How to Make Tempera Paint Permanent

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Making tempera paint the traditional way will make the paint permanent. The old tempera paintings that predate oil painting lasted on wooden boards. Do the same paint making work as the old masters. Use an egg yolk. The brushwork in your tempera paintings will build nicely in thin bright layers. Yet, the fine piece will last lifetimes.

Things You'll Need

  • Tempera pigments
  • Egg
  • Linseed oil
  • Distilled water
  • Glass muller
  • Slab
  • Plastic or glass palette
  • Plastic palette knife
  • Small glass jars with lids
  • Glass or ceramic jar
  • Measuring spoons
  • Painters rags

Paint Making Steps

  • Choose your pigments. Select the colors you want in fine powders. Pigments need to last longer than the medium so use enduring pigments.

  • Prepare pigment into a paste using distilled water. Soften the pigments into a finer powder that will turn to a uniform color in the medium. Use the muller to grind the pigments on the slab until all lumps and clumps have gone, leaving only the finest powder you can make.

    Then, take out the pigment onto the palette, one color at a time and mix with a small amount of distilled water. Use the palette knife to stir and mix the paint into the water. Put the pigment mixture in a jar and put the lid on. Do the same mixing and storing for each color.

  • Make egg yolk medium with egg, linseed oil and distilled water. Break open the egg and separate the yolk from the white, keeping the yoke whole. Hold the yoke over the jar and poke a hole in the bottom of the sac. Let the yolk drain out of the sac into the jar. Throw out the sac.

    Using three equal parts of yolk and distilled water, and one part linseed oil, make your medium to hold the pigment. Begin by adding the oil to the yolk, one drop at a time. Drop, and then mix with a palette knife or brush. Continue until the full part oil is mixed with the yolk. Carefully pour in the equal part distilled water. Mix and stir the medium until thin and consistent.

  • Mix the pigment paste into the yolk medium to make permanent tempera paint. On the palette, mix pigment into the yolk medium a little bit at a time. Stir finely each time you add pigment. Keep spreading the pigment through the yolk medium until the fine pigment particles are fully dispersed. When finished, you will have a consistent paint with a fine color pigment.

  • Place a lid on the glass or ceramic jar.

Tips & Warnings

  • Work quickly, yet carefully, since egg tempera dries quickly.
  • Use the rags to clean palette knife, or brushes, and palette often to make sure nothing dries on.
  • Tempera is a subtle and precise paint so make your egg tempera fine. Take the time you need. Work patiently.
  • Each paint color takes a little more or a little less medium. Intense colors need more medium. Fair colors need less. Plan the medium and pigment parts for each color using equal parts as the general measure.
  • When working with the powdery pigments, wear a protective mask or use a wet rag so you do not breathe in the particles.

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