How To Color Durham's

You can make Rock Hard Water Putty match whatever color you want by either adding color when you mix it, or you can paint it once it dries.

Arts & Crafts

How To Color Your Art

The natural color of Durham’s Rock Hard Water Putty is a light ivory. But you can give it almost any color you want.

You can color Durham’s throughout before mixing it with water by adding powdered tempera or dry earth powders such as umbers, siennas, and other colors. Small amounts of acrylic, latex paints, RIT®, Tintex, and coloring matter which will mix with water are also suitable. Do not use oil-base products, since oil and water do not mix and the putty will not harden.

Be careful if you need to add a great deal of coloring as it may affect the hardness of the dried putty. Check hardness by experimenting with a little bit of Durhams and the desired coloring agent before you start your project.

If you don’t need the color all the way through your project, you can paint Durham’s Putty after it has dried. In fact, you can use water-based or oil-based paints on dried Durham’s.


If you’re aiming for vibrant and bold colors, watercolors can be a surprisingly effective choice for coloring Durham’s Rock Hard Water Putty. Always make sure the putty is totally dry before you start painting.


Apply the watercolors directly to the dried putty surface. The pigments will adhere well, providing a smooth and vibrant finish. Keep in mind that watercolors can also be layered or blended to create unique effects, giving you even more creative freedom. 

One fun technique is to apply two coats of shellac thinned with alcohol. While the second coat is still tacky, bronze powder or dry colors may be dusted on. Or wait until the shellac is dry and apply a thin wash of oil paint thinned with turpentine. Acrylic paint may also be used, but the surface should be primed first with an acrylic primer.

You can create interesting effects by applying a bronze solution over or under washes of acrylic or oil paint. Your art, craft, or hobby store can supply glazes for giving various antique effects and can usually offer other helpful suggestions.

Stain cannot penetrate dried Durham’s Water Putty. If you want to use stain for color, mix it with Durham’s when you make your batch.

For exact colors, weigh Durham’s powder and the paint in exact proportions. Sometimes Durham’s can get compacted during shipping and the 3-to-1 mixing ratio may be skewed by compacted powder.

This carved cat has been painted a light tan and is in the process of being highlighted with an antique glaze.

All You Need Is Durhams

For whatever you need, Durhams is there for you. Order Durhams today or check your local hardware or DIY store for stock.