For an in depth review of egg tempera and the pigments used, I recommend the excellent book, The Artist’s Handbook, by Ray Smith, available from Amazon, which has a section on egg tempera. I give a brief outline of grinding pigments for use with egg tempera below (scroll down):
If you venture into the realms of using egg tempera, it is useful to have a range of pigments ground into a smooth paste and ready to be mixed with the binding agent (in this case egg yolk). Most reputable art shops will supply lightfast pigments (ie. pigments that aren’t susceptible to fading in the daylight).
I bought some natural pigments back from Morocco and have discovered, after doing a lightfast experiment, that most of them fade over time (see my page:Natural pigments, how stable are they? for details) . If you buy pigments from a reputable art shop, I doubt you will have the same problem.
Once you have purchased your pigments, you will need to prepare them for mixing with the egg yolk. To do this, you will need to grind them. This is where having (or having access to) a muller and glass plate is necessary. You only need to grind enough to fill a small jar.
I recommend that you wear a face mask. Some of the pigments are very fine and it is not healthy to breathe them in. Make sure you work in a well-ventilated room. (Please note: When adding a whole egg recipe to pigment, grind the pigment directly with the emulsion medium.)
You will need:
- palette knife
- purified (distilled) water
- muller and glass plate
- storage jars
Grinding pigments, step-by-step
Other pages of interest
- Buying pigments from an unknown source can make the process a bit of a mystery: Read more about natural pigments bought in Morocco
- A test of the lightfast quality of organic pigments:Read more about natural pigments, how stable are they?
- You will need to use traditional gesso with egg tempera: Read more about traditional gesso
- Before adding any paint, you will need to create an underdrawing: Read more about underdrawing
- This is the traditional recipe for making egg tempera paints:Read more about mixing egg yolk with pigment (traditional egg tempera)
- Using this recipe gives a paint that is closer to the quality of oil paints:Read more about the whole egg tempera recipe
- A technique that mixes layers of egg tempera with oil paints: Read more about the Mische technique