Creating Custom Colors: Tips for Mixing Your Own Enamel Paints

Creating Custom Colors: Tips for Mixing Your Own Enamel Paints

While premixed enamels offer convenience, the magic truly happens when enamelists begin experimenting with blending their own custom colors. Adjusting ratios of pigments, opacifiers, and fluxes gives endless possibilities for unique hues and effects. Mastering the science and art of mixing opens new creative avenues. Follow these tips for selecting quality base ingredients, understanding enamel chemistry, calculating mixtures, and safely firing batches of your original color creations.

Selecting Enamel Base Ingredients

The characteristics of the raw materials you mix with determine the behavior of your homemade enamels.


Look for stable, finely ground, concentrated enamel-grade pigment powders for intense, consistent color results.


Opacifiers like titania or tin oxide control opacity when added to transparent tints.


Fluxes help lower the fusing point of other ingredients. Common options are silica, borax, and soda ash.


Inert carriers like alumina hydrate thicken mixtures for easier application. Add conservatively.

Prepared Bases

Consider mixing into premade transparent or neutral bases to save time.

Understanding Enamel Chemistry

Successful color blending requires grasping how enamel ingredients chemically interact.

Firing Behavior

The peak firing temperature and ramp speeds enzymes require for proper melting and fusion.

Thermal Expansion

How much the enamel expands and contracts during heating and cooling cycles. This must match the metal being enameled.

Glass Formation

Ingredients must transition into an amorphous glass state to fuse smoothly on metal.


How pigments and opacifiers suspend in the glass chemistry to block or allow light transmission.


Fluxes help control the thickness of liquid enamel at peak firing temperature for smooth finishes.


Some ingredients counteract or degrade others, causing defects like poor adhesion or bubbling.

Essential Tools for Mixing Enamels

Having the right equipment makes measuring, blending, and testing handmade enamel batches easier and more consistent.

Digital Gram Scale

Accurately weigh out ingredient portions down to a fraction of a gram.

Digital Thermometer

Monitor the firing temperatures of test plates to compare results.

High Velocity Burner

A torch enables rapid small-scale testing of enamel mixes.

Glass Muller

Grind chunks and mixes into fine particles using a glass slab and muller.


Separate enamel particles into specific mesh sizes using sieve trays.

Safety Gear

Use a vent hood, respirator, goggles, and gloves when handling enamel chemistry.

Calculating Enamel Recipes

Meticulously tracking ingredient ratios allows colors to be replicated and tweaked precisely.

Weight Percentages

Weigh starting ingredients and note percentages of each rather than relying on volume or unspecified “dashes”.


Closely follow your recorded recipes for each new batch to build on previous color exploration.


Observe test results carefully and incrementally tweak mixtures to modify properties. Make one measured change at a time.


Some alternate ingredients can be safely swapped to adjust cost, opacity, firing traits, etc. Consult references.


Keep detailed notes on recipes, firing schedules, and outcomes to guide further enamel color development.

Preparing Batches for Testing

Carefully preparing small controlled test amounts lets you safely evaluate new mixtures.

Weighing in a Vent Hood

Some pigment chemicals require weighing in a ventilated enclosure.

Personal Protective Gear

Use gloves, goggles, respirator as needed when exposure to dry material.

Mesh Particle Size

Grind mixes to a consistent medium mesh size before testing for even melting.

Thorough Mixing

Blend ingredients for several minutes to disperse uniformly before firing.

Test Plates

Apply thin layers of mixes to small copper plates for test firing under controlled conditions.

Recording Details

Note properties like application qualities and pre-firing appearance for comparison.

Firing Tests

The proof is ultimately in how a custom enamel fires. Fire judiciously and make careful observations.

Even Thin Applications

Brush thin, uniform enamel layers onto test plates for ideal results.

Observe Firing Stages

Watch to see if enamel melts, flows, bubbles, burns off, or discolors unevenly as heated.

Monitoring Temperature

Note the temperature and ramp speeds that produce a smooth glossy fusion vs defects.

Test Compatibility

Try the enamel on several metal types to ensure it fuses correctly to each.

Post-firing Qualities

Assess hardness, texture, color accuracy, and metal bonding after firing.

Troubleshooting Issues

Adjust the recipe and process based on any flaws like poor adhesion, dull finish, or devitrification.

Achieving Desired Effects

By tweaking recipes, you can create enamels tailored for different artistic techniques.

Drawing Enamels

Increase gum arabic levels for mixtures that apply smoothly like paint for detailing.

Cloisonné Enamels

Add flux to lower viscosity for easy application within metal wire walls.

Champlevé Enamels

Use coarse particle sizes and high alumina for thick enamels that pack into carved recesses.

Transparent Colors

Lower the opacifier amount and grind finely for clear tinted effects.

Specialty Effects

Modify recipes to try unique options like crackle, luster, oily, or fluorescent enamels.

Fusing Compatibility

Adjust flux, viscosity, and expansion traits for compatibility with various firing methods.

Inspiring Applications for Custom Enamels

Explore new artistic possibilities when you have unlimited custom colors.

Unique Color Palettes

Create exactly the hues, tints, and opacities needed for your artistic vision.

Improved Color Matching

Formulate enamels to precisely match other design elements like gemstones or fabrics.


Meticulously blend subtle gradients by incrementally shifting ratios across multiple enamels.

Larger Scale Works

Mix large batches of customized colors for major architectural or sculpture projects.

Production Enameling

Develop signature palettes and standardized mixes for use across multiple works or product lines.

Advancing Your Enamel Mixing Skills

Making enamel mastery a lifelong learning journey enables endless innovation.

  • Read extensively about glass and ceramic chemistry.
  • Network with other enamel artists to exchange color insights.
  • Keep pushing your repertoire of special effect recipes.
  • Invest in professional grade ingredients and equipment.
  • Consider courses in industrial glass formulation.
  • Document your development so insights aren’t lost.
  • Allow some controlled serendipity in discovering new directions.

The key is balancing curiosity, precision, and persistence. By formulating original enamel mixes, you gain a whole new means of artistic expression.

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