How to protect your icon painting- Traditional top coats and byzantine icon painting

Long time since I wrote a "how to" post - This time, I thought to deal shortly with top coats and the traditional ways to finalize your work.

Egg-tempera is a very fine and durable material as long as it remains protected from insects (that really find it very... yummy) and moisture (and in case of Churches, the devastating effects of lipstick, that permanently stains, with its oils, the icon)

So, after completing painting, and letting a week go by (that is the time that egg-tempera really needs to dry)- We need to first protect and then totally isolate the colours.

The first layer we apply is white shellac (or gomalacca), the exact liquid that you can see on the pic. A natural resin secreted by a lac bug (Kerria laca)

It is made by thin granules of clear dewaxed shellac and clear alcohol (in an approx 1:3 mixture ). Liquid shellac makes a transparent film that protects (and doesnt alter) the colours, and the fine colour variations (lazure) created by the several layers of the egg-tempera technique.

***Attention :) One should never confuse the clear white top-coat shellac from the dark brown shellac created from flakes  (in an approx 1:3 mixture ) and lower in quality alcohol. The latter is better used mostly as an undercoat in gold gilding process

After another week of drying there are plenty of options of varnishes on the market for the final  overcoat  (with the strict exception of water based varnishes) 

Oil based varnishes (like olifa technique)

Egg based varnishes (egg white)

Turpentine varnishes (satine or mat effect, not gloss)

Wax varnishes (Bee-wax made)

Use with caution, let it dry completely in a dust free environment, and remember to thoroughly and tenderly ;) clean your brushes  afterwards.





You have some great ideas

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