How does a Liquitex paint get made? To take an idea from concept to art store involves many different people, with many different skills. Here's an insight into the journey.
Step 1. The big idea
A collaborative team of artists, product development specialists and acrylics chemists work together on new concepts for formulations, formats, colors and supporting tools. This takes place in our London head office.
Step 2. Experimentation & formulation
The chemists get to work at our in-house lab to turn the idea into reality. They draw on their decades of experience in acrylic technology and collaborate with materials suppliers to source the finest ingredients. A project can take anything from weeks to years to complete, depending on the brief and complexity: our new Acrylic Gouache took over two years to develop, to make sure it delivers intense pigmentation, high opacity and fluid viscosity across the range. When they have what they believe to be a perfect formula, the chemists put it to the test. A suite of in-house testing technologies is at their disposal - a restricted access room full of machines examining all aspects of the innovation, from light-fastness to opacity, stability and color intensity.
Step 3. Packaging development
Once a new formulation is in process in the lab, it’s time to call in our in-house packaging technologists. They’re always looking to improve usability for you in the studio, so they work closely with our in-house artists to find the right format. For our new Soft Body and Acrylic Gouache bottles, we asked a big group of artists to sketch out their dream packaging as our starting point, before playing with a range of shapes and materials. The technologists then commission prototypes and torture test them with artists to make sure they’re fit for purpose. Functionality is king here and we're always looking to innovate. In 1980 we were the first company to change our tubes from pure metal to lightweight glaminate (a technology commonly used in the cosmetic industry) to stop the problem of tubes corroding and cracking with use. Liquitex packaging needs to stand the test of time. And the reality of life in the studio.
Step 4. Test scale up
When the formulation has passed all the lab tests, it’s handed over to the Research & Development team at one of our factories to scale up. We have sites in Tianjin, China and Le Mans, France, each with their own specializations. We then start a production trial to make sure that when it’s made in bulk amounts, the formulation will deliver the same quality performance. The first batch will go through our regular testing process and the results will be used as the standard ‘recipe’ for the main production.
Step 5. Quality control
A major part of every step of the process. Our formulations are tested at every stage, put on laboratory and ‘real-life’ stability tests, examined for performance and safety. Anything that fails tests at any stage gets rejected, the issue investigated and rectified.
Step 6. Production
Ingredients and final packaging are ordered, new machines and technology in place, bulk recipes are vigorously tested and ready to go. It’s time to get it into the tube… or bottle, can, pen, sachet. Once passed by Quality Control, the finished product is sent to the warehouse. It’s now set to be ordered by art stores all across the world, and be added to your studio toolbox. Back in London, we’re working away on our next big idea.
We have a number of specialized factories around the world, all owned by our parent group, Colart. Most of our materials are made in France and China, with some elements made in Germany, UK and Italy.