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:For the Japanese fried food, see Tempura
'Tempera' (or 'egg tempera') is the primary type of artist's paint and associated art techniques that were prevalent in Europe's Middle Ages, and the required medium for Orthodox icons. It is paint made by binding pigment in an egg medium. However, the term tempera in modern times is also used by some manufacturers to refer to ordinary poster paint, which is a form of gouache that has nothing to do with real egg tempera.
Tempera was traditionally created by hand-grinding dry powdered pigments into egg yolk (which was the primary binding agent or medium), sometimes along with other materials such as honey, water, milk (in the form of casein) and a variety of plant gums. After the invention of oil paint in the Late Middle Ages, tempera continued to be used for awhile as the underpainting (base layer) with translucent or transparent oil glazes on top. This transitional, mixed technique was followed by a sole oil painting techniques, which for the most part replaced tempera in the 16th century.
Tempera paint dries rapidly. The techniques of tempera painting can be more precise when used with traditional techniques that require the application of numerous small brush strokes applied in a cross-hatching technique. The colors, which are painted over each other, resemble a pastel when unvarnished, or the deeper colors when varnished.
Tempera is normally applied in thin semi-opaque or transparent layers. When dry, it produces a smooth matte finish. Because it cannot be applied in thick layers as oil paints can, tempera paintings rarely have the deep color saturation that oil paintings can achieve.
True tempera paintings are quite permanent and examples from the first centuries AD still exist.


Tempera must be applied to an absorbent ground that has a lower “oil” content than the tempera binder used (the traditional rule of thumb is “fat over thin... and never the other way around”). Since the ground traditionally used is inflexible Italian Gesso, the substrate has to be rigid as well. Historically wood panels were used as the substrate, and more recently un-tempered masonite and modern composite boards have been employed.

Making tempera

#Place a small amount of the pigment paste onto a palette, dish or bowl.
#Add about an equal volume of the egg medium and mix well making sure there are no lumps of pigment. Some pigments require slightly more egg medium, some require less.
#Add distilled water (usually less than a teaspoon per egg yolk), trial and error will dictate just how much water is required.
Most often only the contents of the yolk are used. The white of the egg and the membrane of the yolk are discarded. After isolating the yolk and drying the membrane slightly by rolling it on a paper towel, pick up the yolk gently by the membrane, dangle it over a receptacle and puncture the membrane with [for instance] a toothpick to drain off the liquid inside.
If the paint contains too much yolk, the paint will look greasy and clumpy; too much water makes it run. So makers of paint have to finely adjust the amount of water and yolk to achieve a consistent paint. As tempera dries, the artist will add more water to preserve the consistency and to balance the thickening of the yolk on contact with air.
Different preparations use the egg white or the whole egg for different effect. Also other additives such as oil and wax emulsions can modify the medium. Adding oil for instance in no more than a 1:1 ratio with the egg yolk by volume will produce a water soluble medium with many of the colour effects of oil paint, although it cannot be painted thickly.
Many of the pigments used by medieval painters, such as Vermilion (made from mercury ore), are highly toxic. Most artists today use artificial pigments, which are less toxic but have similar color properties to the older pigments. Even so, many (if not most) modern pigments are still dangerous to be used without care and precautions such as keeping pigments wet in storage must be taken to avoid breathing their dust.

External links

*[ Egg Tempera Painting]
*[ The Society of Tempera Painters]
Category:Painting materials
it:Pittura a tempera
he:טמפרה (ציור)
pl:Malarstwo temperowe
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Tempera".