The Mughal Court Miniature Painting technique used was simple, consisting of opaque watercolor on paper. The artist began by laying out the composition with charcoal or thin black ink applied with either a brush or pen. The paper may have been burnished beforehand. A thin ground—a layer of opaque watercolor—was brushed over the under-drawing. This layer—which might be white or tinted yellow or blue—covered the paper, but was translucent enough to reveal the under-drawing beneath. Different colored grounds could be used to define major areas of the composition. Another under-drawing, generally red or black and done with brush in thin watercolor, was drawn on the ground.
At this stage, the painting was usually burnished by being placed face down on a smooth slab of stone. The back of the paper was rubbed with a smooth stone, inset into a wooden holder. Burnishing was repeated frequently during the painting process. The practice of burnishing gave a smooth surface to the painting. Near the end of the process, the painted side might be rubbed using a smaller burnisher to produce local glossy areas.
Further layers of paint were added to the ground with artists working from larger to smaller areas of color and from more diffuse to more detail. The final areas were often the more important compositional elements, like human figures, or the lions and tigers of the hunting scenes. Towards the end of the process, final outlining, usually in black, of the design elements was done.
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