Below, you can follow the order of making an icon. All of the iconographer's work is to be undergirded by prayer.



The underlying board is constructed from wood. Planks are cut and joined to the right size. The front of the board is shaped with a shallow indent for the painting. Trusses are then cut for the back of the board to maintain its shape over time. It is then covered with cloth to hold the gesso (plaster) which is layered on and sanded down when dry.


The drawing establishes the design of the icon. It operates on principles of underlying geometric harmony.

While the drawing serves as the preliminary to any painted panel icon, it may also be finished on paper as a stand alone commissioned piece.

Click on any of these images to see them in full. This drawing is of Saint Isaac the Syrian.


Icon water gilding

The laying of gold on an icon can be done using water (left) or oil (right).

Water gilding offers a brighter surface than oil gilding. First, a layer of red clay ('bole') is painted onto the gesso. Then gold leaf is then laid onto the bole and, at the right time, polished up to a bright sheen.

Oil gilding simply uses an oil based glue ('size') to adhere the leaf straight on to the gesso.


Mullering pigment for paint

Some pigments used are ground by hand from collected mineral materials, such as clay, and vegetable materials, such as charcoal. 


Charcoal for a black pigment is here being 'mullered' on a glass plate.

Azurite is shown underneath. Azurite is washed (or 'levigated') after grinding to get the pure pigment.

Almost all of the pigments used are natural. To make the paint itself, they are mixed (or 'tempered') with egg yolk and water. 

The painting then follows an order that starts with transferring the design from paper to board and proceeds with a layer by layer application of egg tempera glazes towards the final image.

And also...

Not directly applicable to iconpainting, but something fun to do if you have access to an oak tree: the galls from the oak tree, heated and mixed with iron sulphate and a little gum arabic, make excellent traditional ink.