Making Egg Tempura


Step by Step Guide to making Egg Tempera Paint

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 of 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

Note in this guide we have used a liquid gum arabic binder that we made ourselves from gum arabic powder – see further instructions on how to make that thinner at the bottom of this page.


  • Containers for mixing and storage
  • Paper towel
  • Pallet Knife
  • Non-porous smooth surface
  • Teaspoons or other measuring device

To make the Egg Tempera Paint

1. Separate the Egg yolk from the white keeping the yolk membrane intact.

2. Dry the yolk carefully by rolling it from hand to hand and wiping your wet hand on the paper towel before you transfer the egg back to it.

3. Gently pinch the dry yolk sack being careful not to break it, hold 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!

4. Start making the egg tempera paint by mixing equal amounts of the egg yolk, thinner and chosen Coloured Earth pigment.

5. Add a small amounts of pigment or thinner 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:

How to make a liquid Gum Arabic Binder/Thinner



  • Containers for mixing and storage
  • Measuring Jug
  • Muslin Cloth or similar for straining

First, you will need to make up the Gum Arabic Binder:

1. Mix 250ml Boiling Water, 125ml Gum Arabic Powder and 50ml Honey ( 5 : 2.5 : 1 ratio ). The Honey helps the pigments to mix smoothly.

2. At this stage you can add a couple of drops of Clove Oil as a preservative if you wish.

3. Leave the solution to stand for 24 hours to ensure the Gum Arabic is fully absorbed.

4. After 24 hours strain the solution through a muslin cloth and store in a jar for future use.

5. It is advisable to store the solution in a refrigerator to avoid mould growth.