Tanjore Painting

Traditional Tanjore Paintings

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Latest Activity: Jul 25, 2014




In the past when the artists were making paintings in the Tanjore style, they were following traditional methods of making the board.

Wooden planks of teak, mango, jackfruit or saal were cut to size; edges trimmed and thick wooden strips were nailed on the rear side to prevent warping. Sometime seasoned wood was used to prepare the board.

Presently it is difficult to get good planks of wood. Moreover plywood of different quality is readily available. Hence it is a normal practice to prepare boards of plywood.

The following precautions are to be taken.
1. Use only plywood of repute make.
2. Plywood must be well seasoned and termite resistant.
3. Thickness of plywood should not be less than 6mm for boards of size 6” x 8”
And thicker up to 12mm for larger boards.

Plywood plank of the following sizes are used for making the board.

6”x 8”, 8”x 10”, 10”x 12”, 12”x15”, 14’x 18”, 16”x 20”, 20”x 26”, 24”x 30”, 24”x 36”

Other sizes are also used, but the above is the normal size of paintings.

Material required for preparing the board.

Plywood sheet of suitable size
Unbleached long cloth or Gada cloth
Fevicol SH
White sheet of paper
Chalk powder (zinc oxide powder used for puttee work in house painting)
Gum Arabic in liquid form. (Natural gum from tree bark available in all provision stores) Synthetic gum is not recommended.
1” Flat brush
Plastic bowl and clean water

The plywood sheet is first thoroughly cleaned to remove any wood particles on the face and sides.
The edges are smoothened out with sand paper to remove any burrs that may be sticking out.
Next a sheet of white paper of the size of the board less half inch on all four sides is cut.

You can use copier paper of A4 size for small boards. For larger boards you can use old date calendar sheets cut to appropriate size.

Prepare a bowl of Fevicol SH mixed with water, the consistency being that of thin milk
Take a 1” flat brush and apply the mix on one side of the board. Apply a coat of the mix on one side of the paper. Now paste the paper on the board and smoothen it to ensure that there are no folds kinks or foreign particles between the paper and the board.
If you find any particle remove it. If you see any fold or kink smoothen it out.

The gada or unbleached cloth should be cut to the size of the board with an extra 2” on all the four sides. For example, if the board is of size 12” x 15” the cloth must have a dimension of 2” on all sides, i.e. 16” x 19”

Dip the cloth piece that has been cut to size in the Fevicol mix. Remove excess mix by gently squeezing with your hand, stretch the cloth well, and remove any dirt or loose thread on the cloth. Place the cloth on the paper; stretch the cloth on all sides uniformly until the cloth has covered the board fully. With one edge of the board and cloth firmly placed on the table or stool, roll the other edge over the board and turn it on the other side of the board.

With two sides of the cloth now stretched, turn the board and stretch the other two sides also over the respective edge of the board.

Pull the cloth fully taut on all four sides and press the ends of the cloth on the other side of the board. Apply a coating of the fevicol mix and ensure that the main side is smooth and without any bulge or particles beneath the cloth.

Next, to the fevicol mix add two table spoon of chalk powder and an equal amount of liquid gum.

Mix the powder and gum well in the old mix. You will have a paste of mix to a consistency of paint. With the brush apply one coat of the mix on the board. Allow it to partially dry. Apply a second coat and wait to dry. Then a third and finally a fourth coat of the mix. Ensure that the four edges are also covered. Allow the paste to dry.

After drying fully overnight, use a smooth sand paper to remove any roughness on the board.

The board is now ready to begin the sketch work.

Alternate Material for Small Boards

For smaller paintings using 6”x8” or 8”x10” board an easy solution is possible.

Readymade boards of the above sizes are available for the use of oil and acrylic painting. Reputed makes like Camlin are available in art material shops.

The board is of thin particle board material and has a rigid canvas cloth coating. The canvas is painted with acrylic white paint and is rough suitable for oil or acrylic painting.

The board surface has to be smooth for Tanjore painting. Hence you have to make it suitable by applying two to three coats of a mix of gum and chalk powder with a small quantity of Fevicol mixed with it.

The fevicol is added to ensure that the mix is properly binding on the original acrylic coated surface.

After drying the surface is smoothened by rubbing with sand paper of 100 or 120 grit size.
Once you have a clean smooth surface you can begin the sketch work.

Please ensure that the edges are also coated with the mix. If the board warps during the drying process you can place it on a flat surface and keep a couple of heavy books on it and leave it overnight . The board will get its flat shape next morning.

You can follow the same steps if the board warps during the process of fixing stones.

As I said, the readymade board is suitable for smaller paintings. For larger paintings I would recommend that you prepare the board as per instructions using plywood of appropriate thickness.


While making the board with plywood or ready made board, some students have experienced cracks on the surface coating.

Cracks on the surface is caused by many factors.
1. Quick drying of the surface in extreme temperature conditions in summer.
2. Inadequate gum in the mix causes cracks.
3. If the mix has not been well stirred a few thick particles of chalk powder will remain as solid and can cause cracks.
4. Quality of gum can also give you problems of cracks.

It is always better to follow the instructions carefully which will result in a good performance.

Frequently Asked Questions


A. Paper is a goodanquick absorber of water. Wood absorbs slowly.

When a coat of thin or thick mix is applied on the cloth, the water in the mix is quickly absorbed by the paper and a uniform drying takes place.

When paint is applied on the surface the water gets down to the paper quickly and the spread of the paint is uniform and does not leave patches.


A.Any mix having water in it on drying will produce cracks. When we add gum to the mix the gum holds the particles together after the water dries up and that is why you do not get cracks.

Even if the ratio of chalk powder to gum is correct, because of excess water sometime in the gum can cause cracks. Adding a little extra gum to the mix will eliminate cracks.


A. The board can warp due to the stresses of tightening the cloth over the board and fixing it with fevicol.
If the board is seasoned this may not happen.
To straighten the bend, place the board on a flat surface, place some heavy books or weight on the board ( with cloth side up ). Allow to remain overnight. The board will get back its normal flat surface.


A.Any brush will leave marks. The finer the brush the finer the lines.
You cannot avoid it completely.
The best solution is to make a small ball of soft cloth( the size of a modhak or kozukattai), dip the ball in the mix and spread the mix on the board, like a carpenter doing the polishing of your furniture.
The cloth will spread the mix uniformly on the board. You will need to dip several times to keep the ball wet.

Q. Sometimes a drop or two of the mix falls on the finshed board. Can I rub it.?
A. No. Do not touch it with your finger or brush, or else you will spoil the finished surface. Allow it dry and with a fine sand paper, rub it out.

Q. After drying the waste paper on which the board was placed for drying sticks to the board. How to avoid it ?

When the board is wet after applying the fevicol mix and fixing the cloth, place the board flat on the waste paper with the cloth side up. When it dries the paper on the rear side can still be removed as the rear side will l be semi dry. Then place the board to dry fully resting vertically on a wall or any other surface
Mrs.Anuradha Balasubramanyam
Sandra art studio, Patna



The second step in the process is sketching the outline of the figure and the decorative work on the sides of the painting.

Before you commence the sketch work or tracing work, it is necessary to provide a border for the board within which the painting will be done.

Normally a ½” border is set out on all four sides. Using a scale and pencil, draw the border lines ½” from the edge and parallel to it. If your board size is 10” x 12” you will now have a space 9”x 11” within which you will do the painting.

Having fixed the borders you should now find the center point of the board by drawing a vertical and horizontal line joining the mid points of the four border lines.

For example the space on the board is 9”x 11”. The mid point of the lines is at 4½” and 5 ½” respectively. Join these points using a pencil and pencil. The point of intersection of the lines is the center point of your board.

This will help you to centralize your sketch and ensure that there is symmetry in the picture.

Next you have the decorative arch work to be done. The arch work starts from the top mid point of the board and spreads to both sides until it reaches the side edges from where the pillars start downwards.

There are no hard and fast rules to the design of the arches. What is important is that there is a uniformity and symmetry in the sketch.

You will be guided by a few arches that are commonly used. Please see the attachment.

Similarly pillars form a wide range. It is always good to choose simple arches and pillars.

Once you have done the sketch work for the arches and pillars, you can sketch or trace the figures that will form the main theme of the picture. The lines that you have drawn to get the mid point of the painting will help you to fix the symmetry of the picture you wish to trace or draw.

If you are tracing a picture, set the template or sketch you want to trace in such a way as to have the entire picture within the space provided. Check for alignment vertically, using the existing dividing lines that you have done earlier.

Next insert a carbon sheet (preferably a yellow carbon sheet ) under the tracing without disturbing the alignment, making sure that the carbon sheet covers the entire picture. To ensure that the tracing does not shift during tracing, apply a touch of fevicol or gum between the tracing and the board. Now using the tip of a used ball point pen trace the outline making sure the carbon impression is visible on the board.
Remove the tracing and the carbon sheet after the tracing.

The following shapes and colours are common.

Round and square stones
Red and green colours
Blue and white stones are also used.

Normally square red or green stones of size 5mm to 8mm are used for the arches and columns. You can also use square or rectangular glass pieces for the column work. When you use stones, the filling work n the arch and column is reduced.

Depending on the size of the painting
3mm red or green round stones for the bangles and anklets.
5mm or 6mm green red or blue round stones for the necklace and other ornaments.
You can use 4 or 5mm square white, red or green stones for the belt around the waist or for the arm bands.
For the crown depending on the size of the painting, 3, 4, or 5mm round stones are used.

It is important that a uniform spacing is allowed between stones, to enable you to do the thick mix work around the stones. If you cannot judge the gap between stones it is best to have a strip of card board of 2 to 3mm width to help you set the space between stones.

Stones are fixed by using Fevicol paste. (FEVICOL SH is now available in plastic bottles with lid that can be screwed on to prevent drying.)

You will need a few simple instruments to dip into the fevicol.

.Place a small drop of fevicol on the board, using a thick needle or small screw driver end. If you use a little excess fevicol leave it..Do not remove it. Fevicol when dry will be transperant and will not harm.

Lift the stone by the same needle or screw driver end and place it on the fevicol drop. Do not press. The stone will adhere by itself and settle down. By pressing you are likely to move the stone from the spot where you need it. Use the strip gauge to check the clearance between stones. Use a scale or ruler to align the stones in a straight line. Use the sketched lines to align the stones on curves.

Once the stone work is complete, check for flaws like missing stones, colour variation, alignment, uniformity in size of stones and any other flaws like broken edge etc.

To remove and replace stones, first apply a drop of water on the stone, wait for a minute or two, use a small screw driver to pry the stone and replace it by using fresh drop of fevicol. While prying the stone ensure you do not damage the base of the board. If you have difficulty add another drop or two of water on the stone, wait for a few minutes and then ease the stone from the board.
If you allow the board to dry it may be difficult to remove the stone without damaging the bottom of the stone or the board.

You have now completed the stone work on the board.

Mrs.Anuradha Balasubramanyam
Varnavarthika Arts Academy, Chennai



It is necessary to fill the thin mix of chalk powder and gum around the stone work.
This is needed as a base for the thick mix work.

Take the bowl and add two table spoons of chalk powder. Add a small quantity of water to the powder. Allow the powder to absorb the water and get moist. This will help dissolve solids if any from the lump of powder. Next add two tablespoons of gum solution and mix well with a spoon till the mix is uniform and of a consistency of thick milk. Add water if required.

Try and get natural gum (gum arabic, found on tree bark and available at native drug stores or kirana shops) Synthetic gum available in the market may contain chemicals that can harm the painting at a later day.

Place the board on a flat surface (table, stool or the ground) Dip a no 5 or no.6 brush in the solution and stir. Lift the brush and spread the solution around and between the stone works. Do not allow the brush to touch the board and do not spread with the brush. The solution must flow naturally and fill up wherever you wish to fill. You will have space on the top right and left corner above the arch work. Fill up this area also with the mix. The solution will find its own level if the board is placed on a flat surface.

To prevent the flow of the thin mix beyond the area that is required to be filled, just use a wet brush and draw a “Lakshman Rekha” and you will find that the thin mix will not cross the border!

Allow the board to dry without shifting. When dry the entire surface will be smooth and uniform without any projections provided you are careful while laying the solution. If you try to brush the surface you will not get a smooth finish.


You may wonder what is the difference between thin mix and thick mix . There is no terminology to define the paste that is formed to work on the picture to give an elevation to the finished product. Pure gold leaf is used to fill in as ornament, clothing, arches and pillars. The filling done with the chalk powder mix gives a dimension to the gold when it is placed on the relief work.

The thin mix (also called maggu or paste) is used to give a holding around the stone work as well as the ornaments and clothing.

The thick mix or paste is made with the same ingredients i.e. chalk powder and gum arabic solution.

Four table spoons of chalk powder is taken in a clean cup, a small quantity of water is added just to moisten the chalk powder. Four table spoons of gum is added and the contents mixed well till no thick lumps are seen. The thickness of the paste should be the same as tooth paste or any cream. The mixed paste should be transferred to a tea filter or a larger filter if the quantity is more. In the filter the mix should be again stirred holding another dry bowl or cup beneath. The paste will now drop little by little into the dry bowl. Stir and ensure all the mix has flown through the filter. Do not add water, unless the mix is too thick to be pushed through the filter. The filtered mix will be of a consistency like whipped cream, a small blob of which you can lift with a paint brush.

Some people prefer to use a cone to draw the thick lines around the stones and also the decorative motifs. You can use a cone provided you are good at drawing mehndi designs. The mehndi designs are not uniform thick lines and tend to be thick and thin at various points. In the Tanjore art the lines and all relief work have clear dimension and thickness. Hence I would recommend the use of a brush.

The following precaution should be taken.
Keep the mix well covered as the water tends to evaporate and the mix will get hard and difficult to work with.
Use a spoon to stir the mix now and then to ensure uniform consistency
Sprinkle a few drops of water on the mix and stir to prevent thickening.
When not in use, cover with a moist cloth.
Use a fine brush to lift the mix on the tip of the brush.
The thick mix work or thick maggu work as it is referred to, is the raising of lines between stones and other projection work.

In an ornament there is gold around the stones. In the painting the relief work is to provide a base to fix the gold foil around the stone work.

The thick mix work requires some practice with which you can get good results.

Some precautions.
Use a fine brush (00 or 000)
Do not allow the mix to thicken
Keep the brush clean every time you pick up the mix. For cleaning use clean water in a mug or bowl, dip the brush and remove any excess mix on it. Wipe the brush on a clean piece of cloth, dip in the mix and lift a fresh blob of mix on the tip of the brush.
All lift is only on the tip of the brush. The brush must not be allowed to rub on the board. When placing the drop of mix on the board, the drop will immediately adhere to the board. You have only to move the brush gently to and fro to allow the rest of the mix on the brush to settle on the board. When you are doing a straight line the brush movement will be back and forth in a straight line. When you do curves the brush will follow the gentle change of direction.

Perhaps this filling work of thick mix is not only tricky, but also strenuous, as you need a great amount of concentration and patience to draw the lines with the brush. You will need to lift the right amount of mix every time or you end up doing thick and thin lines which will not be uniform. The mix will tend to thicken as moisture evaporates from the mix, leading to a difficulty in picking up the mix, unless you sprinkle a few drops of water and stir the mix with a spoon.
It is a good practice to rest the wrist firmly on the board when working with the brush. This will give you a steady hand and the lines flowing will be uniform and straight.
What you need is quite a bit of patience and perseverance to learn this piece of work. Many tend to give up and start to fill in lines that are not uniform. This will mar the finish of the picture after mounting the gold foil.
Once you have completed the thick mix/ makku/ maggu work you must allow the board to dry.

Check for unfinished areas, lines, cross lines, dots, flower designs, decorative work etc and complete them.

You will notice some small bits of mix between stones, which would have crept when you were doing the mix work.
Carefully remove these small bits or they will show up when you fix the gold leaf.
In some area there may be unevenness caused by inadequate flow of mix

It is a good practice to fill up all the area between stones and thick mix work with a thin mix one more layer of thin mix ( you had already made a layer of thin mix before commencing the thick mix work. This will be an additional layer between stones and thick mix lines to provide an even smooth surface around the stone work ). With a thick brush take some thin mix and allow it to flow between stones and thick mix lines.

Do not brush the surface. Fill equal quantity of thin mix between stones and around them. If you use a dip of mix for each stone it is adequate.
This will settle down and provide you a smooth even surface without disturbing the thick mix relief work. This will provide a smooth clean even surface to mount the gold foil.

Those of you who are familiar with mehndi cone can try using the cone for the thick mix work. You will find it not so tedious as the brush work.

Please ensure that the mix is slightly thinner that when using the brush . Cleaning the tip of the cone should give a free flow.

Mrs.Anuradha Balasubramanyam
Sandra Art Studio, Patna

Tanjore Painting Material

Available at following places :


1. Mehta Gems Co.
374, ( old 379 ) Mint Street
Near Chinna Amman Koil
Sowcarpet, Chennai 600 003.

Tel No 044 -2535 8595
044 -2535 5205
Res: 044 -2539 6303.

2. Gurubaran Tanjore Art Gallery
7, R K Mutt Road,
( Near Indian bank ) Mylapore
Chennai 600 004.
Tel No 044 – 2464 1017.

3. Lakshmi Ethiraj Art Gallery
No 70, 1st Floor, !st main Road,
C I T nagar, Chennai 600 035.
( Near Hyundai Show Room )
Tel No 044 -2435 9223
Mobile No 3111 3577 (Mr Subba Rao ).

4. Creative World
New 27, Thackers Street
Purasawalkam Chennai 600 084
Tel No. 044 – 5533 2755

5. Mehta Diamond
Dhanalakshmi Complex
Shop no28, ground Floor
216, (old 130 ) N S C Bose Road
Chennai 600 079
Website :

6. Sri Vigneswara Frame Centre
5, 13th main Road, Annanagar
Chennai 600 040.

Tel No 044 – 26161610
E mail :

7. Oviya Creatives
Shop no 114, IOA Complex,
69, Royapettah High Road,
Chennai 600 014.
Phone mobile : 93833 31960.

Also supplies printed glass plate for glass painting.

8. Tanjore Oviyam
(Mr. Rajendran)
3-A, Marutham Apts
32, Rukmani Salai, Kalakshetra Colony,
Besant nagar, Chennai 600 090.

Tel no: 98412 22966, 98414 10809
044 43511060
E mail :

9. New Raja Thread Stores
AC 43, 6th Main Road, Anna Nagar,
Chennai 600 040
( Near KHM Hospital and Krishnaswamy Matric HS School )

Tel No : 2628 1744


Rajasthan Embroidary & Fancy Stores
# 4 and 4, Basavaraja Market,
O K Road,
Opp Raja Market, Bangalore

Tel: 080- 222 33 251

455, 9th A Main Road,
Opp Kuchalamba kalyana mantap
Jayanagar 2nd Block, Bangalore 560011

Tel 98451 65323
4120 3932, 4131 4323


Ganson Tanjore Art Gallery
Mahendra Hills , East Marredpally

Prop: Mr Vinod kumar
mobile no: 99893 33494
Dr.(Mrs ). Vasavi


Wholesale Dealer

1361, Warakhwala, Nr Kanch’s masjid
Jamalpur, Ahmedabad 380 001, Gujerat

Tel No: 98983 53566 (mobile )

E mail :

New Delhi

1. Alpana Traders,
Shop No. 121, Sarojininagar Market
New Delhi.

2. Khalsa Brothers
4129, Nai Sarak, Near Jogiwara,
New Delhi
Tel : 011 2391 2878

Mrs.Anuradha Balasubramanyam
Varnavarthika Academy of Arts, Chennai.

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Comment by mahalakshmi on November 7, 2009 at 7:08pm
great explanation anu.
Comment by mahalakshmi on November 7, 2009 at 6:54pm
anu so thx for helping us.ur so great
Comment by B. Anuradha on November 7, 2009 at 6:01pm
These are the steps which i follow while doing tanjore art. But for each individual artist it may differ in proportions of muck work. But basic method is the same.
Comment by alka goel on October 22, 2009 at 2:10pm
hi anu
hv read at many a place to add lime powder and chalk powder together to prepare muck for embossing. hv u used it?
Comment by mahalakshmi on October 22, 2009 at 2:10pm
anu the ration was 2 spoons chalk powder,2 spoons arabic gum,half spoon fevicol my maddie procedure
Comment by B. Anuradha on October 22, 2009 at 6:24am
hi maha,
in embossing work, the muck may be of not in proportion, so just check that and let me know abt it.
Comment by mahalakshmi on October 21, 2009 at 10:30pm
hi anu,
in embossing work i was getting cracks what should we do 2 avoid cracks?
Comment by medha devdas on October 6, 2009 at 10:56pm
hi, thank u very much for for ur detail prescription
Comment by alka goel on September 29, 2009 at 2:14pm
hi anu
i dont know hw to thank u for such a detailed expalnation for my querry. u hv sincerely worked hard for tanjore paintings. a big thanks to u
Comment by Aparna Santhosh on September 27, 2009 at 12:47pm
thank u verymuch 4 ur detailed explanation...

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