Recipe: Making Charcoal Paint using Egg Tempera Medium

Thanks to artist Jo Bushell for sending us this recipe. With support from Silvanus Trust she researched and developed this method of making charcoal paint and used the method in a number of wokshops exploring energy and transformation.


Biochar is charcoal used as a soil amendment. Like most charcoal, biochar is made from biomass via pyrolysis. Biochar is under investigation as an approach to carbon sequestration to produce negative carbon dioxide emissions.[1] Biochar thus has the potential to help mitigate climate change via carbon sequestration.[2][3] Independently, biochar can increase soil fertility of acidic soils (low pH soils), increase agricultural productivity, and provide protection against some foliar and soil-borne diseases.[4]Furthermore, biochar reduces pressure on forests.[5] Biochar is a stable solid, rich in carbon, and can endure in soil for thousands of years.[1]


Making Charcoal Paint using Egg Tempera Medium

  • pestle and mortar
  • approx 5 lemon-sized lumps of charcoal (best quality available)
  • facemask (if not in a well ventilated area)
  • container with lid for storing charcoal powder
  • 10 free range eggs (organic or best quality possible)
  • large bowl for discarded egg whites/tissue (must be glass/ceramic for breaking eggs)
  • kitchen roll
  • cocktail stick or pointed twig
  • medium mixing bowl
  • table spoon
  • bottle of water
  • couple of small ramekin type dishes
  • paint brushes (or use fingers, leaves, pine cones or other found objects)

Step one:  First you will need to grind the charcoal lumps into powder form by placing them one at a time into your mortar and then pounding with the pestle until the lumps have reduced down to a fine powder.  Decant into a sealable container between grinding each lump – the dust is very fine!

Step two:  Take an egg and crack it on the edge of the large bowl.  Separate the egg yolk from the white using the two broken parts of its shell; gently passing the yolk from one to the other whilst letting the white of the egg drip down into the bowl beneath.  Discard the bowl containing the whites and replace with the mixing bowl. Place a piece of kitchen roll onto the palm of your hand and let the yolk tip from the shell onto the towel (somewhere close to the edge) taking care to hold it steady so that it doesn’t roll off onto the floor! Taking the cocktail stick pierce the membrane sack of the yolk allowing the yellow contents to drip into the mixing bowl  below.  Repeat this with the rest of the eggs. This is your Egg Tempera Medium.

Step three:  Spoon out roughly the same amount of charcoal powder as there is yolk and mix them together into a smooth paste.  Try it out on a piece of paper/bark until you are happy with the thickness and translucency.  If the paste is too thick to use then VERY GRADUALLY add water a spoonful at a time and stir in. Decant into your ramekins for ease of use. This paint dries quickly so don’t hang around!

Step four:  Use natural, hand-made paintbrushes or fingers to try out mark-making with your charcoal paint onto pieces of wood or  the inside of a piece of bark. It’s very smooth to paint with and, when it’s dry, you’ll find it has a lovely, glossy finish!

*If you have an egg allergy then try using Linseed oil mixed in equal parts with Water Mixable Fast Drying Oil Medium as a substitute for the egg.  Alternatively, honey can be used (take note, however, that the honey medium takes a couple of days to dry properly).


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