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What Are Paintballs Made Of

What Are Paintballs Made Of?

You’ve probably wondered, “what are paintballs made of?” and you’re not alone! Paintballs are made from a mixture of ingredients, including water, gelatin, polyethylene glycol (PEG), mineral oils, and iodine food coloring.

The outer shell is usually made of a gelatin-based substance. What’s more interesting is that the inside contains water-based dye – which means that they’re solid on the outside but liquid inside!

Overview Of Paintball History

Charles Nelson invented the original hand-powered paintball gun in the mid-1960s as an efficient way for forestry engineers to mark trees that needed to be cut down (this historical reason is why a paintball gun is often referred to as a paintball marker.

The sport of paintball was invented in the early 1980s in New Hampshire. It emerged from a disagreement between two friends about whether a city-slicker would have the instincts to survive in the wilds. One of them chanced upon an advert for paintball markers, the first game of paintball took place, and the rest is history!

It wasn’t until the late 1980s/early 1990s that paintball became a widespread sport, with realistic gear and paintball guns for playing war games.

What Is In Paintballs?

The ingredients for the paint are mineral oils, food coloring, calcium, and ethylene glycol. The gelatin bubble is like an encasing from a pill or vitamin that contains these active materials.

What’s more interesting is that the inside contains water-based dye – which means that they’re solid on the outside but liquid on the inside! 

The Outer Shell

The outer shell is typically made from gelatin material, cellulose acetate, or another type of plastic. The best paintballs have an outer shell both tough enough to survive being fired from a gun and soft enough to break on impact, without being so tough that it causes injury.

The gelatin shell will often contain a dye so it can be seen more easily on the battlefield. Different colors may be used depending on the company or preference – usually yellow, orange, or red.

What’s On The Inside?

The paintball has a water-based, liquid dye inside it. The ball is filled with food-grade, non-toxic ingredients. One of those ingredients is water-soluble polyethylene glycol. It also contains dye that comes from food items.

How Are Paintballs Made?

To create the hollow outer shell, water is poured into a heated mixing bowl. A combination of ingredients are added. Then finally, the critical ingredient: shaped gelatin (the same thing used in kids’ lollies).

Dye is added to the casing (similar to food coloring). This giant soup is melted, mixed, and filtered. Depending on the intended use, more or less thickener may be used (winter-grade paintballs have stronger shells than standard, so they are less likely to disintegrate inside the barrel of your marker). The complete list of ingredients is treated as a trade secret – no manufacturer will tell you exactly what they use.

The gel and fill meet their maker in the feed room, where vats of gelatinous goop are fed into a machine that looks like it’s straight out of Willy Wonka (it’s actually similar to the machines used by pharmaceutical companies to make bath beads and capsules).

The machine first spreads out the gel onto a cool drum, creating a continuous thin sheet of gelatin. The cooling part of this process then cures it to where it can be molded into the hollow casing of each ball.

The machine presses the gel ribbon into a die with half-circle pockets, forming one half of a ball shell. The machine does this in three steps: it aligns both halves, injects the fill, then seals both halves together. 

The newly-made balls are soft, and if they aren’t dried out completely, they’ll often lose their shape. The first step is to heat the paintball in a tumble dryer; then the balls go on a drying rack to make sure there’s very little moisture left.

How To Clean and Store Paintballs

The best way to look after your unused paintballs is to store them in a cool, dry place. Paintballs can typically be stored for several months at room temperature without degrading too much before use. Refrigeration will slow down this process significantly so that there isn’t any spoilage.

A paintball that is not stored correctly will be susceptible to damage and can become unusable quickly. Paintballs are sensitive to temperature, humidity, and sunlight; the most common reason for a damaged paintball round is improper storage.

It’s essential for players to keep their unused paintballs from coming into contact with chemicals such as gasoline or solvents because this will significantly reduce the lifespan of the ball.

Can You Eat Paintballs??

Paintballs are not toxic, but they are not meant to be eaten. Paintballs are not meant for human consumption and should only be handled by players who understand the risks involved with paintballing.

They are edible, but they taste disagreeable, to say the least – check out this video for a tasting experiment!

The outer casing of a paintball is usually made from gelatin, which can’t be digested or absorbed into your system if it comes in contact with your skin. But this also means that these shells don’t dissolve as you chew them, so they won’t provide any nutritional value. It’s best to keep paintballs off both menus – internal and external!

In reality, the main reason paintballs are made to be edible is in case you get some of the paintball in your mouth while playing – for example if a paintball hits your goggles & splatters onto your face.

It’s important to remember that animals such as dogs shouldn’t have access to paintballs because their digestive systems cannot break down the gelatin and, therefore, could lead to serious intestinal distress or death. Keep unused paintballs away from pets and small children.

How Do You Wash Paintball Paint Off Your Clothes?

While paintballs are water-soluble, so they shouldn’t stain your clothes, it’s important to clean paintball residue off your clothes as soon as possible to prevent it from hardening and becoming difficult to remove. Brighter colors such as dayglo red or orange are more likely to stain.

There are a few different ways you can clean the residue:

  • Use a hose
  • Soak the clothes in warm water and laundry detergent
  • Wash the clothing as you usually would in your washing machine

A few quick tips:

  • Avoid using hot water because this will make it more difficult to remove paint from the fabric. This is also why it’s recommended not to use bleach or harsh chemicals to clean your clothes.
  • Avoid using dryer sheets because these can make the paint more difficult to remove from fabric, especially during the final drying stage of a washing machine cycle.
  • Allow clothing or other equipment that has come into contact with paintball residue to air dry before storing it, so you don’t smear any on anything else.

Are Paintballs Environmentally Friendly?

Paintball manufacturing can be environmentally friendly – it requires no solvents or other harsh chemicals in its production process. Also, paintballs contain polyethylene glycol, which is a natural substance made from vegetable oil.

Paintballers also have the choice of using natural shells (made from gelatin) or synthetic polymers that don’t break down in harsh conditions as polyethylene glycols do – if you’re concerned about the environment, you’ll want to use paintballs made with a natural shell. 

Modern paintballs are not bad for the environment because, when left where they land, the balls will break down over time. When left where they land in nature, paintballs will begin to dissolve. Both casing and fill are made of natural materials, which re-enter the environment harmlessly. They don’t leave dangerous, toxic residue behind. Just make sure you clean up your batteries and other trash after your game, as these items are not biodegradable.

Can You Fill Your Own Paintballs?

The most popular method is to use a syringe filled with dye of the desired color. Fill up hollow finished shells by injecting until it’s full.

Are Red Paintballs Illegal?

Red fill paint isn’t inherently illegal, but it has traditionally been frowned on because it resembles blood. Many paintballers and field owners want to get away from the idea that this is a violent game.


The bottom line is that paintballs are safe. They’re made of food-grade ingredients, and they can be safely stored in a cool, dry place for long periods without experiencing any degradation in quality or performance. 

Paintball is a safe, fun way to get your adrenaline pumping. We’ve covered everything you need to know about paintball rounds, from how they’re made and why they’re relatively safe, to how to clean the paint from your gear.

We hope you now know more about what paintballs are made of. If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments below or reach out via our contact page.