what are paintballs made of

What are Paintballs Made Of?

Come on, you know you’ve thought about it…can you eat paintballs?! I mean…rolling them around in your hand, it seems like they’d taste exactly like Gushers fruit snacks amirite?! Before we know if quality paintballs are safe to eat, we first need to know what are paintballs made of.

So, what are paintballs made of? Paintballs, sometimes referred to as just “paint,” are made of non-toxic, food-grade materials. The outer, spherical capsule is made of gelatin, while the “paint” inside the capsule consists of several ingredients, including water, corn starch, polyethylene glycol, and food coloring.

How’s that for a boring answer? But stick around, because we’re going to cover cooler stuff, like can you eat paintballs or will it KILL you?!

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Can You Eat Paintballs?

can you eat paintballs

This begs the question: Can you eat paintballs if they are non-toxic and made of food-grade materials? While most ingredients used to make paintballs are edible, it is not recommended you eat them. Rumor has it they taste bad, plus you never can really be sure what other ingredients could be in them since they are not made for human consumption. With that said, there is much to know about paintballs that will be helpful if you’re going to play the sport!

Paintballs were initially made of glass and used to mark cattle and trees from a distance. However, as paintball became a sport, there was a need to use materials that wouldn’t hurt anyone. That is where the standard gelatin capsule came in. Additionally, the original paintball paint was oil-based. It was difficult to clean out of clothing, smelled, and was harmful to the environment.

What are Paintballs Made of? (3 Different Types)

There are three types of paintballs:

  1. Tournament
  2. Recreational
  3. Reusable

These each come in many different calibers, with .50 and .68 being the most common. Be sure to check your owner’s manual to determine the correct caliber size for your particular paintball marker.

The type of paintball you choose will depend on the kind of game you’ll be playing as well as the kind of gun you’ll be shooting.

Interestingly enough, if you drop a paintball on the ground before use, this is called “loose paint.” It can potentially be damaged due to the drop, causing it to swell or balloon out. This can cause a jam in your marker, possibly damaging the inner workings. Therefore, it’s best to just get rid of any paints you drop and never try shooting them.

High-quality paintballs will be consistent in size and shape. The more perfectly round they are, the better.

Tournament Grade

Tournament-grade paintballs are made for the best performance. These are more expensive than recreational paintballs and are made for high-octane tournament games like woodsball and speedball. Manufacturing standards ensure these are of higher quality than the other types.

The shells on these paintballs are thinner, so they break more efficiently on impact. They come in bright colors, but not neon, as neon is not allowed in tournament play.

Recreational Grade

Recreational grade paintballs are suitable for the occasional “just-for-fun” game in which high-intensity tournament competition is not the goal. They also are good for practicing since they are less expensive. If you only play occasionally, there is no reason why these less expensive paints won’t work for you.

These will be of lesser quality than tournament grade, meaning things like a thicker shell and less than perfect spherical shape. They can be used in about any markers; you just have to make sure the caliber is the correct size.

The nice thing about these is they come in large quantities, and you can find them at many sporting goods stores.


Also called reballs, these are good for practice in which you don’t want to waste regular paintballs. They are made of foam and are slightly heavier than your standard paintball. They are not filled with paint.

Reballs are actually more expensive than paintballs, but since they can be used repeatedly, their cost per use diminishes, making them cheaper in the long run.

They must be fired at a lower velocity since they don’t break on impact. However, these also make it easier for people to cheat since there is nothing to make a mark with!

What are Paintball Shells Made of?

Paintball shells are made of gelatin, the same ingredient used to make marshmallows, ice cream, and jello, among other things.

Gelatin comes from denatured collagen fibers from dead animals’ body tissue, bones, and skin. The gelatin for paintballs most commonly comes from pigskin. It is mixed with a plasticizer that increases its stability and makes it more moldable.

Quality paintballs will have a thin enough shell to break easily on impact.

What is Paintball Paint?

What are paintballs filled with is a common question people have. Paintball paint is what is inside the gelatin capsule. It is typically made of various ingredients, including water, corn starch, polyethylene glycol, and food coloring. Some may also include calcium, PEG, mineral oils, and iodine. Exact formulas are usually proprietary.

While polyethylene glycol sounds scary, it’s not. It’s a common ingredient in many household items, such as toothpaste. It gives the paint its thickness. However, it can also act as a laxative, so while it may not harm you in small quantities if you get shot in the mouth, it is one more reason not to intentionally ingest paintballs!

These ingredients are water-soluble, meaning they can easily be washed out of most clothing, off the skin, and other surfaces. However, this does not mean you should shoot them at vehicles or anything else you don’t want to risk accidentally damaging.

They are environmentally friendly since they are biodegradable, meaning they break down naturally with time, especially when exposed to water.

A good paint will be thick and opaque, highly visible, and difficult to wipe off. Paintball paint will also be brightly colored to contrast against your targets, although the capsules don’t always match the paint perfectly.

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