The Kangra artists were hereditary painters who worked in the quiet of their cottages in the sylvan retreats of the Kangra valley. Sons and nephews were usually accepted as pupils and they served the master artists by carefully grinding mineral colours, a work requiring skill and patience. It thus they were initiated into the art and technique of painting. In Kangra paintings, there is an art, which celebrates life and love. This art is truly a record of human joy. The eyes of lovers meet and a world of feeling and tenderness is revealed in them.

Raw Materials

Kangra or Pahari paintings, like any other painting require the basic handful raw materials, the most elaborate of them being natural colours. From ancient times there have been various sources of natural colours and the wide variety that is exhibited in Kangra Paintings has a long list of materials alongside the colours as well. 

The Kangra style of paintings gained its fame from its abundant wealth of colours. The laboriously made colours had a sheen, so beautiful, that even today after about three centuries the colours in paintings have not faded or become dull. Mixing the primary colours together would make many new colours. 

White : Zinc oxide, Safed Khadiya (Chalk), Gaudanti hartal 
Orange : Sindoor (Vermillion) 
Red : Singarf (A variety of stone) 
Deep Red (Mahavar) : Lac, Aalta (Rose Bengal), Krimidana (A kind of fruit) 
Yellow : gaugoli, varki-hartal, pyori 
Green : Dana Farang, Seelu (Pyori + Indigo
Blue : Lazward, Dali ka Neel (Indigo
Black: The kaajal (kohl) left from the burning of a terracotta lamp 
Silver/Gold : Made from silver/Goldfoil Lac color   

Other raw materials: 
Paper, Glue (Gum from the babul tree), 
Canvas - The Paper Canvas: The Kangra style of paintings is done on handmade paper, whose many leafs are joined together to make a canvas. Mostly, the kind of paper used, is Siyalkoti. Siyalkot was earlier part of Punjab (India) and is now a part of Pakistan. In this town, paper is produced in abundance. Once the canvas is ready, the painter makes outline of detailed imagery on it.



There is no waste generated in the making of Kangra paintings. The canvas and paints get used up by the end of the painting and the leftover paints in the shell can be kept aside, wet and used in the next painting as well.

Tools & Technology

Shankh (grinder): This is a hard stone to grind stones and other raw colors 
Brushes: The paintbrushes used in these paintings used to be made by the painters themselves. Earlier, brushes used for filling colour were made from the hair of fox, goat, donkey or calf ears. For fine detailing, the hair from a squirrel's tail would be used. The painter would custom make brushes according to his habit and convenience. 
Seashells: To mix colours, seashells are used. Paintings of the Mughal era also used seashells to mix paint. This reduces the amount of paint required for a painting. If the colour dries on the shell, it can be taken to use again just adding water.  
Wooden board: The canvas is kept on the wooden board while the painting is in process.



Kangra paintings mostly house Hindu religious imagery and hence, before the painter starts painting, he offers his prayers and seeks the blessings of God for the success of the painting. The painter is also not allowed to wear shoes and make the paintings, as respect for the Gods. 


1. The colours prior/earlier used in the making of Kangra paintings were minerals, chemical and vegetable colours. The colours derived from these were mixed together to get many more colours. To get gold and silver, foils would be used. To mash mineral colours smoothly, grinders made of hard stone were used. Traditional painters have always been using those colours, which have been in the proximity of their existence. Every artist had a different description of colour. This was because; they developed the characteristics and importance of colours individually, in their paintings. The Kangra painters have themselves been making their colors. 

Orange - Even this is a mineral colour and there are impurities found in it. Grinding this in 'Gomutra' (cow urine) makes it pure and gives out a beautiful orange colour.   

Red - To make red colour, the sangaraf stone is used in plenty. Once the stone is grinded, it produces a beautiful rich red colour. But only, the top layer of the red colour is used. The lower levels of the red colour contain impurities from the stone.   

Yellow - There are two categories of yellow: hartal and payori.
i) Hartal is a shiny mineral stone. Once grinded, it gives a soft yellow colour. Sieved through cloth, the fine colour is mixed in gum and used. 
ii) Gaugoli is another kind of yellow, which is widely used in the Basohli style of Pahari paintings. It is also called Gogoli. This is made from cow urine. It is said that when the cow is fed mango leaves, its urine becomes dark yellow, which is dried and round pellets are made from it. This colour is used for a slight was and gum is not used here. The tone of this colour matches the Indian yellow, widely prevalent. 
iii) Payori: This colour is called 'Pewri' and is found locally in the form of powder. It is found both as light yellow and dark yellow.   

Green: Dana Farang, Seelu (Pyori + Indigo
i) The traditional green colour is of two types: 'Dana Farang' or Malecite is a precious stone and the Mughal style of painting shows extensive use of the same. This gives a beautiful green colour.
ii) 'Soj' or 'Sabj' Seel: This is a vegetable green colour, which has a tone like the stark green of a parrot. This colour can be seen, extensively used in the 19th C in the Sikh style of painting. Mixing yellow and blue also gives a green colour. The difference in the tones of the greens, leads to many kinds of the colour to be used in the paintings.   

Blue: Blue colour comes in three kinds. 
i) It is found in the form of mineral stone called 'lazward' or lapis lazuli. There is a lot of effort that goes into its making and that is why it has to e ground into a consistency like sand so that the tone of the colour is rich. To show the blue of Vishnu/Krishna's body, this blue is widely used. The texture can be felt when touched. 
ii) The other blue colour is a vegetable colour, which is called Indigo. It was exported widely to Europe. In local dialect it is called 'Dali ka Neel'. 
iii) The third blue colour is ultramarine. This colour can easily be found in the market in powder form. This colour is widely used in the Sixth style or Kangra style of Paintings. 

Black: To achieve black colour, the kohl (kajal) left behind as soot from the burning of a terracotta oil lamp is taken to use. A lamp, burning on sesame oil is take and above the flame, a terracotta or metal piece is placed. The soot accumulated on the terracotta/metal piece is carefully scraped off. Later, gum is added to the soot, and is used as black colour in the paintings. Some painters add camphor as well, to the sesame oil. This makes the soot finer and the movement of the brush smoother.  

Lac: Lac extracted from the peepul tree is soaked in water overnight and then, daruhaldi (tree turmeric), fitkari (a natural mordant) and suhaaga are added. Boiling all these ingredients together gives violet or carmine colour. In the local dialect, it is called 'kiram'. Originally, lac does not have any colour of its own. Getting attached to ac because of its sticky quality, the richness of red colour dries up. When this dried part is boiled in hot water, it leaves colour. This colour is then dried on a blob of cotton. If necessary, wetting the cotton gives beautiful colour as well. 

2. They would grind mineral stones for colour on hard stone grinders for days. Once the colours were ground, the painters would cloth-sieve them and keep them away safely. 

3. For a strong hold, every colour was mixed with gum from the babul tree.

4. The painter first draws the outline of the figures and imagery on the canvas lightly.

5. In the painting, there are two-three layers of colour that are applied. After layer is applied, the canvas is kept upside down on a hard stone and with 'Akeek' stone; it is rubbed thoroughly, which brings out an incredible shine in the color. 

6. First the background is painted. Colours are filled using a thick end brush

7. Finally, once the background dries up, the detailings are done with a very thin brush.