In the 15th century, egg began to be replaced by walnut or linseed oil as media. These dried more slowly than tempera and created a paint that was more versatile. The use of oils and canvas supports permitted paintings to be used for a wider variety of situations, and subject matter broadened accordingly. In addition, a greater understanding of perspective and depth in the picture-plane stimulated a need for greater realism. As it was, the natural luminosity and plasticity of oil colors enabled Renaissance artists to achieve wholly new effects of color and realism, and significantly enhanced the power of their color palettes.
Following a tradition begun in Stone Age cave painting, Italian Renaissance artists employed natural chalks made from mineral pigments for drawing. Excavated from the earth, then shaped into sticks with knives, these chalks were instantly ready for use. Red chalks, with their rich, warm hue, were very popular from about 1500 to 1900, as exemplified in works by famous Old Masters like da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael.
Although painting techniques improved immeasurably during the Renaissance, the Renaissance palette mirrored that of the Medieval Age but for three pigments: Naples yellow, smalt and carmine lake (cochineal). Other reds were vermilion and madder lake, which brought to Europe by crusaders in the 12th century.
The Renaissance color palette also featured realgar and among the blues azurite, ultramarine and indigo. The greens were verdigris, green earth and malachite; the yellows were Naples yellow, orpiment, and lead-tin yellow. Renaissance browns were obtained from umber. Whites were lead white, gypsum and lime white, and blacks were carbon black and bone black.