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Old 10-28-2007, 12:45 PM
studiogarcia studiogarcia is offline
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Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

In response to some requests for an egg tempera demo Dana has asked me to put together this article explaining egg tempera with a short demo. This is by no means meant as an exhaustive study of all that goes into a painting but should provide a good overview and introduction for those that are interested in taking the first steps towards painting in egg tempera.


Egg Tempera Painting

Egg tempera is an ancient painting medium that predates oil painting by hundreds of years. It was used in the middle-ages for religious icon painting and is in use today by a myriad of artists working in various styles. To be executed successfully, like any medium, egg tempera requires some preparation and knowledge of the materials and techniques employed. In this article I would like to explain some of those materials and techniques with the hope that you will be encouraged to try the medium or at least gain a better understanding and appreciation of it.


To make egg tempera paint you will need three basic ingredients: an egg yolk, distilled water and dry pigment. Traditional egg tempera paint uses only the yolk of the egg and not the white. Distilled water is used to ensure that the minerals in tap water do not affect the integrity of the paint film. Dry pigments can be purchased at any art supply store or online.

Some of the other materials you will need include brushes (mainly watercolor brushes), containers for paint, measuring spoons, a small water bottle or eye dropper, a traditional gesso panel and some paper towels. This is in addition to any materials and tools used to create your drawing and prepare it for transferring it to the panel. Below is a picture of some of my tools.

A. Paper towels

B. Dry Pigments

C. Masking Tape

D. Measuring Spoons

E. Brushes

F. Water Bottle
G. Mixing Cups

H. Panels

I. Egg

J. Palette Knife

K Sponge

L. India Ink (not pictured)

I have included a list of suppliers at the end of this article.

About Traditional Gesso Panels

Pure egg tempera paint is brittle and requires a hard surface to ensure that cracking does not occur. It is also a weak binder so it must be painted on a surface that is absorbent enough to allow the egg to make a successful bond. A traditional gesso panel which consists of animal glue, whiting and marble dust are the perfect ground for egg tempera because it provides the absorbency needed to create the necessary bond. Acrylic gesso is not recommended since it is unknown how its expansion and contraction over time can affect a brittle egg tempera film which sits on top of it.

You can make your own panels or purchase pre-made panels. Visit the link below to learn more about making your own panels: http://www.eggtempera.com/grounds.html

I have included the name of some suppliers at the end of this article.

Making the Egg Tempera Medium & Paint

To make the egg medium I crack the egg and remove the yolk into my hand. I try to remove as much of the egg white as possible and then transfer the yolk to a paper towel to further remove any traces of egg white. Once the yolk has a somewhat matte finish to the surface I then pierce the yolk and empty the contents into a small jar. To the egg I add equal amounts of water and mix thoroughly until I get a smooth creamy mixture.

Tempering the pigment is one of the most important parts of your painting because if the pigment is not tempered thoroughly it will be powdery on the surface and will easily be wiped off. Knowing how much each pigment requires to be tempered correctly is hard to quantify. One method which is helpful is to paint a stroke on a piece of glass and wait for it to dry. Then using a palette knife or razor blade scrape the paint off the glass. If it rolls up and has a shiny appearance then you have tempered enough. Adding too much egg will make the paint greasy and hard to work with, so you need to also be careful not to over temper. Over time you will get to know your pigments and what each one needs.

When I am ready to begin painting I decide which area of the painting I will be working on during the session and I place dry pigments into mixing cups. To each cup I add some of the egg medium. I then thoroughly mix the egg and pigment to create my paint. Some pigments can be more stubborn than others but most should blend with the medium after thorough mixing. Commercial pigments are very fine and require very little mulling into the medium to get a good paint film. Some artist do mull the pigments so feel free to experiment with what works best for you. The most important thing about the paint is that it should be thin, not thick or pasty.


When I am ready to apply the paint to my panel I dip my brush into the paint cup wipe the excess off until it is almost dry and apply the paint in that fashion. The stroke should come off the brush in a dry easy to apply stroke. If you get a small dot at the end of your stroke you are working too wet and should dry your brush further. Painting with a wet brush can also cause lifting of layers.

Painting impasto is also not recommended because it can flake off the surface. The application of the paint is a slow process that requires many strokes to build up the surface. Don’t let that discourage you. As you learn more about egg tempera you will be able to use the layering to your benefit to create a rich surface with a beautiful weave of colors.

The Painting Process

The Drawing
I begin with a complete drawing of my composition on paper at the same size as my painting. I then transfer the drawing to the panel.

I build up my values using an under-painting done in waterproof india ink. The purpose of the under-painting is to help establish the value relationships. The under-painting can also be executed in egg tempera or casein. I choose India ink for its immediacy.

The painting is then built up in many layers of various colors and temperature. With each pass I try to further refine the passages and restate my drawing. Below is an example of one of the steps in the color build up and the completed painting.

Egg tempera is an ancient medium that can be used by contemporary artists to create luminous images with beautiful color and rich surfaces. While it is considered difficult, slow or rigid by some I find that the apparent limitations can provide freedom for artists with a sensibility for drawing and clarity in their paintings. Egg tempera has a strong following of artists that have dedicated their life and work to explore its endless possibilities. My hope is that I will inspire a new set of artists to pursue the medium or at least provide them a greater appreciation for this obscure and often misunderstood jewel of the arts.


Eggs: Any supermarket or farm.

Distilled Water: Any supermarket

Pigments:Blick Art Store, Utrecht, Sinopia, Daniel Smith

Brushes: Blick Art, Utrecht. Sable or sable-blend brushes are the best choice. Mainly rounds that come to and retain a nice point or blade shape.

Panels:RealGesso.Com, True-Gesso-Panels.com

Books: Koo Schadlers Egg Tempera Book (www.kooschadler.com), Altoon Sultan’s The Luminous Brush , Daniel Thompson’s, The Practice of Tempera Painting

You can also view a printable version of this demo at: http://www.alexgarciafineart.com/fineart/demo/

Respectfully yours,
Alex Garcia

Last edited by studiogarcia : 10-28-2007 at 12:57 PM.
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Old 10-28-2007, 02:35 PM
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Gilberte Gilberte is offline
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

I've bookmarked it.
Thank you beaucoup !
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Old 10-29-2007, 03:20 PM
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Lauren F-M Lauren F-M is offline
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

Thanks for the great info, Alex!

So kind to share your knowledge on here, and also on your websites.

I've always been fascinated with egg tempera, tried it in art college years ago, and have meant to try it again. Saving this info for the future, when I do study it.

You are inspiring!

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Old 10-31-2007, 08:33 AM
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jadehart jadehart is offline
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

Thanks for the demo
Honest critiques always welcome

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Old 11-01-2007, 10:50 AM
studiogarcia studiogarcia is offline
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

Lauren: Thank you. I encourage you to try it. I have always believed that your work and approach would lend itself well to egg tempera.

Jessica: You're welcome.

Here is a more expanded step by step of the actual painting. It is not all the steps but you will get an idea on how I developed it from session to session.


Also here is a closeup of the face so you can see what the actual surface looks like:

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Old 11-01-2007, 12:37 PM
studiogarcia studiogarcia is offline
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

Sorry had to remove these. I will repost sometime today.
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Old 11-01-2007, 12:58 PM
Dana Design
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

Alex, if you don't use up all of your paint, do you have to put it in the fridge to keep it fresh? I ask because of the egg yolks used. Does the paint spoil ever? Or do you just toss any unused paint out.
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Old 11-01-2007, 01:02 PM
studiogarcia studiogarcia is offline
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia


By the end of the session I have used up most if not all of the paint I have mixed. If I do have some left over I usually toss it because it is dried out or close to being dried out. I usually know how much to mix for one painting session so there is little waste.


Also I had to remove the links above. I have posted the images below:

Progress shots:

Surface shot:

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Old 11-02-2007, 12:22 AM
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lisilk lisilk is offline
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

Thank you so much for the information and fabulous step by step. Gorgeous work.

C & C Always Welcome My RIL Images My Art and Photos

She never seemed shattered; to me, she was a breathtaking mosaic of the battles she had won. - Matt Baker
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Old 11-08-2007, 01:34 PM
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larubia larubia is offline
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

Hi..fascinated by egg tempera paintings...the stillness and richness of colour are wonderful...love viewing your work...ty for explaining the method.
if not now, when?
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Old 11-08-2007, 03:46 PM
studiogarcia studiogarcia is offline
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

Li and Larubia: Thank you kindly and it was my pleasure.
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Old 01-09-2008, 04:20 PM
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gaensanger gaensanger is offline
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

Perfect information, thank's!
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Old 01-11-2008, 08:07 AM
Biedel Biedel is offline
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

Re: Painting demo done by Alex Garcia.
Thank you very much Alex, now I see what I have been doing wrong. Biedel
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Old 07-22-2008, 02:26 PM
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LoveFaces LoveFaces is offline
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

It's a beautiful painting. I love egg tempera. It dries so fast but it's fun and so beautiful in layers. You're right about not saving it in the fridge. It hardens way too quickly. I like that you showed the close-ups because from a distance or in a scaled-down photograph egg tempera looks so smooth. It's important to see what the brushstrokes really look like...otherwise people struggle with it I think.

Also, for anyone else reading this, don't use a non-rigid support (i.e. don't use canvas or paper unless they are mounted to a rigid support. Stretched canvas is not rigid enough). Any support that can flex can cause egg tempera to crack. It has amazing archival abilities, as long as it's on something rigid.

Alex, if you already said this somewhere in this post and I missed it, I apologize. I just wanted to add that in there about the supports just in case it wasn't.
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Old 08-02-2008, 01:16 AM
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Re: Egg Tempera Painting Demo by Alex Garcia

I like very much this amazing demonstration. The same way can be followed for acrilic painting and for oil painting too.
I have a question: if you use egg tempera for the underpainting, what happen when you give other peinture over it? The new layer can dissolve the previous one? (I dont know egg tempera but the name, so forgive me il the question is silly)
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Can you forgive me for my terrific broken english?
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