Do Try This At Home | Paint Makers

Use egg yolk and kitchen herbs and spices to make paint.

Welcome back to Do Try This At Home - our series of super-fun weekly science activities.

Our building is closed right now, but that doesn't mean we can't do some science at home.


Egg paints?

Did you know that painters in the past used to make their own paint?

In fact, some painters still do!

Let's have a go.


You will need

  • An egg
  • Some coloured powders - we used smoked paprika, cocoa powder and turmeric. Finer powders work better. Ask an adult to help you choose! You could also try grinding things up, especially coloured chalk.
  • A teaspoon of water
  • A drop of vinegar or lemon juice


At home!

Who for


Egg tempera

Paints made using egg and coloured powders (pigments) are called 'tempera'.

Tempera was used in European art up until about 1500 when it was replaced by oil paint. It was commonly used by European Medieval and Early Renaissance painters. They couldn't just go to the shops and buy paint in a tube, so they made their own!

Some famous examples of tempera paintings:

Botticelli's The Birth of Venus (mid 1480s), Da Vinci's The Last Supper (1490s) and Munch's The Scream (1910).


So what did these artists use to colour their paints?

Medieval and Renaissance painters were very inventive and used all sorts of pigments to add colours.

Here are some examples of pigments used in Medieval illuminated manuscripts.

Can you spot the same colours in the Bristol Psalter? This book was made in the 11th century, and was discovered in Bristol in 1921.

Make your own tempera

1. Crack the egg and separate the yolk from the white. Make sure you don't break the yolk!

2. Pierce the membrane of the egg yolk. Let the yolk run into a bowl but keep the 'skin' of the yolk behind.

3. Add a teaspoon of water and a drop of vinegar or lemon juice. Now mix it together!

Throughout history, painters have added different things to the egg yolk.

If you want to investigate why, try making paints with just egg yolk or just water.

What's different? Why do you think painters used a mixture of egg and water?

4. Now mix your pigments with a bit of the egg yolk.

If it's too solid, add a bit more yolk.

What type of ingredients work best as pigments? Fine powders or lumpy herbs?


Lots of people have asked us questions about colour over the last couple of years, but I thought this one was really interesting:

How are colours (especially blue) made?    - Tavis age 5.

In Medieval and Renaissance times, blue pigments like lapis lazuli were very expensive - sometimes more expensive than gold.

Blue paints were only used for important paintings, often on the clothes of The Virgin Mary and royalty.


Share your Paintings

Did you manage to make paint? What pictures did you paint?

We would love to see your paintings, and you can find us on:

facebook | twitter | instagram

And if you enjoyed this activity, why not try our others in this series?


Top image credit: Andrew Watkiss

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