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                         TECHNICAL PAPER # 66
                      UNDERSTANDING SMALL-SCALE
                          PAINT PRODUCTION
                          Philip Heiberger
                         Technical Reviewer
                            Patrick Raney
                             Published By
                   1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 500    
                     Arlington, Virginia 22209 USA
                Tel:  703/276-1800 * Fax:   703/243-1865
               Understanding Small-Scale Paint Production
                           ISBN: 0-86619-305-7
               [C] 1989, Volunteers in Technical Assistance
This paper is one of a series published by Volunteers in Technical
Assistance to provide an introduction to specific state-of-the-art
technologies of interest to people in developing countries.
The papers are intended to be used as guidelines to help
people choose technologies that are suitable to their situations.
They are not intended to provide construction or implementation
details.  People are urged to contact VITA or a similar organization
for further information and technical assistance if they
find that a particular technology seems to meet their needs.
The papers in the series were written, reviewed, and illustrated
almost entirely by VITA Volunteer technical experts on a purely
voluntary basis.  Some 500 volunteers were involved in the production
of the first 100 titles issued, contributing approximately
5,000 hours of their time.  VITA staff included Patrice Matthews
handling production, and Margaret Crouch as project manager.
The author of this paper Dr. Philip Heiberger spent most of his
working years with Dupont developing and utilizing resins,
paints, adhesives, and allied chemicals.   On retirement, he became
active in on-site assistance of companies in developing countries.
The reviewer Patrick Raney is the President of Federal Testing
Laboratories in Seattle, Washington.   He has been at Federal
Testing Laboratories for over 20 years.   His experience ranges
from electroplating processes to paints and coatings.   He is
involved in experimental hydroponic operations and aided VITA
with the technical paper on hydroponics.
VITA is a private, nonprofit organization that supports people
working on technical problems in developing countries.   VITA
offers information and assistance aimed at helping individuals
and groups to select and implement technologies appropriate to
their situations.  VITA maintains an international Inquiry Service,
a specialized documentation center, and a computerized
roster of volunteer technical consultants; manages long-term
field projects; and published a variety of technical manuals and
                 by VITA Volunteer Philip Heiberger
Since the dawn of civilization, all societies have used color to
enhance the appearance of their buildings, sculptures, vehicles,
interiors, pottery, weapons, and clothing.   Decorative paints have
always been costly luxuries; until the twentieth century they
were laboriously produced by craftsmen in small quantities.
Recent recognition of paint's important protective properties
spurred the development of an almost infinite variety of paints
now available for nearly every decorative, manufacturing, and
maintenance use.
As paint usage and development accelerated, paint making became
more complex.  Knowledge of chemistry, process, engineering, and
quality control are now essential.   In addition, good business
skills are required to operate and manage a paint manufacturing
This paper describes how to start or expand a paint manufacturing
facility in a nonindustrial country.   The business information can
also apply to the manufacture of number of other products, printing
inks, cosmetics, glues and adhesives, textile treatments,
carpet backing, paper modifications, detergents, and insecticides.
All require similar startup considerations and technical
End Uses
What is paint?  Simply stated, paint is a fluid suspension of
finely divided pigments in a resinous solution.   Although it is
applied in a thin liquid film, it soon solidifies.   Paint has many
purposes:  to protect against weathering, corrosion, and biological
attack; to insulate against heat; to retard fires; to maintain
hygienic conditions; to control illumination; and, of
course, to beautify.  Because there are so many end uses, there is
neither a standard paint nor a standard paint plant. Each location
has unique sets of customers, purposes, and conditions for
paint use that must be considered in plans for small-scale paint
According to their end use, paints can be classified into three
groups, as follows:
Trade-sales or decorator paints are usually packaged in small
containers.  These paints, which air dry, are characterized by
excellent storage stability (shelf life) and are sold in a wide
variety of colors.  Normally applied by brushing or rolling,
paints in this category include house, interior wall, trim,
floor, furniture, barn and roof, and metal-decorative paints.
Maintenance and marine paints or finishes protect commercial and
public property against corrosion, weathering, chemical, or
biological deterioration.  They are brushing or spray paints made
with air-drying or chemically catalyzed resins to provide maximum
resistance to sunlight, high humidities, extreme temperatures,
and/or harmful industrial atmospheres.   Antifouling paints for
ship bottoms contain leachable toxic compounds to inhibit marine
growth.  Special formulations are required to protect and decorate
a huge variety of structures, including office buildings,
schools, chain stores, government buildings, military installations,
bakeries, dairies, breweries, industrial plants, utilities,
railway cars, surface or air transportation fleets, ships,
shipyards, barges, warehouses, and highway pavements.
Industrial finishes are ordinarily used in large-scale applications
where speed of handling is important and special protective
properties are required.  Industrial finishes include coatings for
automobiles, refrigerators, washing machines, machinery, prefabricated
houses, office and home equipment, venetian blinds,
weapons, military vehicles, furniture, cabinets, wire and cable,
textile printing, and rug backings.   Drying is usually carried out
in heated tunnels or ovens with well-designed ventilation systems.
The world-wide paint business is estimated to be a US$20 billion
industry (estimated 1989 prices), growing at the rate of approximately
3 percent per year with an approximate mix of
              Trade-Sales Paints            - 40%
              Maintenance and Marine Paints - 20%
              Industrial Paints             - 40%
What is paint made of?  Paints generally consist of pigments and
vehicles (binders) dissolved or dispersed in suitable solvents.
Color and opacity are provided by the pigments.   Many formulations
also require non-opaque pigments, often called inerts or fillers.
Since raw materials are invariably imported, as much as 90 percent
of the costs in making paint are the delivered costs of the
raw materials.
Large companies can make varnishes, alkyds, and polyvinyl acetate
emulsions. Usually, the large, multinational chemical producers
or their licensees sell pigments, solvents, and vehicles to paint
Here are the main classes of raw materials used in paint production:
Solution Vehicles
In solution paints, the vehicle is dissolved in a solvent to
form a clear, viscous solution.   The pigment is then dispersed
directly into the solution.  As the paint dries, the solidified
vehicle binds the pigment.  Vehicles of this category include
drying oils, varnishes, synthetic resins, shellacs, cellulosics,
and vinyl polymers.  Such natural products as the vegetable and
marine oils obtained from the seeds or nuts of certain plants and
trees or from a few species of fish usually have weaknesses,
including relatively slow drying rates, production of soft films,
and lack of uniformity.
To overcome these deficiencies, modifications with hard resins
have been made.  Oleoresinous varnishes are combinations of drying
oils and hard resins that are "cooked" under   specified conditions.
A most important category of oil-modified synthetic resin
is the alkyd, a chemical blend of polyhydric alcohols, phthalic
anhydride, and one or more oils.   Alkyds are used today in nearly
all solvent-based paints.  Such lacquer resins as nitrocellulose
or shellac are solvent-soluble materials capable of drying rapidly
to hard films upon evaporation of the solvent.
In all paints, various reagents are used in small amounts for
special effects.  Catalysts (driers) accelerate the rate of conversion
from the liquid to the solid state.   Surface-active agents
may assist pigment dispersion, improve brushing, or maintain
color uniformity.  Fungicides, defoamers, waxes, buffers, or
antiskinning agents are often required.
Dispersion Vehicles
In another type of vehicle, the resins are dispersed in a liquid
as tiny, spherical, insoluble particles.   Aqueous dispersions
known as latexes (or polymer emulsions) are in widespread use.
Since the pigment and vehicle of the latex paint cannot be mixed
with water, each component must be separately dispersed before
combining with the other.
When the water evaporates, discrete particles of pigment and
resin remain behind.  Film formation occurs by fusion of the
plastic particles surrounding the pigment particles.
The pigments for latex paints are the same as those used in
conventional solution paints.   The desirable features of latex
paints--rapid drying, ease of application, resistance to alkalinity,
good durablilty, nontoxicity, absence of fume hazard, applicability
to damp surfaces, and low odor--are characteristics of
the latex vehicle.  Because of low costs and a widespread but
incorrect belief that polyvinyl acetate (PVA) emulsions are easy
to make and use, PVA is often used for making trade-sales paints.
Latexes are sensitive to extremes in temperature, to the influence
of electrolytes (distilled or deionized water must be
used), to changes in acidity or alkalinity, and to solvent additions.
These can cause serious manufacturing problems.   Customers
are often disappointed with paints that have not been subjected
to strict laboratory testing.   With careful controls and faithful
adherence to recipes, the problems can be managed.
Solvents are volatile liquids capable of dissolving or dispersing
the film-forming components (vehicle, pigment, additives) of
paint to application consistency. Solvents are usually blends.
The solvents in general use include terpenes, hydrocarbons (aromatic
and aliphatic), oxygenated solvents, and water.
Solvents are usually quite flammable; the vapors are also explosive,
toxic, and air polluting.  Local laws frequently limit the
use of certain solvents.  Because of this, water-based paints are
often favored.
Pigments are finely divided and insoluble; they are white,
colored, or metallic powders obtained from naturally occurring
minerals.  Their chemical nature may vary from simple inorganic
oxides to complex organic molecules.
Although pigments are used primarily to provide color and opacity,
they influence many other paint properties.   Different pigments
may affect chemical reactivity, drying rate, ultraviolet
absorption, and ease of application.
The ratio of pigment to vehicle depends on the types of both
that are used, as well as on the desired end use for the paint.
Gloss paints and enamels contain relatively low concentrations of
pigment; flat or matte finish paints and primers are highly
loaded with pigments.  In general, pigments enhance the hardness
and firmness of coatings.  Some pigments are easily wetted by the
vehicle, while others are not.   A poorly wetted pigment will
produce paints that are less compact and more permeable to water.
The protective and anticorrosive properties of paint are affected
by the pigment and the vehicle.
Pigments are often classified by color, for example:
Whites - titanium dioxides and the zinc oxides.
Extenders - barytes, talcs, clays, chalks, and silicas.
Yellows - chromes, ferrites, ochres, siennas, and organics.
Blues - ultramarines, irons, phthalocyanines, and organics.
Greens - chromes, chromiums, phthalocyanines, and organics.
Reds - iron oxides, red leads, and organics.
Browns - umbers, siennas, and iron oxides.
Black - carbon, lampblack, graphite, iron black, and organics.
Metallics - aluminum, copper, zinc, and alloys.
A typical paint plant uses many pigments, often several from
each category.  Pigments are usually supplied in paper bags, which
upon emptying, cause excessive dusting.   The dust is hazardous to
health and explosive.  Methods of handling are often regulated by
local laws.  Pigments often become moist and their characteristics
are changed.  Dry storage is a necessity.
Paint manufacture is a sequence of separate operations: raw-materials
storage, mixing, dispersing, color matching, testing,
packaging, and shipment.  The technologies involved are the same
for both large and small companies; batch size and total volume
determine the specific equipment needed.
First, pigments are usually added to the vehicle by blending the
ingredients in a paste mixer.   The paste that is formed consists
of poorly mixed aggregates of pigment and vehicle; this paste is
brought to a specified fineness and uniformity by using an appropriate
mill.  "Grinding" or shearing wets the individual pigment
particles with the liquid vehicle and further reduces the size of
the pigment aggregates.  For emulsion paints, such as the PVAs,
the pigments must be dispersed separately in a mixture of
surface-active agents and hydrophilic gums.
The paste is usually further blended with vehicle, driers, fungicides,
and other additives.  It is then tinted with colored dispersions
to match a desired color standard, tested, adjusted for
quality, and, when satisfactory, packaged and shipped.
All paints must be screened to remove lumps.   Often the bulk paint
is screened when the sales packages are filled.   In a small plant,
filling is likely to be a labor-intensive process performed by
A company can be a successful marketer of paints without having
manufacturing facilities.  The critical factors are good technical
service and timely distribution.   The company must provide a
unique product, teach the customer how to use the product, and
guarantee uniformity and performance.   Success requires high
competence in general management, technical service, warehouse
management, distribution, and packaging.
Until all of the technical skills needed for manufacture are
available, a paint business should evolve and grow, rather than
start as a turnkey plant.  Deliberate growth is especially recommended
because the product mix, the raw material base, the trading
partners, and the skilled labor pool are different in each
location and must be thoroughly understood before complete manufacture
is attempted.
Initially, one enters the paint business as a distributor or as a
holder of a license from a foreign company.   Later, when the cost
of importing finished products has grown, it may be prudent to
consider local manufacture.  The change is often encouraged by
government through its tax policies, and usually occurs when the
costs of finished goods approximates the higher costs of imported
raw materials and the lower local labor costs.   To determine the
best time for this change, estimate that 50 percent of the costs
of imported material is due to the high labor costs in the industrial
At this point, it is advisable that all concerned persons, the
local entrepreneurs, consultant (see below), and appropriate
government authorities, together develop a business plan.  They
should determine the level and timing for evolving a robust paint
manufacturing operation.
Even a small operation will easily require an initial investment
well over $100,000:
               Plant equipment .................$30,000
               Shop equipment ...................10,000
               Fire and safety equipment .........5,000
               Laboratory supplies ..............10,000
               Land ............................... ?
               Buildings .......................... ?
               office furnishings and supplies..... ?
               Miscellaneous ...................... ?
Local governments often assist by providing free land, temporary
tax relief, venture capital, guaranteed purchase commitments,
etc.  Licensors may provide technical assistance and some international
agencies may give monetary and technical assistance.   All
these aids must be considered in the business plan.
The next step is to recruit critical personnel.   At this stage,
these persons are the entrepreneur, the business manager, and the
technical manager. Because success strongly depends on technical
experience that even the technical manager may lack, a new business
needs the services of an experienced consultant.
The first person to be recruited or identified is the entrepreneur.
Because the paint business is not a capital intensive
industry, it is easily entered with limited facilities and with
limited resources.  As a result, many naive or undercapitalized
entrepreneurs, who failed to accept or recognize the complexity
of the business or underestimated the difficulties of production,
have lost their investment.
The entrepreneur usually has access to capital, knows the local
business environment, and is influential in government circles.
Selection of the paint business implies particular awareness of
the paint needs of the country.   The entrepreneur is probably on
intimate terms with many of those involved in the building,
manufacturing, construction, and transportation industries; and
with many of the officials involved in the military and services
sectors of the government.
The business manager manages the cost accounting, marketing, and
distribution functions, and the technical manager, an experienced
and scientifically trained individual, manages the laboratory,
purchasing, and manufacturing operations.
No matter how competent the business management may be, it is
necessary, from the very beginning, to have a technical manager
with strong expertise.  The business manager should be a senior
person capable of maintaining full control of the technical
functions even when there is pressure from higher authority to
alter a product.  In areas where raw materials are expensive or
hard to come by, there is often pressure to make substitutions
that could prove disastrous.   Substitutions may be made, if technically
reasonable and laboratory tested.   As the business grows,
these responsibilities are shared and delegated.
In the paint industry, the purchasing function requires technical
decisions.  Because raw materials must be imported, the cost of
these materials influences the cost of the paint.   Labor, warehousing,
distribution, packaging, selling expenses, and related
costs may account for less than 10 percent of the final product.
Therefore, the purchasing function is critical to success.  It is
a technical function because substitutions are frequently made,
standards must be set and maintained, schedules must be coordinated
with manufacturing, and formulas must be adjusted to utilize
available raw materials. For these reasons, purchasing is
among the responsibilities of the technical manager.
In anticipation of later growth, a larger land tract should be
obtained than is needed immediately.   The site should be in a
manufacturing zone with good access to transportation facilities,
water, and utilities.  It should be distant from any residential
area.  All structures on the site should be isolated and expandable.
Needed will be a manufacturing area, an enclosed warehouse,
an office and laboratory building, and a solvent storage area.
Hazardous materials should be stored underground and the water
supply should be adequate for extinguishing fires.
Initial power requirements should be capable of at least a ten-fold
expansion.  Water requirements should also include an emergency
supply for fire control.
There is no performance difference between a large company's
expensive, high-capacity, high-speed mixer and a small company's
200-liter (L) steel drum equipped with a portable mixer.  Dedicated,
expensive equipment is usually justified only when labor
costs are high and production schedules are heavy and inflexible.
A company should buy the equipment that is most readily available
and affordable.  It then becomes crucial to operate it as skillfully
as possible.  Equipment is readily available through the new
or used machinery markets.
Rarely will a new company require tanks larger than 1,200 L.
Several 200-L steel drums, one or two 400-L tanks, and perhaps a
1,200-L tank will be adequate for a startup.   Two or three portable
propeller mixers and one heavy-duty paddle mixer should
suffice.  For   trade sales, a pebble mill and a vertical hybrid
ball mill should be adequate.   If industrial gloss finishes are to
be made, a small 3-roll mill might be included.   High-viscosity
paints may require pressure or centrifugal filtration devices.
A fallacy that pervades the paint industry is that one can buy
technology or transplant a recipe from one country to another.
This may work if the raw materials never vary, if the equipment
is identical, and if the customer's application equipment is
identical to that of the original user.   Since raw materials do
vary, processes are modified, and users take liberties with the
application procedures, the paint manufacturer must be able to
modify each product and adapt it for local use.
Standards with tolerances are specified for all categories of
paint.  In trade-sales products, the tolerances are broader than
for industrial and maintenance products.   For example, a slightly
off-colored white house paint may be acceptable, but a slightly
off-colored automotive paint is not.   A slightly more or less
viscous wall paint can be managed at the time of application, but
even a slight departure from the required viscosity of a spray
enamel can close down an assembly plant.
Standardization is the key to business survival; every paint
must be tested and warranted by the paint manufacturer to meet
the specifications established by the supplier and the customer.
But raw materials are never uniform; the dispersion process is
variable, often unreliable; and color matching is erratic.  This
means that every batch of paint, whether imported or manufactured
locally, has to be tested and approved or modified to meet established
standards.  Standards may include such variables as color,
viscosity, solids, gloss, opacity, drying time, adhesion, and
corrosion resistance.
To control product quality, a laboratory is needed, appropriately
equipped, and run by trained people.   No paint manufacturer, no
matter how small, can function without a laboratory.   It is
equipped with adequate instruments and adequate application
facilities, (e.g., spray guns, spray booths, dip tanks, brushes,
etc.), to test both incoming raw materials and outgoing finished
products. Required equipment may include viscometers, balances
and scales, colorimeters, glossmeters, spray equipment, ovens,
laboratory glassware, office equipment, and calculators.  There
must be employees capable of using these tools and interpreting
the results, as well as someone (initially, the technical
manager) capable of hiring, training, and managing them.
The reports of the laboratory must be objective and accurate. If
specifications of a product are not met, the batch must be withheld
from the market until the marketing staff determines an
appropriate disposition.  For example, a slightly too-fluid product
might be utilized by adjusting the spray pressure; or a
too-slow baking enamel could be adapted by using a higher stove
temperature.  Since these changes must be made by the customer,
the circumstances causing the deviation are discussed and an
acceptance negotiated.
One of the most important duties of the technical manager is to
recruit, train, and develop technical specialists.   Even small-scale
paint production eventually requires people with the following
technical skills:
Formulators - one or more for each industry served.   Formulators
should be personally acceptable to the customer's technical
staff.  Formulators must work closely with customer's staff and
equipment in order to develop and adapt products needed by them.
In the industrial sector, in particular, the relationship must be
close and comfortable. Often the formulator develops into a
technical service representative, industry trouble shooter, or
new-product innovator.
Laboratory analysts - for raw materials, in-process, and quality
control.  About 90 percent of the control problems can be resolved
by thoroughly knowing the raw material literature.   Laboratory
personnel should be able to read with comfort English, German,
French, or Spanish.
Dispersion specialists - to develop pastes and supervise dispersion
operations.  Dispersion is the least reproducible process in
the paint industry.  Batch to batch variations in dispersion can
affect viscosity, opacity, gloss, color, color strength, and
porosity.  Variations cannot be eliminated, but they can be minimized
by attention to detail, by adherence to rigid manufacturing
standards, and by appropriate adjustments.
Color shader - to supervise all color matching operations
Purchasing specialist - to maintain inventory, schedule
production, assist formulators
Librarian - to maintain records, manage literature files.  A major
source of technical information is the supplier's literature.
Raw-material suppliers provide brochures, handbooks, catalogues,
suggested starting recipes, problem resolution hints, and the
like.  These should be read and understood, and filed for frequent
and easy reference.
Plant engineer - to design, specify, and maintain equipment and
manage fire control and accident prevention programs.
In addition to managers and professionals, the following skilled
employees are needed: warehouse supervisor, paint manufacturing
foremen, filling-line foremen, chief mechanic, chief electrician,
fire chief, and first-aid technician.   Semiskilled personnel
include dispersion operators, assistant shift foremen, and (if
required) cook.  Other employees include mixers, fillers, warehousemen,
janitorial staff, loaders, housekeepers, and kitchen
help if required.
Because paint manufacturing is a hazardous undertaking, all
concerned must be aware of the fire, safety, and health hazards
involved in paint making.  Solvent and resin solutions are toxic
as well as flammable. Mixing and dispersion processes generate
static electricity, which often causes fires and/or explosions.
Appropriate fire-fighting equipment must he made available,
strategically placed, maintained, with employees trained in its
use.  Pigment handling is dangerous, pigments are dusty, and dusts
are often explosive.  Employees must be trained to carry out all
tasks safely without jeopardizing themselves or others.
Paint is a luxury item that has critical users with requirements
that differ from place to place.   In countries where labor costs
are high, trade-sales products must have the properties of easy
brushing, high hiding, and extreme durability.   Elsewhere, color
and appearance are the main criteria.   It would be too costly to
duplicate the first-named properties where labor cost is not a
critical factor.  In addition, paints must be formulated for local
conditions: climate, color preferences, materials and labor
Maintenance and marine finishes must meet international standards.
A few multinational firms distribute them throughout the
world.  Industrial finishes are designed for specific end uses.
The users have modern application equipment and painting is an
integral part of the manufacturing process.   Most industrial
finishes are imported, but a local paint company that has acquired
market and technical experience can consider making industrial
finishes to given specifications.
Raw materials are rarely manufactured in nonindustrial countries
because the manufacture of pigments, solvents, and resins requires
complex, capital-intensive operations.   Thus, it is most
often the large, multinational chemical producers that sell these
materials to paint manufacturers.   Some intermediates (vegetable
oils, varnishes, alkyds, polyvinylacetate (PVA) emulsions) can be
made in smaller plants.  Additives are used in small amounts, but
they are proprietary and are bought from the manufacturers.
Raw-material suppliers are an important source of information.
They provide formulas and technical assistance on the use of
their products.  Even so, products claimed to be "easy to use"
(e.g., PVA emulsions) can be misused.
Multinational companies distribute their products widely and have
agents in many countries.  It is always best to work with the
local agents.  Because packaging and transportation are major cost
factors, it is advisable to buy from companies located so that
they can ship over short distances.
Sales Channels and Methods
Trade-sales paint outlets may be independent merchants or company-controlled
shops.   Sales channels thus must be selected with
adequate market knowledge.  New products can be promoted through
radio, TV, newspaper advertisements, special offers, or locally
appropriate means.  Painting contractors should be directly approached.
It is necessary to be part of the local business network
to get the best results.
Maintenance-paint sales usually begin with social contacts. When
accord has been reached, the technical people of both the supplier
and the customer together sort out details and initiate a
development and testing program.   The paint company may need to
import or license the product until a volume or skill level is
reached to justify local manufacture.
In the industrial market, one deals directly with key executives
of the manufacturing facility.   Informal contacts often help key
persons of the country or region to gain confidence in the entrepreneurs'
manufacturing efforts, thus increasing sales.
Geographic Extent of Market
Sales may be limited to one country, a region or a large city
that is both a population and an industrial center.   If there is
more than one city, each may require different marketing approaches.
For example, paints for coastal areas differ from
paints used at high altitudes.   Satellite plants or local warehouses
may be advisable, depending on labor conditions.
Imported trade-sales paints or locally repackaged, imported, bulk
paints may compete with locally manufactured products.   Multinational
firms may establish local subsidiaries, offering them a
guaranteed source of raw materials and competent technical backup.
Their strengths are uniformity and reliability, but not
versatility.  Local entrepreneurs have the advantages of local
contacts, lower labor costs, and a more intimate understanding of
local needs.  It is in the trade-sales area that local manufacturers
have the best chance to meet foreign competition.
Market Capacity
In many countries only a few people can afford paintable homes
and purchase manufactured goods.   However, because nearly all
governments seek to improve general living standards, paint
manufacture is a potential growth industry.   As an example, the
factory's business plan may assume (from the best available data)
that two percent of the population are paint consumers and that
in five years another two percent will become users; thus usage
will double in five years.
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