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MHS Library | Egg tempera

About egg tempera

Tempera is a fast-drying paint whose colors never changing, making it particularly well-suited to depicting nature, from humans to animals to plants.

Egg tempera is known for its linear qualities and capacity to produce jewel-like paintings. While it was once a popular medium that reached its peak during the Renaissance, egg tempera fell out of favor with the rise of the more versatile oil paints. However, a few modern painters have embraced the medium, adopting the labor-intensive practice of creating both the paints and the panels. Some have even taken more experimental approaches.

In some ways, egg tempera shares more commonalities with pastels or colored pencils than with acrylics, oils, or watercolor paints. Because it does not lend itself well to blending or color mixing, egg tempera relies on cross-hatching and overlays of glazing to achieve dimensionality.

What is Egg Tempera?

Egg tempera is composed of egg yolk, powdered pigment, and distilled water. The egg yolk serves as the binder that holds the pigment together. The addition of water turns the paint into a usable paste-like form. Manufactured egg tempera also includes gums that act as dispersants.

Read more about egg tempera on Pigments through the Ages which explains in details how to prepare the support, transfer the image, add values, applying the paint, painting with egg tempera, glazing and opacity, masking, lights and darks, and finishing an egg tempera painting.

Egg tempera painting - Instructables

The Trinity - Andrei Rublev (1370-1430)

Andrei Rublev. Egg tempera.