The training for thanka painting at DHH starts with learning to draw. Every piece of painting in thanka has a very complicated grid layout. So trainees practice to draw already decided designs on paper. From drawing they move to painting. Earlier the colours used were mostly natural but now acrylic colours are used. The Process for making a thanka starts with canvas preparation.
First, the cloth is carefully sewn onto four lengths of bamboo which are tightly strung to a large wooden frame. The artist then spreads a cost of glue over the whole canvas and leaves it to dry. He stirs up a mixture of white clay, water and glue in a clean pot to the consistency of thick cream. Blessed medicines or other sacred substances are added if available. The mixture is then strained through fine gauze to remove any impurities and applied evenly to the dry canvas.
Next step is drawing the composition on the canvas. It is done by pencils and can take 10-30 days depending on complexity and experience. There is a definite, specific sequence to colour application. In general, the thangka is painted from top to bottom. Sky and all the blue parts are done first followed by greens and dark greens. After the base coat the details are again sketched and colored with proper shades. A considerable quantity of gold is used to highlight and give it its final glorious touches.
After finishing the painting it is mounted on silk cloth or a brocade to be hung in monasteries or houses.