Making icon boards for byzantine icons

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This post is dedicated to the the surface of the painting:- There are many recipes and various materials to prepare icon panels for byzantine icon making. This recipe is for  plywood panel in whatever size you wish to be covered that is covered with the white gesso paste and sanded in order to have its smooth, white surface ready for the egg tempera colors that are used in byzantine iconography

What you ll need:

Rabbit skin glue (in flakes or in granules)


Zinc oxide

Stucco (not the acrylic the classic staff  that is also used in walls)

Both powders are cheap and we buy them in stores that sell paints and building materials.


Quantities used

1 spoonful- Rabbits-skin-glue for

1 cup of zinc oxide

1 cup of stucco


Preparation of gesso

We add the rabbit skin's glue in lukewarm water and mix it (try to dissolve it completely)

and then we leave it overnight

Next day we put in a baigne-marie make it warm, and then we dissolve it again 

We always keep a part of this glue 


 In this mixture we add the cups with the powders and we also pass the mixture  it through a stiring tool (a plastic mesh like for tea) in order to dissolve any knots

We keep it in the refrigerator
For every application of the mixture we first put it in the baigne-marie so it becomes liquid


Making the panel

You take a plywood of the size you wish (sandpaper the edges a bit) and you add with a flat brush the melted Rabbits-skin-glue

Right afterwards, you add a piece of cotton cloth (a bit larger that the panel)

Leave it to dry for a day

Next day you apply the gesso mixture, You leave every layer to dry a day and keep the mixture refrigirated

In the second layer of gesso, you cut the cotton right on the edge of the panel with a scissor

After the fourth layer you will need to starighten the surface with a spatula. Usually 4-7 layers of gesso are added

Finally you have sandpapering (I really dislike this step)  with various types of papers (from a rough to very thin). In the end  the surface should look and feel totally flat.

It seems a bit complicated but all it needs is just patience . Best of luck with it!


For more posts on byzantine art visit my original blog:




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