Studio Craft: Watercolor as a Tempera Pigment Source

Traditional egg tempera is made using powdered pigment and egg yolk. Artists wishing to experiment with the medium may not at first want to invest in a full assortment of dry pigments. It's possible to make genuine egg tempera using high quality tube watercolors and gouache in place of dry pigment.

Use only professional-quality paints to ensure a high proportion of pigment and no fillers.

Tempera medium should be made fresh each session. Begin by separating an egg yolk.

Gently place the yolk on a paper towel to absorb as much egg white as possible.

Transfer the intact yolk to the mouth of a jar.

Pierce the yolk sac and allow the contents to drain into the jar, taking care to keep the sac from dropping in.

Add a small amount of water to dilute the medium to a heavy cream consistency.

Tempera panels should be prepared with an absorbent ground like traditional glue gesso rather than acrylic gesso, which is too resistant. Factory-prepared Claybord panels are ideal; watercolor paper and Bristol board can also be used with tempera.

Dispense watercolor or gouache on a plastic or enamel palette. Dip brush into the medium and mix directly with colors. Paint thinly using feathered and crosshatched strokes. Achieve gradients through layering.

Finished paintings on panel should be allowed to dry completely before varnishing. Display egg tempera works on paper under glass.

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