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previouscontentICON TECHNIQUE: Finishing the icon.

Background, halos and frames

Although the background of many icons are gilded it is also possible to use color for the background. Use either a transparent and diluted mixture of yellow ochre, or an opaque color such as Naples yellow diluted slightly with either yellow ochre or Veronese green. Zinc oxide mixed with a little yellow ochre is another possibility along with others. Test your mixture before applying by the puddling technique.

The red line A red line is traced around the outer edge of the halo and a red line is drawn on the outer edge of the frame. This should be a darkened red and a ruler can be used to trace the line along the outer edge.


Calligraphy as well as gilding is an art in itself. It is highly recommended that one do the inscription over and over on paper before transferring on the board. The letterings confers on the icon the spiritual presence of the persons represented. And, after being blessed by a priest, they are considered worthy of either individual or public veneration.

It is very important to determine an appropriate size for the inscription in comparison to the size of the icon. Too large of an inscription alters the harmony of the image. It should be discrete but readable.

One of the traditional liturgical languages of the Church (Greek, Slavonic, Latin, Arab etc...) is generally chosen for the inscriptions. This depends mainly on the school to which the selected model is attached. It is also possible to use the vernacular language. In this case choose a style of calligraphy that is harmonious (many contemporary iconographers choose a style that is similar to " uncial ").


The edge of the icon

The edge

The final varnish

After the painting of the icon is finished, allow three months at least for the egg tempera layer to solidify before varnishing it.

The traditional icon varnish is olifa. This is an oil-based varnish made with linseed oil to which a drier, such as cobalt drier or stand oil, has been added. Today however there are a wide variety of varnishes that give all the advantages of olifa (transparency, blending of color, luminosity), without its problems (oxidation, dust, and difficulties of application). Who could say if Andrei Rublev, had he lived today, would have choosen olifa over one of these varnishes for his icons ? Ans it is noteworthy that many contemporary icon painters use these modern varnishes to cover their icons.

From Nesusvet's Library
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