning wood or bones, was used as a black pigment in early paints.


Binders are the substances that hold the pigment particles together and help them adhere to surfaces. In early paint production, natural binders included:

Animal fats and oils

Rendered fats from animals, such as tallow or lard, were mixed with pigments to create paint. Fish oils, like linseed or walnut oil, were also used as binders in some regions.


Egg yolk, mixed with pigments, formed the basis of egg tempera paint, which was widely used in European art during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Plant-based binders

Plant-based binders, such as gum arabic or tree resins, were used in some paints to provide adhesion and flexibility.


Solvents are substances used to thin or dilute paint, making it easier to apply. Water was the most common solvent used in early paint production, although other natural solvents, like turpentine, were also employed.

Natural Paint-Making Techniques

Early paint-making techniques often involved grinding pigments with a mortar and pestle, followed by the addition of binders and solvents to create a smooth, spreadable consistency. In some cases, the materials were heated to enhance their properties or to facilitate the mixing process. Once the desired consistency was achieved, the paint was applied to surfaces using brushes, fingers, or other tools.

Modern Natural Paint

Modern natural paint such as made by Auro or Graphenstone, contain a mix of natural and organic minerals and ingredients, and using clever techniques to control binders and adhesion they have formulated some incredible paints that do the same as normal house paints, but with much less environmental destruction. Graphenstone has 100% vegan paint range, and Auro is almost all vegan apart from a couple of natural casein paints.


The history of natural paint production highlights humanity’s long-standing relationship with the environment and our ingenuity in utilising locally available materials. As we face the modern challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, the resurgence of interest in natural paints serves as a timely reminder of the value of sustainable, eco-friendly practices. By embracing natural paints in our homes and buildings, we can contribute to a healthier, more sustainable future while also preserving the rich artistic heritage of our ancestors.