The making of the drawing of the icon too paint is a work of the painter. The paintersbook of Dionysius of Fourna (probably written between 1730 and 1734) discribes the technique already. Dionysius’ book is a compilation of manuals for icon painters from the 12th century. You can say that the making of the drawing a real Greek painters custom is. The book of Dionysius describes that an in oil drenched sheet of paper was laid over the icon and the main lines were transferred. Nowadays we use a sheet of transparent paper over a picture of the icon in a book or a postcard. The picture on the right shows the drawing of the icon of the Mother of God of the Passion. Now the drawing has to be enlarged or reduced too the size of the "icon board".


The making of an "icon board" is a, in comparison of the whole process, a time consuming part. When painters speak of "icon board", they mean a piece of wood prepared to paint an icon on. Medium density fibreboard is not suitable; it is more glue than sawdust. In addition, the piece of wood may not curve when a lot of water is applied. Mahogany is the best sort of wood for "icon boards". An icon is valuable so you have to use materials of the best quality. On the board, with glue obtained from hides, you paste a piece of cloth. Then you put, in several layers, a glue-chalk-mixture on the cloth. This glue-chalk-mixture has to be heated in a water bath (see the first photo on the left). After everything dried well the chalk layer is sanded until it is very smooth.

After sanding, you transfer the drawing on the "icon board" by carbon paper and the painting part of the icon begins. Gilding is in my opinion a part of the painting process, a specialistic part. Gilding demands experience. There are several ways to gild. The poliment gilding method was used in early days, and is very labour intensive. Nowadays there are other gilding methods, which are less labour intensive. One of them is the water based mixtion method. You paint the water-diluted mixtion on the "icon board" before you lay the gold on the "icon board" (first photo on the right). The gold has to be of the best quality too. The carat of the gold is therefore as high as possible, 23.75 carat. The nimbi are painted with red paint. All paint used in icon painting has egg yolk as binding agent. This egg yolk is in a certain ratio mixed with a preservative. In the Greek tradition, this preservative is vinegar. Icon painters speak often about "the egg" when they mean the binding agent. "The egg" is added directly to the red pigment until the paint has a certain viscosity.
You make the paint for the garments as previous described. This way of making your paint is used in the Cretan School of the Greek tradition. In the Russian tradition, the way of making paint is like this. A paste of pigment and water is made before "the egg" is added. In the colour needed for a garment now there can be more then one pigment. Two or three pigments are common. Even four or more pigments are possible. The garments of a person on an icon are in several parts constructed. The photo, second to the left, shows the structure of the garments. The third light, the brightest light, has the smallest area. Darker lights, the second and the first light, have a greater area. In the Cretan School, you paint all garments like this.

The way of painting the skin parts is similar to the way of painting the garment. However, the transitions of the lighter colours are gradual (shown in the second photo on the right). There are two different types of beards, a ‘round’ beard and a ‘pointy’ beard. When the hair and beards are painted, the icon is nearly finished.
The last actions of painting to the icon are the painting of the frame and the writing of the name or names of the saint or saints or the event. The colour is the same as the colour used with the nimbi. The name, names or event are painted directly on the gold. With the painting of the name, the icon is finished.Now the icon has to be varnished. You can do this with different materials. After varnishing, the used colours are brighter then before varnishing (see third photo on the left).