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Sunday, February 11, 2024

What is Casein?

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**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

Here's my set of casein colors.  Also, I highly
recommend using a Sta-Wet palette to keep the paints moist.

At this point, most of you should be familiar with gouache.  It seems like every painter out there on social media is playing with this opaque, water-based medium.  But do you know about casein?  If you've heard of "milk paint"—once used to paint houses in the 1800s—it's basically the same thing, but with pigment.  This old medium is edging back into the spotlight, and deservedly so.

Casein is similar to gouache in most of its properties except one.  Made with a binder derived from milk, it can't be re-wet once dry, a property which, besides casein's cheapness, made it useful for house painting.  (A dilute solution of ammonia will help clean up any dried-on paint.)  The fact that the surface is durable and can be varnished makes it perhaps a superior medium to gouache.  It should still be framed under glass, though, if the painting is done on paper.  

By the way, casein tends to have a slight odor, which some artists find unpleasant.  I consider its smell, and in fact that of any art material, to be simply part of the magic that goes into making our art.

I first found out about casein from Stephen Quiller, whom I consider the master of water media.  Having painted in it for many years, he finally wrote a book about it, Casein Painting with Stephen Quiller.  He also helped Jack Richeson develop a new line of Shiva casein colors.  (The line is named for artist Ramon Shiva, who created the first casein paints for artists in the 1930s.)  With Stephen's encouragement, I picked up a set of colors and got to work.  You might give it a try.

If you'd like to learn more about casein, the Richeson Art web site has some excellent information here.