You’re streaking through the paintball field. Ducking, weaving, and rolling so as to avoid being hit. The feelings the game elicits out of you are beyond description, all you know is that you love the game. But there is one thing you don’t know and would love to know. It’s probably been on your mind for some time now – “What are paintballs made of?”

Sure it’s not a concern that can stop the game, but you being one who loves to know as much as you can about your favorite sport can’t help but wonder. Besides, once in a while the paint may find itself in your mouth and knowing what you have ingested is always a good thing, right?

Well, my friend, you have happened upon the right web page as I am here to give you the answer you are looking for. Hopefully, it will be as colorful as the subject matter.

What are Paintballs Made Of? – The Colorful Truth

plenty of paint balls on color green

Initially, paintballs were made from unsafe materials like thin glass for the shell and toxic dyes for the fill. But that was mostly when they were used to mark things and not being projected at other human beings as a sport. Today’s paintballs are very safe both for the player and the environment.


Let’s dissect your paintball and see what it really is, shall we? You’ll probably be surprised when you discover what your favorite missile is made of.

The Shell – Just another Capsule

paintball shell

If you have ever taken supplements or liquid capsules, you have ingested a paintball. No, not really but the shells of the 2 are made from exactly the same material. That is why, initially, paintballs were made by pharmaceutical companies as they already had the materials and machinery to make paintball shells.

The shell is actually made of gelatin because of the many advantages that gelatin has in terms of paintball use. Firstly, gelatin is hard enough to carry the “paint” to its target without breaking and yet soft enough to beak upon impact.

The second reason that gelatin is the preferred capsule material is that it is “green”. It is a non-toxic and biodegradable material.

The major drawbacks of gelatin though are that it quickly absorbs water, leading your paintball to swell even after a brief contact with water.  This swelling can cause your marker to jam. On the flip side, exposure to air or the sun will cause the gelatin shell to dry out and become harder and deformed. Your paintball won’t “splat” upon impact due to the dryness and the deformities can also cause your marker to jam.

This is why it is always best to get your paintballs just before a game so as to make sure you have the perfect paintballs.

The Fill – A Pleasant Surprise

When the question of what paintballs are made of is asked, the conclusion many run to is that paintballs are made of paint. After all, that’s why they are called paintballs, isn’t it?

Well, surprisingly, the answer is no. A deeper probe is in order so as to solve this twist in the mystery.

Although most paintball manufactures keep the exact formula of their fill a secret, the basic formula of paintball “paint” is the same.

Most modern paintballs are made using water-soluble, biodegradable, and non-toxic dyes contained within polyethylene glycol. The simple ingredients for the paint are quite surprising as they include:

  • Mineral Oils
  • Calcium
  • Ethylene glycol
  • Iodine
  • Food Coloring

Yes, these are food grade ingredients that won’t cause you any harm if ingested. And they definitely don’t harm Mother Nature when they splat onto the ground. The only real victim of paintballs is your clothes if you wear your normal clothes during play.

The mineral oils, calcium, Ethylene glycol, and iodine give the mixture its “paint” texture and look while the food coloring gives it its color. So much for paintballs being made of paint.

In addition to the ethylene glycol based fill, there are also some cheap paintball variants that use an oil based fill. If at all possible, avoid them at all costs as they are not as friendly to your clothes and the environment as the ethylene glycol based ones.

What are Paintballs Made Of? Not Quite What You Thought, Huh?

So there you have it. The mystery of the paintball has been solved. I’m sure it was not something you were not expecting. But at least the good thing is that that drop of “paint” that strayed into your mouth is harmless, so no need to bother your doctor (and wallet).