paintball splattered on the wall

What Are Paintballs Made Of – A Paintballer HQ Guide

Paintball gained notoriety sometime around the late 1980's as a legitimate sport. It has changed a lot since then and no piece of equipment has changed more than the paintball.  The creator of the paintball was Charles Nelson, a well-known inventor in his time. Paintballs were not used for sport during this period. Forestry engineers used them to smear trees and ranchers used them to keep track of cattle. Once better inventions became available, the paintball was forgotten until around 1989. This is the year the sport of paintball began to gain a bit of traction. Let us dig deeper to answer the question: What are paintballs made of?

The Elements of a Paintball 

To this present day in time, most people think paintballs contain actual paint in them. It makes sense since the word "paint" is in its name but they are incorrect. Though they were made with paint in the past, modern-day paintballs do not contain paint. Our society is now very aware of how important it is to take care of the environment. There would be a massive backlash if real paint was an ingredient since it is hard to clean off trees. Because of this, current paintballs are easy to clean with water and are biodegradable. What is in a paintball? Below are the ingredients used to make a paintball:

what are paintballs made of
  • Iodine
  • Calcium
  • Food Coloring
  • Ethylene glycerol
  • Mineral Oils

With these ingredients, the liquid looks and feels like paint without being toxic. These are not the exact substances used to create a paintball. The others are secret and only the manufacturers know the recipe. Now that we have the liquid aspect covered, let’s talk about the part that shapes the ball.

The Exterior Shell

Most fans of the sport are not aware that in the past, paintballs were produced by pharmaceutical companies. They were already using the capsule method to make pills so it made sense. The same steps they used to manufacture liquid pills were used to make paintballs.

Nelsons original idea was to use glass for the outer shell. When paintball became a sport, this was not a good option safety wise. This is why they went with a gelatin-based shell so players wouldn't get hurt during games. It is still used to this day by players all over the world with no negative effects on the environment.

How Are Paintballs Made?

The exact steps used to make a paintball are a trade secret and manufacturers refuse to expose it. Also, it doesn't help that the process can be quite scientific and difficult to grasp by most when it comes to the making of paintball paint.

The first step is to have the contraption create the two gelatin halves of the paintball. One of the halves gets filled with the liquid mixture we described at the top of the article. Once that that happens, the two pieces get sealed together into one full-sized paintball.

At this point, the gelatin material of the paintball is quite hot. Heat is used to seal them together but are not in the exact shape they need to be in. While they are still toasty and malleable, they get thrown into something called a tumbling drum. This drum gets spun and turned as fast as possible. This step allows the paintballs to form the ideal circular shape for shooting. Now they are no longer hot and remain in their current shape. If this process doesn't get done with precision, shots will not be as accurate as needed.

The final phase of making a paintball is to allow them to dry up before they are ready to get packaged. How long this step takes is a bit of a mystery that only the top brands know. This along with their secret blueprint will never be revealed to the public. But at this point, the paintballs are ready for use on the field.

Misconceptions About Paintballs

The first myth has to do with players who that think it is okay to put paintballs in their freezer. Paintballs freeze at a remarkable -15 degrees Celsius so they will not freeze in your fridge. The real problem is that they will lose their shape and you will not be able to use them for shooting. It would be difficult to even shoot an opponent standing right in front of you at this point. You will then have to buy new paintballs and lose more money so don't even try this.

Another misconception is when people think they can wear nice clothes because the paintballs are water soluble. Don't think like these people. Wear old clothes that are tough to rip and that you don't care about. After reading this article, we hope that you see how safe paintballs are and how little harm they do to our planet. The only thing that should be on your mind when you are out there is having fun.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you eat paintballs?

Although they used to be toxic when they were made with real paint, they are safe to eat now. If paintballs are toxic, no one in their right mind would allow you to play the sport. Although you could eat them and be fine, we still recommend you do not do that.

Are Paintballs Toxic To Dogs?

It could definitely be toxic for dogs. My best advice for you would be to get him to a vet as soon as you find out your dog has eaten it. It can be fatal in this case.

Are Paintballs Biodegradable?

They are and can be easily cleaned from just about anything it splatters on. No matter how many you fire off, no damage will be done to the environment. 

Do Paintballs Go Bad?

If you keep them in a place that is cool and only take them out when you need them, they should last for about a year. If you don't they will become soft and mushy which means they are useless and cannot be used anymore.


About the Author Kyle Varella

Kyle is a proud father of 3 who has been involved in the sport of paintball for the last 10 years. He plays competitively 4 times a year and loves to spend his spare time of the field teaching others about the sport that has changed his life.

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