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Tempera ground Helps the binder
Egg Tempera forms a very durable paint film of great permanence but it suffers from a lack of adhesiveness to molecules other than its own.  This is overcome in two ways. Firstly by applying the paint thinly it maximizes adhesion, and secondly by providing an absorbent ground. This can be as simple as painting onto good quality rag watercolor papers or even white or off white museum boards. Museum board is preferable to the paper as Egg Tempera is less flexible than Acrylic or even Oil Paint and a relatively rigid support is wise to use. Avoid any surface that is so perfectly smooth that it is shiny.

Canvas can be used but it needs to be glued to a panel with hide glue before the traditional gesso.

Egg Tempera was traditionally painted on wood panels and the modern MDF (Medium Density Fiber) boards make excellent durable equivalents, but need to be prepared with a ground first. Unfortunately Acrylic Paint is very non absorbent, a property that makes it perfect as a ground for Oil Paint, but makes a poor ground for Egg Tempera. Traditional hide glue grounds and Gelatin based grounds are used. Cooking gelatin is inferior and should be avoided but the best grades of leaf gelatin can be used in place of the hide glue. It is refined from similar but lower grade raw materials and so has similar properties although is a little weaker. The following is a recipe for making best quality hide glue chalk gesso.

Detailed information on the best Hide Glue


Making the ground Traditional recipe
The chalk
In Renaissance days whiting was used for the chalk component but precipitated chalk produces a whiter and more durable ground. Some artist's like to add about one fifth to one quarter of Titanium Dioxide to the chalk and this can be beneficial. If using whiting increase the amount of chalk in this recipe by about a quarter. If Titanium white is used mix it thoroughly with the chalk first. Make equal volumes of glue and chalk although for whiting there will be a little more chalk than glue used.
Hide glue
Soak one part (by volume) of hide glue in 5 parts cold water and leave to soak overnight, but no more. Then heat gently in a double boiler until the hide dissolves.
Add chalk
Use a kitchen flour sieve to sieve the chalk into the glue. Do this slowly to avoid producing air bubbles (which are impossible to remove easily and cause problems in the gesso coat later on). The chalk will slowly sink as it absorbs the glue.
Stir
When all the chalk is in the mixture start stirring very slowly with a wooden spoon or even better one of those flat bladed wooden kitchen stirrers that has a squared off end. Stirring should be slow to avoid air bubbles. The finished product should be like cream. Strain, but only if need be. The gesso will keep for a week or so only.
Apply
Warm and return to the hotplate if necessary to keep warm. If the gesso starts to thicken add warm water but never more glue. Stir as necessary as the chalk tends to go to the bottom. The panel should have been sealed the previous day by applying a coat of hide glue front and back and allowing to dry. The first coat of gesso should be applied with a brush and then 'massaged' with the finger tips to help eliminate air bubbles. One coat of gesso should be applied to the back of the panel to avoid warping. Allow to dry. Apply two more layers to both front and back. Up to 10 coats may be applied in this way until the gesso looks dense and very white.
Smoothing the surface
Sand with a fine sandpaper, the result should feel very smooth to the fingers. Dampen a soft cloth and fold it into a pad like a well folded towel. Polish the surface with circular movements until it has an eggshell like appearance. It is now ready to paint on. It will have the perfect absorbency for Egg Tempera.
References

Cennini, C d'A,    The Craftsman's Handbook.    1437 (Dover)
Doerner, M,    The Materials Of The Artist And Their Use In Painting,    1921 (Harcourt Brace)
Eastlake, Sir C L,    Materials For A History Of Oil Painting,    1847 (Dover)
Feller, R L,    Artists Pigments    1986 (National Gallery Of Art / Cambridge University)
Gettens, R J, and Stout, G L,      Painting Materials: A Short Encyclopedia,      1942 (Dover)
Gottsegen, M D,    A Manual Of Painting Materials And Techniques,    1987 (Harper & Row)
Mayer, R,   The Artists Handbook Of Materials And Techniques,    fifth edition 1991  (Faber & Faber)
Merrifield, Mrs. M P,    Medieval And Renaissance Treatises On The Arts Of Painting    1849 (Dover)
Parkhurst, D B,    The Painter In Oil   1898 (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard)
Patton, T C,    Pigment Handbook,    1973 (Wiley)
Porter, N      Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary,      1913 (Merriam)
Roy, A      Artist's Pigments: A Handbook Of Their History And Characteristics,      1994 (Oxford University Press)
Taubs, F,    A Guide To Traditional And Modern Painting Methods,    1963 (Thames & Hudson)
Theophilus,   On Divers Arts,    1125 (Dover)
Various,    Encyclopedia Britannica,    fifteenth edition 1981  (Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc)
Various,    Paint And Painting,   1982,  (Winsor & Newton / The Tate Gallery)
Various,    The Artist's Colormen's Story,    1984 (Winsor & Newton)


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