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How to Make Medieval Paint (Egg Tempera)


We use oil paints now but during the middle ages they didn't have oil paint. They made their own paints using eggs! Yup, that type of paint is called "Egg Tempera" Paint and it works terrific. It's the kind of thing Leonardo Da Vinci used and you can make it too. All it takes is an egg and something for pigment.

In this tutorial I will show you how to make it!

I also have a video at the bottom of this page if you want to watch that.



Here is a portrait of DaVinci that was made using this egg tempera paint. I can't claim credit for this great portrait. It was done by a real artist! His name is Ryan and my thanks go to him for this terrific painting!

Painting with egg



Grinding pigment

The first thing you are going to need to do is grind up some pigment. You can use two stones for this. I used one large stone and one smaller stone. It makes it rather easy. Grind up your pigment into a fine powder. The finer the better.





Using a mortar and pestle

If you have a mortar & Pestle then go ahead and use that. It is perfect for most things to grind into a powder.







Mortar and Pestle on amazon


Crack an egg

Crack open an egg and separate the yolk from the white. Then put the yolk on a paper towel to get rid of most of the egg white. Roll it around on the paper towel.






Hold the yolk

Hold the yolk in one hand and pierce it with something. I used a toothpick. Let the yolk run into your container. We do this because we don't want the skin of the yolk in our mix. Although its not mandatory to do this. It does make a better and more consistent paint.






Mix the pigment with the yolk

Go ahead and mix lots of pigment into that egg yolk. You can also add a little water. The water is optional. You will get a feel for the paint and how you like it so you can judge the water addition.







painting with the pigment

And you are ready to paint!

With egg tempera paint it is common to paint on multiple layers to deepen and richen the colors and pigment.






Color and Pigment Suggestions:

  • Charcoal for Black
  • Brick for red and reddish brown
  • Ground Mustard for Yellow
  • Parsley for green, looks like a seaweed green
  • Cream of Tartar for white
  • Go crazy and experiment with lots of things to see what colors you get! Just be cautious with some things. For instance you don't want to grind up anything that has lead in it!


TIPS and Techniques:

Generally egg tempera isn't great on flexible canvas that is stretched. It is prone to cracking and flaking. So, use this on boards and board canvas or other sturdy surfaces.

And, adding water while you paint is quite good. You can also use the back of the paintbrush to wipe away the paint creating light streaks and lines. The picture here on the left shows this technique.

To get deep and rich colors you paint in layers.

I wonder if this would work on stained glass windows?


Here is the video:



Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself (Build It Yourself series)

From armored tanks and gliders to "plastic glass" and drawing machines, this interactive book explores the incredible mind of Leonardo da Vinci through hands-on building projects and activities. Most of Leonardo's inventions were never made in his lifetime and remained sketches in his famous notebooks; kids examine some of these original sketches and learn about the models he made of his inventions. From there they delve into detailed step-by-step instructions, diagrams, and templates for each project, which are interspersed with historical facts, biographical anecdotes, and trivia. Most of the building can be done using simple household supplies: construction paper, tape, markers, glue, cardboard tubes, aluminum foil, and cardboard boxes. Background about the Renaissance as a period of remarkable achievement in art and science appears throughout the book.

New Techniques in Egg Tempera

A famous contemporary artist shows his revolutionary new techniques for painting in a centuries-old medium, egg tempera.



Make the Leonardo Da Vinci Catapult

This is an interesti ng little project that is based on the designs by DaVinci. All you need is an embroidery hoop as the source of kinetic energy to fire the catapult. Make the DaVinci Catapult





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