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!


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.


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. :)


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.


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


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.


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!

May 5th, 2010 in Techniques | Share