Tibetan Thangka Paintings

What is Thangka Painting?

Tibetan Thangka Paintings are old form of Tibetan Buddhist fine art that portrays the Wheel of Life, images of the Buddha life, other Buddhist deities, and mandalas. One of the most special parts of Thangkas is that deities should be duplicated in accurate proportions. It is accepted that during prayer, gods can possess the Thangkas, and thus the painting should be of the utmost beauty. 

It is accepted that the sacred art form prospered around 1000 years back in Tibet as a combination of Nepalese and Tibetan traditions. Amitabha Buddha is the earliest Nepalese Thangka painting, which shows surrounded by Bodhisattva

It is significant that the painter is Tibetan Buddhist, in light of the fact that “the painter must have great inspiration” when painting the thangka with the goal for it to be considered “acceptable”. Thangkas made by the high-ranking lamas is generally viewed as a more excellent and significant piece of folk art than those painted by other artisans because of their immediate religious connection.

As far as the canvas size are concerned,  Tibetan Thangkas can be found in an assortment of sizes, going from not exactly a foot in tallness to a few meters, however, the normal thangka is a few feet in stature and width. Thangka painters are typically Tibetan Buddhists who go through studying the art for six long years, although all monks are trained in Thanka painting as well. 

Importance of Thangka Painting

Hand-painted Thangkas have four primary purposes. To start with, they go about as a method for gaining merit, which is the thing that ensues good karma. Second, they help the dead during transmigration. After death, creatures take seven to 49 days to be reincarnated, during that time frame, karma can be affected. In this manner, thangkas can be utilized to positively impact a deceased being’s karma through death rituals led by monks.

 Third, they are utilized in single-point meditation. Thangkas go about as body support, which is an item that helps in meditation. It is believed that by looking at the thangka during meditation, it is easier to concentrate exclusively upon the object of meditation, which is regularly the god that appeared in the Tibetan Thangka. 

Thangka Paintings are additionally used as a teaching tool when depicting the life of Shakyamuni Buddha. The wheel of life thangka represents Abhidharma (Art of Enlightenment) teaching. Also, they are utilized in Traditional Tibetan Medicine to illustrate medical ideas, from medicinal plants and minerals to the phases of a human embryo.

How Thangka Paintings are made?

Upon receiving a customer’s order, the artist can decide the measurements, shading, and design of the painting. Cotton texture and silk serve as a foundation of Tibetan Thangka art since they are thought to preserve the paintings for an extensive stretch of time. With that being said, how about we proceed onward to the processes involved in the creation of Thangka, a beautiful piece of Buddhist art; 

Canvas Preparation

The material to be painted goes through a complex process of preparation which takes between 14 to 20 days relying upon nearby climatic conditions. In Kathmandu Nepal, canvases for the entire year should be made in the dry months of March, April, October, and November. On the off chance that a canvas is inappropriately prepared, the whole thangka art will be a failure.

Outline Drawing

The initial step in making the thangka’s image is in drawing the ideal design and setting. The artisan chooses the design from a book or reference card and follows it onto a piece of paper. A scanner to make a bigger model for the full-size sketch of the painting itself is then used to expand the sketch. The painter at that point outlines the extended design onto the pressed fabric.

Mixing Paint

It takes an entire day to set up the five essential tones. Traditionally, the materials incorporated an assortment of mineral and vegetable substances: minerals, valuable stones, bark, leaves, blossoms (particularly the rock rose), gold, silver, copper, and so on. Each must be gathered from its source in various territories of Nepal, cleaned, powdered, crushed, or cooked. These days, artists pick chemical-based colors, effectively accessible for procurement. While each shading is being blended, it is persistently tried on the edges of the canvas and allowed to dry. Simply after the paint has totally dried, the true color can be revealed

Gold Layering

When a Makapa is fit to be transformed into a painting, it is said that the artists should add gold layering.  Sometimes silver layering may likewise be used. For this, a yellow base is applied and left to set for several hours. The artisan at that point retraces the sketch of the painting. On top of this, a slender layer of gold is applied having been diluted with water. The artist at that point uses a fine-tipped bulbous pen to press the gold into uncovering a brilliant shine. If gold layering is applied, it will increase the gold Thangka painting’s worth by thousands of rupees. 

Preparing the wooden frame

The next step in making the Buddha Thangka painting requires a wooden frame to which a piece of cloth is attached with string to help the canvas. The addition of color and shading to produce sensations of contrast and depth is a lengthy step and demands the painting to remain in place.


The Tibetan Thangka is painted from top to bottom. The initial step is the sky, which takes 3 to 6 days. At that point all the blue pieces of the thangka (water, attire, and so on) are filled in. then comes, The dark green landscape and all the dark green areas are filled.  This is trailed by light blue, at that point, the whole series of base coat colors like light green, red, pink, light orange, light yellow and white are applied and allowed to dry. The thangka is scratched with an extremely sharp blade to smooth away any imperfection and brushed off with a soft fabric or feather. 

To conclude, Thangkas are hand-painted religious paintings of Shakyamuni Buddha where the main deity lies in the center surrounded by other smaller figures of lesser divinities. It has a Nepalese style of drawing and Chinese style background, which makes it a unique and distinctive Thangka art. There are many popular Thangka paintings like Yamantaka Thangka painting, Black Mahakala Thangka painting, Vajrakilaya Thangka painting, Padmasambhava Thangka painting, Bodhisattvas Thangka painting, White Tara Thangka painting, Mandala Thangka painting, Green Tara, Medicine Buddha, Amitabha Buddha and much more.  You can also buy these paintings online or you can visit Thangka art centers in Kathmandu Nepal.

Thangka or Thanka Painting is an old traditional style Tibetan Buddhist painting which is painted on a cotton canvas using natural color stones and sometimes even the 24K gold powder. The paintings usually depict the images of the Buddhist deities and Mandala. They are usually hung on the walls of the Buddhist monasteries, nowadays even the common people put them on the walls for decorative as well as religious purposes.

We have a good selection of Tibetan Thangka/Thanka paintings painted by both the teachers and students/learners.

Tibetan Thangka or Thanka Paintings