Materials & Techniques
Historical Painting Techniques
Much of our knowledge of painting techniques comes from technical examinations of paintings. However, we also have access to painters' recipe books, some dating from Roman times, which describe the manufacture of paints, varnishes, and gesso. In the Medieval period, painters' guilds controlled the quality of craftsmanship with long apprenticeships and set rules for the manufacture and use of painting materials. Artists' techniques and materials are well documented by contemporary critics in the Renaissance. Each artist built on the knowledge and ability of other artists. Prior to the industrial production of paints in the 18th century, a great deal of technical knowledge was required for the medium's preparation. For example, when creating oil paints, some pigments required only a small amount of oil; others needed much more oil. Some colors were more intense if the pigment was ground only a short time; others had to be ground to a very fine texture.