Limited Palette

Illuminated manuscripts commonly used a very limited color palette for their miniatures. The staples were vermilion, ultramarine, and gold leaf, but unique color palettes were favored in each separate style of illumination, varying according to time period, region, and value, which had an effect on the available pigments. I was mainly not limited in this sense, but by a desire to be historically accurate. I used as many historical pigments as possible, but made substitutions for two main reasons. First, some pigments, many vegetable-based, have been proved to be unstable over time under certain conditions. These I substituted for more stable but artificial pigments. Other pigments are now known to be highly toxic, and these I either substituted for less toxic equivalents or used with extraordinary caution.   When choosing the colors for the main miniature, I based my palette on those of the original English and Greek manuscripts, using for the latter a description of the colors due to the black-and-white photograph I had to work with.

Other Materials

For the Greek manuscript, I intended to make the artwork as flat on the surface as possible. To this end, I used glair as a binder for my paints-- beaten egg white that gives the paint a very flat look similar to modern watercolor or gouache. 

For the gilding, I made my own size from gum ammoniac, a gum resin that leaves only a slightly raised surface for the gold to adhere to. Because gum ammoniac is a resin, it never becomes entirely hard; this is a good quality for gilding in books, but bad for burnishing, as the gold could easily smudge. As a result, ammoniac flat gilding never looks quite as bright as raised gilding with gesso.