What Is The Most Eco-Friendly Paint For Artists?

What Is The Most Eco-Friendly Paint For Artists?

Paint that landscape picture with some of the most sustainable paints on the market.

What Is The Most Eco-Friendly Paint For Artists?

Although there are several different components to creating art, from the tools to the canvas, one of the pivotal components is the medium, which when it comes to painting, there are five main types that are used. 

But, whether it’s oil, acrylic or watercolour, incorporating an eco-friendly ethos into our hobbies and using eco-friendly art supplies is always to be encouraged.

So If you are looking to incorporate more sustainable materials into your hobby or professional artwork you may be wondering what are the most eco-friendly paints for artists?

The best eco-friendly paint for artists includes a plant-based acrylic paint developed by Natural Earth Paint; Egg tempera which is a water-soluble paint using egg white or yolk as a binder, and watercolour paints which uses a number of plant-based ingredients in its production.

These are just a few of the eco-friendly paint solutions for artists and there are others which we will discuss in more detail in this article – So, read on to discover the most eco-friendly paint for artists


  1. What is Paint?
  2. Pigments and their Toxicity
  3. Acrylics
  4. Egg Tempera
  5. Tempera – Craft / Poster Paint
  6. Oils
  7. Watercolour Paint

What is Paint 

Technology has come a long way since cavemen first mixed natural elements of dirt, berries, red ochre and animal blood with animal fat and saliva but paint as we know it today, is still composed primarily of three main ingredients:

Pigment – Finely ground particles to provide colour and hiding properties

Binder – the substance used to glue the particles to one another 

Solvents – The liquid that suspends the ingredients and allows to place the paint on a surface

However, as technology has progressed and more colours have been added, petroleum-based chemicals and harmful additives have been added to the mix which has taken it away from its eco-friendly routes.  

Pigments and their Toxicity

Perhaps the largest ingredient in any paint is the pigment and this can provide some indication of how environmentally friendly a paint may or may not be.  Pigments can fall into a few categories, either natural or manufactured and either organic or inorganic.  

With the development of technology and science, there are a vast array of colours now available, however, there are many colours that have been discovered and are now known to be toxic. Most of these are linked to heavy or toxic metals and they include, barium, cadmium, lead carbonate, cobalt, manganese, vermillion, zinc yellow and the list goes on…. 

For truly eco-friendly pigments look to use natural plant dyes and non-toxic earth and mineral-based pigments. There are several companies that are developing and selling pre-powdered pigments ready to be mixed with a binder and base of your choice to enable you to create your own environmentally friendly artist paints at home.

Eco-Friendly Paint For Artists

1. Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint although a popular medium to use is the least eco-friendly paint available. It is composed of pigment suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion and plasticisers, silicone oils, defoamers, stabilisers or metal soaps – it’s basically synthetic paintable liquid plastic.  

Despite being advertised as water-soluble and not requiring any nasty chemicals to clean up after use., tiny polluting plastic particles are flushed down the drain and into the water supply when brushes and palettes are washed out.

A common practice amongst environmentally concerned artists is to filter out the acrylic paint particles from the water, leaving the sludge to dry before disposing of it correctly, in a bid to reduce the polluting qualities of acrylic paints. 

From all the research carried out, I have only found one acrylic paint that breaks the plastic mould.  Developed by Natural Earth Paint, they have developed a new plant-based natural acrylic medium; deemed to be the first of its kind. 

This product is 100% non-toxic and contains zero petroleum by-products.  You can finally paint with confidence knowing that there are no harmful additives, stabilizers, heavy metals or other toxic chemicals.

2. Egg Tempera

An eco-friendly alternative to Acrylic is Egg Tempera paint, which is not to be confused with Tempera Paint often marketed as Poster Paint.

This is another water-soluble paint but uses either egg yolks or egg whites as a binder to replace the polymer emulsion of the acrylic.  This natural protein gives the paint some flexibility to aid with coverage and is hand-mixed with artists pigment to provide suitable shades of colour.

Being completely water-soluble means washing out paintbrushes and pallets isn’t going to clog your drains or pollute the water supply. However, this type of paint isn’t as hardwearing as acrylic and needs building up layer by layer to provide a rich colour.

This medium and painting technique has been in constant use in most of the world’s cultures until it was gradually superseded by oil paints during the Renaissance.  

3. Tempera Paint 

Regular Tempera paint, also marketed as Poster or Craft paint is also a water-soluble, non-toxic eco-friendly paint for artists. 

Aimed more for children and the more amateur artist, this paint is generally composed of water, calcium carbonate (chalk), non-toxic pigments and preservatives.  The binder is either corn starch or cellulose composition.

Often marketed to be free from several allergies inducing ingredients, latex, dairy, casein, soy, egg, gluten, nuts etc. Tempera paints carry the ACMI (Art & Creative Materials Institute ltd) non-toxic seal of approval.

You can buy Tempera paint on Amazon here…..

4. Oil Paint

Initially considered to be less eco-friendly, with its headache-inducing fumes and the toxic chemicals of the thinners and solvents used to clean the brushes.

Painting with oils has long held the myth that it is the most toxic medium, containing dangerous pigments and releasing harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) into the environment.  

However, oil paint itself can be produced to be relatively eco-friendly just by substituting the toxic laden solutions for more natural ingredients – By replacing the petroleum-based oil binder with walnut or linseed oil and using this as a thinner, reduces the fumes without compromising on the quality of paint. 

Indeed, if Walnut oil is used as a binder, this eliminates the need for toxic cleaners as the paint slides straight from the brush.

When buying ready-made oil paints, avoid the colours containing toxic pigments and preservatives e.g colours containing lead, cobalt, cadmium, arsenic, and barium. Instead opting for more natural earth pigments.  

One of the eco-friendly oil paints that can be recommended includes the range from Natural Earth Paint.

5. Watercolour Paints

Watercolour paints make the smallest impact on the environment and can be said to be the most environmentally friendly of all the mediums.  Although different manufacturers use different recipes, watercolours are perhaps the most natural paints for artists. 

Watercolour paints are composed primarily of:

  • Coloured pigments 
  • Binder – usually Gum Arabic- a water soluble sap like substance that comes from the Acacia Senegal tree – often used as an additive in food. 
  • A Plasticiser, usually glycerine – used to help extend the life of the paint and make it softer and easier to dissolve.
  • A Moisturiser – usually glucose or corn syrup (occasionally honey depending upon the brand) again used to help extend the life of the paint. 
  • Distilled Water – if bought in a readymade liquid form in a tube

Depending upon the format you prefer, you can buy watercolours in either ready-made hard cakes, tubes of paint, or as separate ingredients to create and mix your own.  

Eco-friendly paint suppliers 

  • Earth Easy 
  • M Graham & Co
  • Natural Earth
  • Coloured Earth Pigments