Making Egg Tempera

Tempera paint, which is commonly referred to as egg tempera is a fast drying paint, which was the primary method of painting until oil paint became popular during the 15th Century.

Tempera is made by mixing pigments with a water-soluble binder such as egg yolk. Popular with religious Icon painters, egg tempera is a very long lasting paint medium which tends to be unaffected by humidity and temperature. Alternative binders have been tried over the years but egg and specifically the yolk or the egg, seems to create the most permanent paint.

NOTE: Egg tempera dries very hard, so for best results it should be applied to a rigid panel which has been treated with a glue gesso.

Ingredients for Egg Tempera

  • Egg Yolk
  • White Wine
  • Dry Pigments


  • Separate the Egg yolk from the white keeping the yolk membrane in-tact.
  • Dry the yolk carefully by rolling from hand to hand or patting gently with a paper towel.
  • Gently pinch the yolk sack being careful not to break it, holding the yolk over a jar, pierce the membrane and release the yolk into the container. Discard the membrane.

O.K. That’s the difficult bit done!

  • Mix 2 tablespoons of dry white wine with the egg yolk. The acidity of the wine will help to create an emulsion
  • Mix the emulsion with your chosen pigment, adding a small amount at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

Cleaning  brushes

Egg Tempera dries very quickly so don’t leave your brushes lying around. Wash them immediately with warm water and a drop of dish soap.


If you want some inspiration or to see some examples of modern Tempera Paintings take a look at: