Illumination, tezhib in Turkish, is one of the well-known and hardest Traditional Turkish Arts. It is all kinds of decoration with gold dust and paint on the pages of manuscripts, calligraphy plates, murakka, and even the upper sides of the tughra. The word is also used for decorations made with ocher paints, apart from those made only with gold.

Illumination increases the value of the work, besides the art of calligraphy in the Turkish-Islamic book art. The meaning of the word is "to decorate with gold". It is mostly observed in the decoration of manuscripts such as books, Qur’an and plate with 18 and 22 carat crushed gold and various colors. Illuminations take different names according to the way they are made and the places where they are made.

For example, Illumination made with only gold is called "halkari".
The illuminated artist is called "muzehhib" and the illuminated work is called "muzehheb".
Illumination art is a collection of works of love, patience, pleasure and grace.

How is Illumination Art Made?

When it comes to illumination works, we come across works that have an extremely aesthetic appearance. In particular, we can say that illuminations have a spiritual value as well as a visual value. This situation also increases the interest in the making of the art of illumination. Gold is used together with paint while making illumination art. It is ensured that the gold material is turned into a thin special layer by pounding. Such layers are also called foils.

Where is it mostly used?

Illumination is predominantly used on the first and last pages of the Quran, at the beginning of the Suras. It is another common practise to employ illuminated little star and flower shaped braids as dots to divide verses in Qur'anic manuscripts.

In addition, Illumination is included as a decorative element in Turkish mosques, as exemplified by the dome of the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne.


The majority of materials used in illumination consist of various paint materials, pencil, wheat starch, gouache paints, alum, Arabic gum, china ink, utility knife and cardboard amongst other materials needed in the art of illumination.

To make the gold, the gold leaf is thoroughly crushed in water and mixed with the gelatin material. In this way, it is ensured that the mixture in question reaches a certain consistency level. The paints used for illumination paintings are generally earthen paints. As of today, synthetic origin dyes have replaced earth dyes.

The artists who specialise in the art of Illumination are known as illuminators. Illuminators are masters with a great deal of manual dexterity.
You may see some photos demonstrating the stages and outlines of Illumination art.
Please note that all the designs shown below belong to our artist Sema Yurtseven.