Egg Tempera

 

Egg Tempera is a permanent painting medium consisting of colors finely ground mixed with the yoke of an egg and diluted with distilled water to a workable consistency. This medium is not to be confused with the “poster paints” that are also called tempera.

Egg Tempera is a medium that is permanent and archival. It was used by the Egyptians for decorating sarcophagi, by Greek and Russian icon painters and by the early Italian Renaissance painters Giotto, Botticelli, and Michelangelo. Around the year 1500, oil painting replaced it because of the ease of shading from from dark to light, which was almost impossible with fast drying egg tempera. The beauty of egg tempera lies in the many layers of colors, their transparency, complexity and jewel-like quality. For more in-depth information, some books are listed below that discuss the key issues.

Traditional “under drawing” in India ink helps establish shadows and form

Books

The Practice of Tempera Painting by Daniel V. Thompson
The granddaddy of egg tempera books. This is a translation of an Italian painting manual of painting methods of the early Renaissance and includes very important background material for anyone interested in egg tempera.

The Luminous Brush by Altoon Sultan
This book has remarkably clear instructions for the ancient technique of an India ink underdrawing to develop form and shadings from dark to light.

Egg Tempera Painting by Koo Schadler
This is the most comprehensive and clearly written book on the subject I’ve found. The author has developed a unique way of indicating form without making a black and white ink underdrawing.