Egg Tempera Mediums to Try

Egg Tempera Mediums to Try
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Great free book for anyone wanting to learn egg tempera and egg-oil emulsion painting.

'Egg Tempera Painting, Tempera Underpainting, Oil Emulsion Painting: A Manual of Technique'. Vaclav Vytlacil and Rupert Davidson Turnbull. Oxford University Press, 1935.

Download Vytlacil's book for free at:

This small 80 page book is filled with useful information,
albeit dated in its writing style and some suggestions. For example, Vytlacil
recommends Maroger Medium. This painting
medium is still used by some ‘old masters-inspired’ painters yet today, Maroger
Medium is often blamed for the darkening of many old paintings. More useful for
me as a egg tempera painter, has been the several different recipes for mixing
oil-egg-water emulsion tempera mediums. These recipes range from the very lean egg
and water mix to various mediums fattened with linseed oil, stand oil, dammar varnish
and egg. 

The back two thirds of this book is describes making different
gessoes for painting on canvas, paper and panel. Today more current information
may be found elsewhere.   

Here are some Egg Tempera
painting mediums to try that I have used and taken from Vytlacil’s book:


Note:  when mixing egg-oil mediums use a very clean
jar. Shake vigorously each ingredient as stirring isn’t sufficient to fully emulsify
the ingredients. Mix egg, oil and varnish ingredients first. Add water last.

*I like to create the egg/oil mix without water then store
it for a few weeks in a tightly lidded contain with little or no air. I don’t refrigerate
this medium but do try store it in a cool place. I only add water the day I
intend to use this medium.  I find water
causes this medium to go bad.

Grinding Medium

1 part whole egg, 1 part distilled water, 1 part damar.

* use this to make a paste from dry pigments then thin this
paint with the painting medium.

Lean Tempera Medium

1 part whole egg, 2 parts distilled water, 1 part damar.

or 1 part whole egg + 2 parts distilled water.

*This is a very thin, fast drying and transparent paint. It
allows endless corrections because it dries almost immediately and doesn’t
build up into thick layers. Dilute this paint further with water or more
painting medium as required.  

Medium Fat Painting Medium

1 part whole egg, 2 parts water, 1 part linseed oil.

Or 1 whole egg, ½ part dammar, ½ part sun or stand
oil, ½ part walnut oil, + 2 parts water. 

*Add this medium to the pigment and grinding medium described above  

Fat Tempera Paint

Can be painted as thickly as oil paint

1 part whole egg, 1 part oil, 2 parts water (oil can be stand oil for added gloss)

The more one reads about egg oil emulsion paints, the more recipe
variants you find.

I apply Ralph Mayer’s advice from his book: The Artist’s Handbook of Maerials & Techniques:

"Perhaps the most universally successful mediums of this type are those formulated from the starting point of equal parts of whole egg and oily ingredients. To which are always added at least two parts of water."

 The basic painting medium I’m using currently:

I use Vytlacil’s grinding medium to make a paste from dry pigments.

Then for painting

2 parts whole egg + 1 stand oil, 1 part damar varnish, ½ part
linseed oil, 1 part turpentine shaken well in a bottle. I’m storing this medium
in a tightly sealed bottle filled as full as full as possible to keep the air
out. I’ve found this medium keeps well for several months without becoming

Take some of this medium and add distilled water as required
for each day. Add up to an equal volume of water. For lean underlayers use more
water; for top layers just a little water.

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