How to make homemade conductive paint

Conductive paint, while awesome, can be expensive if purchased from online retailers. Spending $12 on a 10ml tube of conductive paint, really adds up quickly for parents and educators.

For some time now at the MakerBus we’ve been experimenting with making homemade conductive paint that is less expensive that store bought varieties – now at long last, we’ve developed a recipe that works and doesn’t cost a fortune.

To make your own conductive paint, you’ll need three ingredients:

  1. Powdered carbon
  2. White glue
  3. White vinegar

Of all the ingredients, powdered carbon was the most difficult for us to find. While I did see sources online, I didn’t find a good online supplier for inexpensive powdered carbon in Canada (though it was easier to find supplies in the United States). When it comes to finding powdered carbon you have two options:

Option 1: Find an art store that sells it – I found that Curry’s Art Supplies in London, Ontario sells powdered carbon for a reasonable price. If your city has a good art supply store, I’d recommend checking there. I ended up buying a fairly large bottle for $10.

Option 2: Grind your own – Many aquariums use carbon for water purification, making it easy to find granular carbon at most pet stores. If you’re feeling like making a minor mess, you could try grinding granular carbon to make carbon powder.

Once you have all the ingredients follow the steps below:

  • Wear breathing protection while mixing the conductive paint. Powdered carbon contains small particles that can potentially cause respiratory illnesses. Once the powder is mixed into paint, it is completely harmless, but use caution while working with it in a powdered form.
  • Add 1 tsp of white glue
  • Mix white glue to 3 tablespoons of of white vinegar
  • Stir in 3-6 tablespoons of powdered carbon, or until a paint-like liquid is formed

Once you’ve achieved your desired consistency, you can apply the paint like you would any other paint. Once it dries, the paint will conduct electricity and can be used to create circuits or interact with a MaKey MaKey.

We’ll keep refining our recipe and we hope to post a video tutorial for creating conductive ink by the end of the month. We’ll also be showing off our conductive paint at our March Break library visits.

If you liked this article, why not follow the MakerBus on twitter (@DHMakerBus) or like us on Facebook (/dhmakerbus)? We post some of the most creative maker projects found on the web every day. If you #getonthebus, we promise a fun ride!

-The MakerBus team

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