How to Make a Water-Based Pearlized Paint

Updated July 20, 2017

Mixing water with pigments to create paint is a 30,000-year-old process first used by ancient cave painters. Pearl paint, also referred to as "pearlised" or "pearlescent" paint, adds depth to any surface or artwork through the luminous reflection caused by the tiny pearl particles. Used by artists, faux-finishers and custom car painters to add eye-catching sparkle and shine to paintings, walls and automobiles, water-based pearl paint is a combination of water, dry pearl pigment and acrylic emulsion that any novice artist can mix at home. Dry pearl pigment is available in many colours.

Lay the glass square on a strong table over a piece of fabric. Put on the dust mask. Pour 1/8 tsp silicon carbide powder on the centre. Mix one drop of distilled water at a time into the powder while mixing the two with a palette knife until a thick paste forms.

Place the bottom of the muller on the pile of paste and move it in a circle extending out to the edges of the glass. Grind for 10 minutes to create a rough surface. Wash thoroughly with soap and water when finished to avoid contaminating the pearl paint.

Pile 1 tbsp dry pearl paint pigment into a mound at the centre of the stone. Depress a crater in the centre of the mound with the palette knife. Pour a tiny amount of water into the crater. Mix the pigment and water thoroughly into a paste with the palette knife. Gather the paste mixture back into the centre of the stone.

Place the bottom of the muller onto the pile of paste. Rotate over the pace in circles over the stone to grind the pigment smooth. Pile the smooth paste in the centre of the grinding stone. Pour an equal amount of acrylic emulsion next to the colour paste on the grinding slab. Mix this with a palette knife.

Place the completed water-based pearl paint in a jar for storage. Unscrew the top of the clean glass jar. Scoop up the mixed paint with the palette knife and scrape it into the jar. Repeat as necessary. Spray the paint inside the glass jar with a light mist of distilled water. Screw the lid on tightly for storage.


Extend the life of the water-based "pearlised" paint by pulling a layer of cling film tightly over the top of the jar before screwing the lid in place. Mist with water once a week and store it in the refrigerator to prevent mould.

Things You'll Need

  • 8-by-8 inch glass square, 1/4-inch thick
  • Dust mask
  • Silicon carbide powder
  • Distilled water
  • Glass eyedropper
  • Palette knife
  • Glass muller
  • Soap
  • Dry pearl paint pigment
  • Acrylic emulsion
  • Small glass jar with screw-on lid
  • Spray bottle
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About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Simone O'Shea began freelance writing online in 2009. She is a certified yoga instructor, and has written and illustrated several instructional manuals. O'Shea holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture from the Pratt Institute.