January 12, 2024

Admittedly, the Internet has its pitfalls. But the great thing about it is that we can connect with people all over the world who share our interests. That's what happened to me with my dear colleague Annett Wagner. Like me, Annett is an artist and her love of nature speaks through her art. Annett shares her inspiring work on her Instagram profile. Be sure to check it out. Her use of color is so vibrant!

Our shared interest in sustainability, art and especially sustainable art has brought Annett and me together. In this guest post, she is kind enough to share her experiences with plastic-free "acrylic paint" with us. Thank you so much, Annett!

Don't worry, this is a guest post:
Hello, I'm Annett Wagner, a freelance upcycling artist from the Spreewald. I paint on everyday paper like cardboard boxes or flyers in order to use as few resources as possible. Sustainability is an important factor in my life, which is why I came across Lea's blog article on the subject while researching sustainable acrylic paints. An unusual request on my part and several messages later, Lea offered to publish my review of Placrylic™ here as a guest post. So it's true: art, sustainability and the internet can be connected, and I'm very happy about it. Lea, thank you very much!

And now I'm getting to the heart of the matter:

Are there sustainable and environmentally friendly acrylic paints?

The answer is YES, but you can find out if they meet my needs as an artist at the end of this article.

There are well known companies such as Marabu and Kreul that have developed more environmentally friendly alternatives to acrylics, but they are more suitable for the hobby and DIY sector. I am sure Lea will link you to her detailed blog post here. (I'd love to! Thanks, Annett!)

For the art sector, I came across two brands during my research: Natural Earth Paints and Placrylic™. Both products were developed by women artists. I tested Placrylic™, they are made in the UK and therefore had to travel a shorter distance to get to me than Natural Earth Paints from the USA, which also plays a role in sustainability.

What is Placrylic™?

"In 2020, British painter and chemist Hana invented a brand new medium, Placrylic™, for artists that addresses the climate and health concerns of modern artists.

Placrylic™ is a patented sustainable plant-based paint that dries quickly like acrylic paint. However, unlike acrylic paint, which is made of plastic and has a negative impact on marine chemistry when washed down the drain, Placrylic™ is 100% plastic-free, ocean-friendly and safe for use by artists."

"After studying thousands of plants, painter, chemist and Placrylic inventor Hana made more than 200 paintings to test and formulate eight sustainable plant pigments that, when combined with the patented plant gel formulation, produce eight natural yet vibrant colors with excellent lightfastness."

"The Placrylic Gel Medium consists of 100% plants in a gel emulsion. Liquid from various plants is extracted and processed into a gel emulsion that can be mixed with Placrylic™ plant pigments."

Information on the Placrylic™ website

The pigments and the gel for mixing arrive in unlabeled aluminum cans, so you first have to open everything up and be surprised. (picture 1 + 2)

Application is straightforward and similar to working with pigments and other binders. The pigments are extremely fine and smell of dried flowers and hay. Working with conventional pigments may be much more questionable and requires protective measures.

When mixed, the pigments have a beautiful luminosity and are easy to spread. However, I personally find the shade of red disappointing, it looks more like burnt sienna. (picture 3)

Starter set with 6 colors. All packaged plastic-free and delivered in an envelope.

Pigments and gel in aluminum cans

Mixed pigments

The colors dry quickly and blend well, but are much darker on the palette than they are when applied, making it difficult to judge the tone. This may change with more experience with the colors, but it irritated me during testing.

Unfortunately, I was also not impressed with the coverage, so I mixed the gel with conventional pigments for comparison. The top sample is the conventional pigment and the bottom sample is Placrylic™.

I did the test on gray cardboard, as this is my usual painting base. (picture 4)

I had the most problems with the white pigment: it is almost transparent when mixed and dries to a good covering, but unfortunately I couldn't get it to work at all in my test. (picture 5)

In a quick study, you can see one of my typical motifs for comparison with my usual acrylics and Placrylic™. (picture 6)

Comparison of Placrylic gel with conventional and Placrylic pigments

Comparison of white pigments

Comparison painting study


Placrylic™ is a truly pure vegetable product for high demands, but unfortunately it is not mine: Placrylic™ is not suitable for the way I work. I need colors with high opacity that don't just show up after drying, I need to see during the process that the motif is coming out the way I want it to. I was also not convinced by the shade of red, although there is a pink in the range, it was not in my starter kit.

On the Placrylic™ website, however, there are numerous examples of artists who have created wonderful work with the colors, so it is basically a product worth supporting that can be excellent for other painting styles than mine. I have given my set to Lea and I am sure she will share her experience with you.

Unfortunately, I personally haven't found the perfect sustainable alternative for me yet, but I will continue to research the topic. Do you have any experience in this area, or have you tried an eco-friendly paint?

Disclaimer: my test is not a scientific study, but only my personal assessment, and I bought and paid for the colors myself.  

About Annett Wagner

Annett Wagner's works of art focus on transformation. She herself says about her art: "From the first idea to the last brushstroke, every step is an interplay between intuition and technique, freedom and structure. Authenticity is of the utmost importance to me as an artist. Every work should convey true emotions, tell real stories and transport the viewer into a world of their own."

Visit her on her website.

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