Scenic Painting

Information about Scenic Painting- finding eco paint, what it is, and so on.

Buying Paint Online

Purchasing products online is tough, because you have to deal with shipping fees and wait times, but the selection is infinitely better since you can order from places around the world. If you are looking to stock up on supplies, or if you have a final design early enough, ordering paint online may be something to consider.

Karen Michel’s book, “Green Guide for Artists,” is full of green alternatives for creating art. The book is from a more visual artists’ perspective, but there are a lot of tips that can be transferred to scenic paint in theatre. The back of the book is full of links to eco-friendly paint companies. Here are a few: – this company carries an assortment of interior wall paints. They sell clay paint, which is, as the name indicates, paint made with natural clays and pigments, and they “capture the centuries-old warm ambience of aged adobe as well as clay and lime plasters.” Solvent-and-VOC-free wall paint is also sold, as well as floor and furniture finishers, natural colour pigments, and brushes. They are able to ship to Canada; rates are based on how much you spend on products. – Earthpaint takes a very serious approach to their wood staining and paint products. The front page has an entire section on the dangers of chemicals commonly used in conventional paint. All of the ingredients for their products are sourced locally in the U.S. This company is super ‘anti-poison,’ which, in my opinion, is good. Shipping is expensive but they sell a lot of products! – Earth Pigments, sells natural earth-sourced pigments, obviously. If you are working on props or smaller set pieces, you can mix the pigment with a thinner, a binder, and a load. On its’ website: “Paint always consists of the same basic formula: a thinner such as water or oil, a binder such as Casein, Glue or Egg, and a “load” such as chalk and/or pigment. In addition to these basics, other ingredients may be added like “siccatives” to accelerate drying or a preservative such as Clove Oil.” – This American company is called The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co., Inc., and it sells milk paints, which is a paint made by combining a milk protein (casein) with lime (calcium) and earth pigments. This is a very traditional and ancient method of creating paint. The paint is shipped in solid form that you mix with water upon use. It’s important not to mix more than you need, as the paint will only stay good for a few days in the fridge. Once it is dry, it acts as normal paint. This stuff is really good for period furniture and antiquing. They also sell SafePaint, made for walls. – Real Milk Paints is another milk paint company. They also sell their products in powder form, as well as paint stripper, oil for wood finishing, and wax sealers. Their website has many tips and techniques for using their paint. The only place in Alberta where their paint is sold is in Lethbridge, but you can order online.

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Buying VOC-Free Paint in Edmonton

There are a few places in Edmonton that sell VOC-free “eco” paint. Benjamin Moore paints has twelve locations across Edmonton and surrounding area, and they carry a line of paint with the “Green Promise.” These paints are low- to-zero VOC, and claim to “meet and exceed the strictest industry standards” in terms of environmentally friendly products. There are seven series of paint that carry the Green Promise: Aura®, Aura Bath and Spa®, Benjamin Moore Natura®, Ben®, Waterborne Ceiling Paint, and WB Eco Spec®. More information can be found at

   Places like Rona and Home Depot also sell small selections of environmentally conscious paint. Rona has store-brand Recycled paint and Eco paint, and it  has a recycling program for paint (as well as light bulbs, power tools, and batteries) where you can drop off unused paint at participating stores to be either properly disposed of, used for energy (in the case of oil paints), or recycled into new paint that is sold under the Rona’s ECO label. Rona also carries also carries C-I-L “Eco-Colour,” which is a VOC-free acrylic paint.

More information can be found here:

   Home Depot has an “Eco Options” guide which indicates “a better choice for the environment.” Behr Premium paint and Martha Stewart Living paint, as well as C-I-L Naturaliving paint all fall under the Eco Options.

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Volatile Organic Compounds

   The big acronym on everybody’s lips when it comes to paint is “VOC.” VOC stands for a Volatile Organic Compound. VOCs are a variety of chemicals which are emitted in gaseous form off of solids or liquids. This is often called “off-gassing.” VOCs are often much worse indoors than outdoors due to lack of ventilation, and can cause short- and long- term health problems. Paint is especially bad for emitting VOCs, so it’s important to look for low-VOC or VOC-free paint. If you must use a paint that has potential to off-gas, make sure to only buy as much as you need (so the extra paint doesn’t continue to harm) and use it in a very well-ventilated place– like outdoors!


More information about VOCs, their ill health effects, and common VOCs (like formaldehyde) can be found here: – this is a local post about the importance of having low-VOC paints in the home. It points out that non-VOC paints use water as a base instead of oil, which is obviously much healthier. This can be applied to the stage as well!

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