Tempera Painting

Fuse historical tempera painting techniques with contemporary style

Key details
Falmouth Campus
Course duration
5 days

Course overview

This immersive five-day, on-campus course is a practical opportunity to dedicate time to the study of tempera painting – a rich, heritage medium – to inform your own artistic practice. The course includes one day on-location in St Ives and four days on campus at Falmouth. Egg tempera is a paint type typically associated with Medieval painting and traditions of icon painting.

Typically, tempera painting includes richly symbolic forms of image-making that contain luminescent colours, structured compositions and fine detailed brush-work; rather than communicating what the world looks like, they seek to communicate a sense of going beyond the real. Some of the most famous artworks of all time - such as Duccio’s Madonna and Child, The Wilton Diptych, Medieval Russian icons and Piero Della Francesca’s Portrait of the Duchess of Urbino - are examples of tempera in practice.

You don't need to be a practicing artist to enjoy and develop new skills on this course. With use of our dedicated art studios and facilities, and expert guidance from our staff, this is a course for anyone with an eye for beautiful, historical artistic form.

Course dates: 1-5 July 2024

Price: £850 - £1,100

Book your place now

Course details

Following an introduction to a wide range of egg tempera paintings, this course will give you an opportunity to explore the ideas and world-view that created these richly imaginative paintings. You'll be guided to begin considering how this slow and structured painting form can be sensitively adapted to speak to your own contemporary painting practice.

You'll learn how to make and modulate the mixture for egg tempera painting, together with learning brush skills for fine detail work that will be practiced throughout the week to help you develop your skills.

To begin your learning, you’ll make a painted copy of a detail selected from a Medieval tempera painting. This will be applied to a burnished, traditional gesso panel, which you'll also learn to make. Traditional gesso is made from a calcium-carbonate based pigment called whiting that is mixed and heated together with an animal hide glue.

Between six and ten layers of the ground are applied to a panel, to create a thick base-layer to paint on. In comparison to painting on a surface prepared with shop-bought plastic-based acrylic gesso’s, a traditional gesso surface looks, feels and behaves in a very different way.

Following further exploration into the alchemy of paint, and paying particular attention to methods of developing colour through layering, you will have the opportunity later in the week to develop your own final painting in tempera paint using all the new styles and techniques you have learned. There will be time to think about how you can continue to adapt this painting style to fit your personal practice.

What you need to know

This five-day short course will run from 1 - 5 July 2024.

You'll have a dedicated shared studio with enough space for you to expand your skillset, and the studios will be open from 09:00-21:00 each day.

On the final afternoon you'll come together with students from our screen printing, colour etching and drawing courses for a private view and the opportunity to discuss your work.

With dedicated studio access at our Falmouth Campus, you'll have the opportunity to develop your creative practice through a balance of taught technical skills during masterclasses in the mornings and supported skill development and practice in the afternoons.

One day will feature a trip to Porthmeor Studios in St Ives and the Tate St Ives to gather ideas in response to what you see, ready to generate a new painting composition that you'll create using egg tempera paint.

Our Falmouth Campus is set in subtropical gardens and is just a few steps from Falmouth town centre or a short stroll to the shores of Gyllyngvase beach.

Find out more about the facilities, access, cafes and more at Falmouth campus.


Comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting messy.

In preparation for translating an egg tempera technique into your own painting style, it would be helpful, though not integral, to bring along some physical (printed-off) imagery, such as photos or previous drawings/ paintings that might serve as inspiration for creating a new composition to paint in egg tempera. We will be working on a small A5 scale, so nothing needs to be big

Please bring a pencil and pen to write with, draw and take notes.

If you have a small set of watercolour paints or inks, bring this with you for drawing, sketching and taking notes during the trip to St Ives, and to use during any undirected time in the afternoons.

We will be making paintings that require fine detail. If you think that focusing on small detail might be a struggle for your eye-sight, you might want to bring a clip-on magnifying glass as shown in the link given here.

All materials required for egg tempera painting are included in the course price.

Accommodation is not included in this course cost.

If you would like to book accommodation, please find some suggestions below. Please note that we are not responsible for any accommodation costs incurred, including as a result of the course being rescheduled or cancelled.

There are a range of hotels and B&Bs available in Falmouth, within walking distance of our Falmouth Campus. We can facilitate a corporate rate for the following hotels if booked via us. If you would like to take advantage of this for your booking, please contact us


Merchants Manor

Address: Western Terrace, TR11 4QJ  

Contact details: 01326 312734

Distance from Falmouth Campus: 0.2 miles  

Parking: 60 spaces available on site  

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St Michaels Resort  

Address: Gyllyngvase Beach, TR11 4NB  

Contact details: 01326 312707  

Distance from Falmouth Campus: 0.2 miles  

Parking: Reserved for overnight guests on a first come first served basis   

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The Greenbank Hotel

Address: Harbourside, TR11 2SR  

Contact details: 01326 312440  

Distance from Falmouth Campus: 0.9 miles  

Parking: Handful of marked bays in front of hotel plus underground car park  

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Penryn Campus

This course is based on our Falmouth Campus. If you would like to stay on-campus at our Penryn campus, our Penryn student halls accommodation can be booked. This is a simple and affordable accommodation option and there is a regular bus service from Penryn Campus to Falmouth. A mix of double and twin bedrooms are available, each with bed, desk and en-suite shower room. Bedding and towels are provided. You should bring your own toiletries. There are shared kitchen facilities.

Find out more

Lunch and tea/coffee included each day on campus (all diets catered for). 

On the day-trip to St Ives, lunch is not included as there will be enough of a break in the middle of the day to visit a café of your choice, or choose a takeaway lunch to take to the beach. 


Course programme

While you will be made aware of your course programme closer to the start date, each day will typically follow the structure below. One of the days will also feature a trip to St Ives and the afternoon of the final day will include a coming together of the students from our screen printing, colour etching, and painting courses for a private view and opportunity to discuss your work.

Morning: Practical taught sessions in studio or on location.

Lunch: A shared lunch break, with time to socialise with your fellow students

Afternoon: Supervised independent practice within dedicated art studios 

Evening: Independent practice within studios 

Jobs Slideshow - Outside Falmouth
Falmouth Campus. Photo credit: Laura Bailey

Nina Royle

This course is facilitated by Nina Royle.

Senior Technician: The Falmouth School of Art

Nina's own art practice and interests question how the richness of historical painting processes can be adapted to speak to our contemporary moment.

What is 'tempera paint'?

Egg tempera paint is made by binding dry pigments with egg yolk. Historically it was used on a wood panel prepared with layers of traditional gesso. Unlike oil paint, egg tempera paint is applied in thin layers that dry almost immediately. This means that the paint can be used to build-up up opulent and complex layers of colour. Also different to other paints, egg tempera paint can-not be re-worked once applied to a surface. So, when painting in egg tempera paint a much more structured process for constructing a painting is followed.

As in paintings from the medieval period, a gesso surface is first created and burnished, underlayers (or flood layers) of paint are applied, before outlines are added, followed by subsequent shades. White highlights are the final marks to be added to a painting. Where there are areas of shading and colour gradation, this is generally achieved through fine detailed hatching or dotting with the brush.

A white building behind greenery
fal campus building

Where will the course take place?

Lamorva, Falmouth Campus  

Nestled away just a stone's throw from the centre of town, our Falmouth Campus is composed of industry-standard facilities, relaxed learning spaces and a vast subtropical garden. 

On our campus, you'll be within walking distance from Falmouth's bustling high-street and you'll also be just up the road from Gyllyngvase Beach. 

The campus is close to a large public car park and also just a short walk away from Falmouth Town train station if you're using public transport from Penryn, Truro or further afield.

Find out more

Download our Falmouth Campus map below

Explore our Fine Art facilities

Important information

Our campus is not fully accessible, with some activities in early Victorian three storey buildings. Please contact us if you have questions about mobility and access. 

During the course there is an emphasis on painting fine details with a narrow-tipped brush. If you think this might prove testing for your eyesight, please let me know in advance. You may also want to bring a clip on magnifier that can help enlarge the surface area that you are painting on.

We are currently refurbishing our library building on the Falmouth Campus. There will be some noise in and near this building, which is located opposite the Printmaking studios. Please contact us if you have any questions. 


Uses of animal products

Please be aware that animal products are used on this course, including egg tempera and potentially glue containing animal products. 

Animal hide glue is a breathable, versatile and bio-degradable glue that has been used for centuries as a binder to create paint and to prepare canvases, amongst many other uses.

On this course, we use the glue to create a traditional gesso surface as used in Medieval panel painting. A traditional gesso surface works exceptionally well with the properties required by egg tempera paint. A casein painting ground is sometimes used as an alternative. This is made from milk protein and also creates an excellent surface to work on. The process to make a casein ground however is more complex and is beyond the scope of this course.

Download our Terms & Conditions below.

How to apply

Who is this course suitable for?

Previous painting experience is always helpful, but this course will lead you step by step through the process of creating a painting using egg tempera paint and painting techniques. Just bringing your keen interest is most important! 

Please note: to apply for our Summer Short Courses, you must be 18+ years of age. 

Please be aware if you are vegetarian or vegan that animal products are used on this course.

Book now

Click the button below to book your place. You can choose to reserve your place with a deposit or pay in full. If you have any queries please contact us on shortcourses@falmouth.ac.uk

Book your place now

Fees, costs & funding

You can choose to reserve your place with a deposit or pay in full.

Rate  Price Date available until
Super Early Bird £850 30 April 2024 
Early Bird £950 30 May 2024 
Standard £1,100 16 June 2024 

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Falmouth University is split between two campuses, approximately four miles apart. Regular buses run between the two, with a journey time of 20-25 minutes.

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