The Chemistry of Acrylic Paint


  • Acrylic paint is a synthetic paint that uses acrylic plastic resins. I chose the chemistry of acrylic paint because I am an artist. As an artist, acrylic paints is something I use to make art.Composition of ...
    • Pigment
    • Binder (resin)
    • Solvent
    • Additives

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

The first main ingredient to acrylic paint is the pigment.The pigment is the part of the paint that actually gives it color. Chemical reactions in a factory and/or lab are used to create pigment such as cadmium red which is cadmium sulfide. There are pigments found in nature but most acrylic paint pigments are synthetic, or man-made. Most synthetic pigments have the same chemicals to most naturals. They synthetically make pigments to add more bonds The more bonds in the substance the less energy absorbed, thus brighter color.

The pigments are made of many different chemical substances and compounds. Some examples include cadmium sulfide, crushed pure cobalt powder, titanium dioxide, different iron oxides, and much more. The first synthetic pigment ( white lead - basic lead sulfite) was made around the second millennium B.C.E. Pigments have been created and discovered all the way up until this day.

The second main piece is the binder, or the resin. This is the liquid part of the paint that actually does the drying part. Once the paint is dried it is more of a plastic. When it is is wet the paint is water soluble but once it is dry the paint is water proof. Acrylic resin is an acrylic plastic polymer. This is made from a monomer such as methyl methacrylate and a common catalyst. The catalyst speeds up the reaction for the monomers to combine and create acrylic plastic polymer - polymethyl methacrylate. The binder is mostly made of carbon and hydrogen ( methyl methacrylate-CH2=C(CH3) ). In 1909 the first successful commercial acrylic resin (used mainly for plastics than for paint) was made.

Chemistry's Role

The binder resin in acrylic paint is man-made, most of the time in some sort of lab. It is made generally from the monomer methyl methacrylate and also any real common catalyst. The catalyst speeds up the reaction to where the monomers create extremely long chains. Which result in polymethyl methacrylate, an acrylic plastic polymer.

The pigments are also mostly made in labs/factories. Most of the time they are either pure elements like pure cobalt powder and carbon charcoal, or they basic bounded compounds like cadmium sulfide. To make cadmium sulfide you react cadmium chloride with hydrogen sulfide to make a bright yellow solid. It is then washed and heated to make a spectrum of different colors.

Basically all of acrylic paints are man-made through various chemical reactions.

Background Research

In the simplest ways, paint is made from a wet binder, or vehicle, mixed with a dry pigment. That is essentially how acrylic paint is made, with a little extra bits added, of course. An acrylic resin is mixed with a pigment that is generally synthetic to form basic acrylic paint. Obviously, acrylic paint is water soluable in its wet state. Therefore, it it dries quickly and does not need to be diluted.


    • Monomers of a polymer
    • Composition of monomers

    • Website for info on the chemicals in products
    • Ingredients that make up acrylic paint

    • Art school website
    • Details what basic paint is made of
    • Basic overview of the parts
    • pigments

    • Wikipedia article
    • History
    • Misc information

    • Encyclopedia Britannica
    • chemistry
    • Bulk of information on resins

About the Author

Cameron Maas is a junior at Billings Senior High. He plays football and lacrosse, and creates art in his free time. Cameron pushes carts at Albertson's and loves to eat pizza.