Learning the art of Miniature Painting

This article describes about Miniature paintings and how they are done. Read to know more about the general features, Process of making a miniature painting and other info about it.

General features :

Miniature paintings small format paintings. Originally the paintings were done on palm leaves as illustrations to religious texts. The practice was followed on paper. They are best exemplified by Jaina Kalpasutra manuscript illuminations from Western India. Later, Mughal and Rajput miniatures were painted on sheets of hand-made paper using vibrant natural colours.

The miniatures are intended for private viewing: they may be appreciated best by viewing them from a foot or so away. Because majority of them are illustrations to literary works, it is not uncommon to include textual script as part of the composition. Rich details of narration, brilliant colouring and fine workmanship are the characteristic features of miniatures.
A classic miniature painting.

Process of miniature painting:

Each family or individual miniature painting possesses a collection of ready-made drawings, called cartoons. Made on tough paper or parchment these drawings have closely placed pin-holes along the drawn lines. The drawings are transferred on to the paper by a method called pouncing. A cloth sac of coal-dust is dabbed over the cartoons which are placed over the paper to be painted. The dots of coal-dust on the paper are joined and the basic drawing is readied by painting in red colour.

The brushes are made by the artists themselves by tying sheaf of hair from goat, hare or squirrel and fixing it firmly in bamboo or similar sticks. Very fine brushes are needed for which hair from under-belly of baby squirrels or hares are used.

The colours are applied evenly as solid areas of single tones.The painting proceeds systematically. The main colours are applied At first the main colours of the trees, body, clothing etc. are applied. Then, the details like leaves of plants, jewellery, or designs on the dresses are rendered with fine brushes. After the rendering of the details, gold, floral borders and scripts are done one after the other. On completion of all details the outlines are painted again in dark red colour.

At each stage, the painted paper is placed face-down on a smooth plane of marble and rubbed with hematite, or smooth round glass. This process, known as burnishing, would give a sheen of smooth painted surface. The colours would sparkle like enamel and the painting would acquire a jewel-like finish.

This Islamic method of painting the miniatures , was perfected by the Mughals and followed by almost all royal patrons – especially the Rajputs - of India.


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