Mixing Medium and How to Make Your Own

One of my readers sent me this request:

“Hi! I love your looks and it’s so much fun to try them out myself. But I was wondering, are there any alternatives to the MAC Pro Water Base Mixing Medium? Thanks!”

The answer is yes! In a nutshell, mixing medium is basically water with some glycerin, and it’s commonly used with pigments/eye shadows to make the colors more vivid (and it helps your makeup stay put too). You could also use it to make a color lighter/opaque by diluting it. I mostly use water-based mixing medium on my eyes. In many of my looks where I apply pigments wet, I’ve been using MAC Pro Water Base Mixing Medium to achieve a more vibrant effect.


If you visit a MAC Pro store or check out their products online, you will see mixing mediums with the following types of bases — water, alcohol, and gel. Let me break down the uses for these different types of base, in case you decide to purchase or already have a MAC Pro Mixing Medium:

  • Water Base – the safest base to use!
  • Alcohol Base – good for making your pigments/glitter waterproof. However, don’t use it on your face! Alcohol is extremely drying, so only use this from your neck down. Alcohol-based mixing medium is generally used for making designs on your body for photo shoots, for example.
  • Gel Base – good for applying pigments/glitter to skin. However, not for use on the eye area. This is probably the best base for adhering glitter to the rest of your face and body.

Although I love using my MAC Pro Water Base Mixing Medium, it might be inconvenient for you to purchase it since it’s only available at MAC Pro stores and on the MAC Pro website (though you can also call their toll free number and place an order too). However, there’s a cheap alternative — make your own! It’s really easy to do. You just have to mix water with glycerin, but read below to see the proportions. Here are the items that you will need and the steps to making your own homemade mixing medium!

STEP 1

You will need the following items:

  • Glycerin
  • Water
  • Empty, clean container
  • Some type of measuring device
  • Funnel (unless you’re good at pouring fluids without making a mess!)

You can purchase glycerin at your local drugstore for around $5. I purchased mine for $4.99 at CVS. I’ve also seen glycerin at Rite Aid. Look for a bottle of glycerin in the aisle with skincare items. If you can’t find it there, try the aisle with First Aid supplies (near the rubbing alcohol area). Otherwise, just ask someone. :)

For the container, I recommend the ones with the non-spray top if you’ll be using it mainly to apply pigments to your eye area like I do. I also got my container at CVS for $1.49, and I already washed it before taking this picture.

STEP 2

Remove the top of the container, and place the funnel on the opening of the container.

Ideally, your funnel will be bigger than mine, but this is the only one I could find at the moment. :)

STEP 3

The magic formula for making mixing medium is 1 part glycerin to 3 parts water.

Pour and measure the amount of glycerin that you want to use. Here I’m using 1 tablespoon of glycerin, since my container is fairly small.

Note that you should replace your homemade mixing medium about every 2 weeks since it’s only made of water and glycerin (so make them in small quantities like I’ve done here). This is different from MAC Pro Water Base Mixing Medium, because MAC’s product contains other ingredients to help preserve it.

STEP 4

Pour the glycerin into your container by way of the funnel.

STEP 5

Now measure and pour 3 parts water. Since I put 1 tablespoon of glycerin in the previous step, I put 3 tablespoons of water.

Notice the thickness of the glycerin compared to water in this picture with the one from Step 4.

STEP 6

Put the cap back on the container, and shake, shake, shake!

Try a small drop of your homemade mixing medium to the back of your hand, and see if your like the consistency. If you feel like it’s a little too thick or sticky for your liking, add more water and shake again. Keep adding water until you’ve reached a level that you like.

That’s it!

This is how my MAC Pro “Kelly Green” pigment looks like using homemade mixing medium compared to applying it dry and applying it with MAC Pro Water Base Mixing Medium:

Not too shabby! :)

Some also like to use MAC Fix+ Spray as a mixing medium, since those can be purchased at regular MAC stores as well as MAC counters in department stores, like Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdales. However, it might be better to use MAC Pro Water Base Mixing Medium or make your own instead so that your mixing medium is odorless. MAC Fix+ has a scent to it that might irritate sensitive eyes (like mine).

Have fun making and playing with your mixing medium!

44 Comments

MaddieMay 5th, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Awesome!!!! Thank you!

WyceeMay 5th, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Thanks Maddie! I’d love to see a makeup look you’ve tried from my site! :)

[…] Pat MAC Pigment in “Copper Sparkle” wet on lower lid using a sponge applicator and MAC Pro Water Base Mixing Medium (or your own homemade mixing medium). […]

[…] (applied wet on lower lid using a sponge applicator and MAC Pro Water Base Mixing Medium — click here to see how to make your own homemade mixing medium) – MAC E/S in “Deep Truth” (outer V and crease) – MAC E/S in “Naked Lunch” […]

ValereeMay 16th, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Believe it or not, I’ve often used my Bausch & Lomb ReNu multi-purpose contact lens solution, since it’s sterile and disinfectant (won’t aid in cosmetic contamination) and designed to be super-mild to your eye surface, so it’s super mild to your skin, too! LOL (^◊^)

WyceeMay 16th, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Hi Valeree! I believe it! :) Some like to use eye drops as well. Thanks for sharing!

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LollyJune 8th, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Hello from the UK Wycee!

Thanks for this- I had been looking at the MAC Pro Water-based mixing medium, however, it was expensive, and then when I found out it contains glycerine (and I couldn’t be sure whether it was Vegetable- or Animal-based Glycerine) I decided to make my own mixing medium, after seeing your recipe (I have been a committed vegetarian since I was 4 years old!).

I have only *just* bought some veg. glycerin, and am excited about giving it a go. I have to say, I actually think your mixing medium effect in the photo looks much better than the MAC one!

I have a number of questions-

1) I know that the mixing medium can be used for adhering MAC glitter to the face, do you mix the glitter with the medium first (I’m guessing it is this way), rather than apply the medium then apply glitter over the top?

2) Can you get a good effect mixing glitter, eyeshadow, & mixing medium, or would you apply mixing medium plus eyeshadow, then a layer of glitter?

3) What do you use to mix the medium and eyeshadow in? A small palette?

4) Can you get a good effect using the mixing medium and a powder blush?

5) Not related to mixing medium, but nonetheless, I need help! I bought some make-up brush cleaner. The bottle is relatively small and the cleaner is fairly expensive. I assume you use a brush cleaner, too. What do you use as a container to clean the brush in? Too big a container and the cleaner is wasted, too small a container and the larger brushes won’t fit. I had thought about using the lid of the brush cleaner container, but I’m guessing using the lid isn’t a great idea because of contamination…

…Sorry for all the questions, but I’m just getting into more pro- ways of applying make-up (and more importantly, making it stay where it should!), previously I was basically just a fingers-applicator kinda girl! Looking forward to experimenting.

Hope you can help :-)

WyceeJune 9th, 2010 at 12:33 am

Hi from California Lolly! :)

That’s a lot of questions you’ve got there! I’ve been planning to write a new Technique post about how to use mixing medium, so I want to save your questions to answer in that post when I work on it — that way I can be a little more detailed than answering in a comment and maybe other people will benefit from it as well. In the meantime, if you enter your e-mail address in the box on the right (you’ll see it if you scroll up) you’ll get an e-mail with my new posts (maximum of one e-mail per day).

Welcome to my site!

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NatalieJuly 28th, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Hi Wycee,

I just left CVS and bought the same exact glycerin and container (only mine is pink) as you!!
You have inspired me to delve deeper for my love for makeup, and I can’t wait to try my homemade mixing medium with the 2 pigments that I bought last night from MAC!!!

You are amazing!!!

WyceeJuly 28th, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Awww thanks Natalie! I’m so excited for you! :)

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BarbieJanuary 18th, 2011 at 9:17 pm

hey wycee
love your website it is really well set out and is very useful
awesome work

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MelesseSeptember 5th, 2011 at 1:20 am

Hi!

I’ve been enjoying your site today, and I think it’s great! {Found it from youtube surfing — somehow I got from a vid on ‘coffee filter roses’ to vids on hair styles. :^) }

I saw on another post that you recommend tossing/replacing this mixing medium every 2 weeks since you don’t have preservatives in it. Some advice from my area of expertise* in exchange, if you want:
– You could extend that to a month if you keep the medium in the fridge.
– It would be super easy (& cheap!) to add a wee bit of preservative to the medium and then be able to use it for months unrefrigerated. The one I used in my lotions was Phenonip — a straightforward .5-1.0% of the total weight of whatever you’re making that needs a preservative.

A supplier I’d recommend using to getsome preserative is Brambleberry** at (http://www.brambleberry.com/Phenonip-P4038.aspx) . Plus it looks like they’ve started to sell DIY mineral makeup kits & supplies. Perhaps a next step for a make-up lovin’ lady as yourself? :^)

I hope you find this useful!

Melesse

* – Once upon a time I ran a small soapmaking business & made lotions that needed preservatives in order for me to sell them.
** – I’m not associated with BB in any way other than they used to be one of my main suppliers & they were awesome to do business with.

WyceeSeptember 7th, 2011 at 10:49 am

Hi Melesse! Thanks for sharing that info! :)

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Crystal StarrJanuary 21st, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Wycee you are amazing!!!! I read this the other day on pintrest & had to try it. I got glycerin today & just mixed it. I tried & WOW. I had bought a bunch of avon eye shadows a few months ago & was VERY disappointed with them, but with this you can actually see the colors! I will never by Avon again but you have saved me from wasting all that money! THANK YOU so much xoxo :D

NicoletteJanuary 23rd, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I found this on Pinterest and tried it today…It was awesome! Thank you for all your ideas!!!

WyceeJanuary 24th, 2012 at 10:53 am

Hi Crystal Starr,

Thanks! So happy to hear that! :)

WyceeJanuary 24th, 2012 at 10:54 am

Thanks Nicolette! :)

AlexMarch 13th, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Great step by step instructions! thank you so much for sharing, im going to buy the stuff to make mine IMMEDIATELY! :)

MarianaMarch 20th, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Thanks a lot for this tip! I’ve tried it and it does work.

WyceeMarch 21st, 2012 at 12:55 am

You’re welcome, Mariana! I’m happy you got to try it out! :)

RachelAugust 4th, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Sweet! This tutorial is exactly what I’ve been looking for… thank you very much! I hope it works like Illamasqua’s sealing gel to make eyeshadow into eyeliners, because I don’t want to pay that much/have it shipped from the UK. ^_^

WyceeAugust 9th, 2012 at 10:04 pm

You’re welcome, Rachel! :)

SyreneOctober 2nd, 2012 at 11:00 am

Great tips, just what I was looking for. would you say i could sub vegetable glycerin for the regular glycerin?

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