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"For the use and good and profit of anyone who wants to enter this profession."
-- Cennino Cennini, sometime before 1437

Mixing the Paint

You will need:

  • Your jar of water-ground pigment (see How to prepare the pigments)
  • Your jar of egg medium (see How to make egg medium)
  • A palette with small cups; I like the little Japanese ceramic ones shaped like flowers, sold for watercolor
  • Distilled water
  • Palette knives and brushes

1. Take a little of the wet pigment out of the jar with a palette knife. Since this paint does not last long, you won't want to mix too much at any one time. I find an amount the size of the tip of my finger works well for me -- except for white; I always mix as much white as my palette cup will hold.

2. Very carefully, using a brush to carry the egg medium (you could use an eyedropper, but unless you wash it perfectly clean every time it will quickly get revolting), place the medium drop by drop into the palette cup with the pigment. As a general rule of thumb you want about as much medium as pigment (more on that below).

3. Using a stiff brush (badger or bristle), blend the pigment and medium until it is absolutely smooth, with no lumps. It should have a texture like whipping (heavy) cream. Test it by painting a stroke on a piece of glass or aluminum foil: it should not bead up, should dry to the touch within a few minutes, and should not be shiny, nor should it rub off in a powder onto your finger. Your paint is now ready to use.

4. For a thinner, more watercolor-like paint for washes, you can take some of your mixed paint and add it to another palette cup with some water in it. I usually also add a drop or two or three of egg medium, just to make sure the paint doesn't lose its cohesion. Be sure to save your original, thick mixed paint, in case you need to make adjustments.

NOTES: You will eventually work out how much egg medium each color needs to suit your taste. The minimum requirement is enough to adhere the pigment to the ground while revealing its beauty. If you use too little medium the dried paint will powder off the surface. If you use too much it will look waxy and can crack, especially if you paint thickly. However, I have found that it takes a remarkable lot of medium to get that disastrous a result. Not enough medium is a worse evil, and a slightly generous hand with the medium does not seem to do any harm.

The next step is to how to paint