Overview of Artists' Techniques

Illuminators employed a wide range of techniques in order to create elaborate scenes, individual figures, letter forms and ornamental motifs. Drawing, which required a good sense for proportion and balance as well as a steady hand, was crucial at the first stage of the design. Motifs and compositions, preserved in model books and workshop patterns, were traced and re-drawn in new manuscripts. Drawings could also indicate which areas would be heavily modelled or where gold or silver could be applied. For the subsequent painting stage, mastering the preparation and application of metals, binding media and various colourants – in pure form, in mixtures or layers – was essential. Knowledge of materials as well as step-by-step instructions for the painting techniques were recorded in recipe collections and artists' treatises, but most illuminators learned from their masters and collaborators, and perfected their techniques through their own practice.