Egg Tempera Technique
Egg tempera technique is a painting technique in which egg yolk is used as
a binder for the color pigment. Water is used as the medium
History of egg tempera painting
- Earliest records of egg tempera painting traces back to Egypt and Greece in the 1st century A.D and in the Byzantine Empire
- During the medieval period from 5th to 14th century, it was used mainly for religious and icon painting.
- It developed into a refined and disciplined method of painting between 12th and 15th century.
- Before the development of oil painting in the late 15th century, egg tempera was the most popular painting technique among the artists.
- Since the 16th century, especially in the 19th century there is a sporadic revival of egg tempera technique of painting.
The attributes of Egg Tempera
- It is the most versatile and most durable methods of painting.
- Tempera is applied in thin layers, each layer is allowed to dry, the layer dries rapidly and becomes water resistant; it does not mix with the underlying layer, so there is an optical blending of colors in a tempera painting which accounts for the glowing effect that it achieves.
- Very delicate and complex work can be achieved by the use of egg tempera paints as the layers of tempera paint are overlaid in layers of hatching and cross hatching.
- It takes its edge over watercolors as it can be applied in distinct layers and glazes and there is no mixing of adjoining layers, the effect achieved is more transparent than water colors. The egg tempera allows almost immediate overpainting as the tempera layer dries quickly.
- Unlike watercolors mistakes can be corrected by gently wiping the area with a damp cloth and repainting it.
- The quick drying time and the translucent quality of tempera give it an edge over oil painting.
- Colors become richer and deeper as the painting cures with time
- It is almost unaffected by humidity and temperature changes.
Some Famous Egg Tempera artists and their tempera paintings
Giotto di bondone, Duccio di Buoninsegna, Cimabue, Simone Martini, FraAngelico, Botticelli, Michelangelo etc
Egg Tempera paints
Many painters prefer to make their own tempera preparing it as required
immediately before use. This removes the problem of storage, and makes the
artist familiar with the material which is an important element of artistic
Commercially produced temperas ,sold in tubes etc are mostly egg-oil
emulsions based on 19th century recipes, they tend to dry poorly compared to
freshly made paint, also the range is limited and lacks glow; they can also
be greasy and may darken on ageing because of their oil content.
The steps of Egg Tempera technique
1 .Preparing the surface for egg tempera
2. Preparing the egg binder
3. Preparing the paint
4. Drawing the sketch
5. Start painting with verdaccio
6. Underpainting with De Mairo Natural Ultramarine
7. Main Painting first and second stage
Preparing the surface
The traditional surface for egg tempera is gesso –animal glue mixed with
chalk applied on a wood panel. Cover a plywood panel with this mixture
thickly- smooth it with a sand paper when dried. The surface should be rigid
and not flexible.
Preparing the egg binder
Crack the egg and separate the yolk by passing it from hand to hand .Let the
white fall, dry the yolk by rolling it gently on a piece of cloth or pass it
gently from hand to hand while drying each hand .As the yolk dries, grab it
with the yolk sac, pierce it with a pin, let the yolk flow down in a small
glass jar and discard the sac. Mix a teaspoon of distilled water. Close the
lid of the jar tightly.
Preparing the paint
Make fresh paints each day. Grind a small amount of pigment with distilled
water into a paste. You can add one or two drops of oxgall to tame unruly
pigments .Now grind it with egg yolk, add an equal amount of egg mixture to
the pigment paste, grind it well .you should add one or two drops of water
to the mixture to keep the pigment fluid.
Preparing egg tempera paint with De Mairo Lapis Lazuli pigment /natural
It is extremely easy to make egg tempera with De Mairo Lapis Lazuli
pigment; it is finely ground without any grit. Unlike other pigments extra
grinding is not needed. Only thorough mixing is required for a few minutes.
You can mix this pigment directly with Egg yolk or if required add a few
drops of distilled water in the egg yolk working it into a paint. Roughly
1 part pigment and 1 part binder is mixed thoroughly to make paint, into a
soft, semi-fluid paste. Add a little more pigment if the paint is too runny,
add more yolk if the paint seems dry.
Off course you can apply and vary tempera painting method according to your
desire and your artistic aims but you should try one painting in the
unsurpassed classical method to appreciate its subtle beauty.