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What is Tempera Paint? 5 Best Ways to Use Tempera Paint

Painting may be utilized as a teaching tool as well as a terrific way to keep kids occupied. Given the wide variety of paint types available, choosing the right sort of paint to use can be difficult. Two sorts of paints come to mind for kids of all ages: finger paint and tempera paint, both of which are great for your child’s creative efforts.

While having extremely similar properties, when applied, the two types of paint will give very different results. Tempera paints are cheap and widely utilized in schools because of how simple they are to use.

What is tempera paint? Continue reading.

In this article, you will get all your answers about it. Tempera, it is also known as egg tempera, is a fast-drying, permanent paint medium consisting of colored pigments mixed with a water-soluble binding medium, usually a glutinous material such as egg yolk. Tempera also refers to paintings done in this medium.

1. What is Tempera Paint?

Tempera paintings have been found in the early decorations of Egyptian sarcophagi. Many of the Fayum mummy portraits use tempera, sometimes in combination with encaustic painting with melted wax, the alternative painting technique in the ancient world. It was also used for murals in the 3rd-century Dura-Europos synagogue.

A related technique has also been used in ancient and early medieval paintings found in various caves and rock-cut temples in India. High-quality art was created with the help of tempera in the Bagh caves between the late 4th and 10th centuries and the 7th century at the rock shelter of Ravan Chhaya, Odisha.  The artistic technique was known from the classical world, where it seems to have taken over from encaustic painting and was the primary medium used for panel painting and illuminated manuscripts in the Byzantine world and late medieval Europe. early renaissance.

Tempera was the primary panel painting medium for nearly all painters of the European medieval and early Renaissance periods up to 1500. For example, most of the surviving panel paintings attributed to Michelangelo are executed in egg tempera, except Doni Tondo, who uses both tempera paints. and oil painting.

The artistic technique was known from the classical world, where it seems to have taken over from encaustic painting and was the primary medium used for panel painting and illuminated manuscripts in the Byzantine world and late medieval Europe. early renaissance. Tempera was the primary panel painting medium for nearly all painters of the European medieval and early Renaissance periods up to 1500. For example, most of the surviving panel paintings attributed to Michelangelo are executed in egg tempera, except Doni Tondo, who uses both tempera paints. and oil painting.

What Is Tempera Paint?
By k-e-k-u-l-é / Pixabay Copyright 2020

Tempera paint, often known as “poster paint,” is a water-based paint that is made with the use of a chemical binder and is toxic- and allergen-free. How are tempera paints created? Starch, water, calcium carbonate, cellulose, and colors are the basic components. The paint is often used in schools as well because it is perfect for children’s art and craft projects.

Tempera painting dates back to the Byzantine era of the 13th and 14th centuries. It was first developed by Giotto and Duccio di Buoninsegna in Italy and later used by Botticelli and Da Vinci. Initially, it was called egg tempera because it was composed of egg yolk, distilled water, linseed oil, and powdered pigment.

The pigment was obtained from natural elements such as earth, sticks, stones, and bones. The egg acted as a binding agent and held all the ingredients together. Some artists used just the yolk of the egg, while others used all of it. The best thing about tempera paint is that it can be washed off easily from most surfaces with water.

Tempera is simple to use, available in a variety of vibrant hues, incredibly flexible, and simple to clean up with just soap and water. Tempera paint is used for craft projects, classroom projects, posters, theatre props, window painting, color-mixing exercises, and much more, but the best results can be found when used on paper, cardboard, and cardboard.

1.2. Does Tempera Paint Contain Allergens?

Although tempera paints are thought to be highly popular, many people are unclear about this paint. If you’ve heard of this paint but don’t know what it is, you need to first learn that. The permanent tempera paint, which dries quickly and is made up of highly pigmented colors and a binder substance, is used for painting (soluble in water). This paint is water-based, making cleanup with water and soap simple.

The absence of dairy, egg, casein, peanuts, latex, soy, tree nuts, and gluten makes some tempera paints allergen-free. All well-known tempera paint manufacturers disclose every allergy that is absent from their products on their labels. Hence, manufacturers do declare whether their brand contains common allergies even though they do not list all the components they use to make their tempera paints.

By Sprinter_Lucio / Pixabay Copyright 2021

2. Egg Tempera and Tempera Paints

The most common form of classical tempera painting is “egg tempera”. For this form, most often only the contents of the egg yolk are used. The egg white and yolk membrane are discarded (the yolk membrane is hung over a container and pierced to drain the liquid inside). Egg yolk is rarely used alone with pigment; dries almost immediately and may crack when dry.

Some agent is always added, in variable proportions. A recipe calls for vinegar, but only in small amounts. A few drops of vinegar will preserve the solution for a week. (1:3, 3 parts water, 1 part yolk; other recipes suggest white wine (1 part yolk, 2 parts wine). Some schools of egg tempering use various mixtures of egg yolk and water.

Powdered pigment, or pigment ground in distilled water, is placed in a palette or container and mixed with an approximately equal volume of the binder. Some pigments require a little more binder, others require less. When used to paint icons on church walls, liquid myrrh is sometimes added to the mixture to give the paint a pleasant smell, particularly as the faithful may find egg tempera somewhat pungent for quite some time after completion.

The paint mix must be constantly adjusted to maintain a balance between an “oily” and “watery” consistency by adjusting the amount of water and yolk. As the tempera dries, the artist will add more water to preserve consistency and balance the thickening of the yolk in contact with air. Once prepared, the paint cannot be stored.

Egg tempera is water resistant, but not waterproof. Different preparations use the egg white or the whole egg for different effects. Other additives such as oil and wax emulsions can modify the medium. Egg tempera is not a flexible paint and requires rigid boards; painting on canvas will cause cracks to form and paint chips to fall off. Egg tempera paint must be cured for at least 3 months, up to 6 months.

The surface is susceptible to scratching during the curing process but will be much more durable after curing. Avoid framing egg tempera paintings in glass, as glass can trap moisture and lead to growth.

3. Will Tempera Paint Fade Over Time?

Since tempera paints contain non-toxic pigments, the paint is not permanent and will eventually fade. However, a couple of premium tempera paint brands advertise lightfastness, indicating that they are resistant to fading. If the label on the paint does not state that it is lightfast, you should assume that the paint will fade over time.

There is a simple explanation for this the safety of the child is more important than the longevity of the paint. Some of the more popular brands, like Blick, claim that the paint is fade-resistant for only a few months. Therefore, if you want to preserve your child’s paint, you should try using non-toxic student acrylic or watercolor paint.

3.1. Are Tempera Paints Toxic?

Most popular brands of tempera paint carry the AP (Approved Product) certification seal, which certifies that the materials are safe and non-toxic, and will not cause any harm to people, including children using them. So compared to egg tempera, which is the artist’s professional paint, tempera is the safer option to use.

Egg tempera paints often contain pigments that are toxic such as cadmium or cobalt, which can be quite safe for adults to use, but not for children, as they tend to stain the entire show with paint and, often, they can end up in the mouth.

What is tempera paint
By Amauri Mejía / Unsplash Copyright

4. 5 Practical Ways to Use Tempera Paint

Since there have been elementary art rooms, tempera paint has been a mainstay in such spaces. Yet, this medium can inspire artists of all ages to create new works of art. The type and grade of tempera you buy may depend on your lesson plan or the age of the kids.

There are numerous tempera variants, each with a varying cost and level of quality, including washable, student, economical, and premium. What is tempera paint? A high-quality tempera is typically less expensive to purchase than other paints, making it a fantastic option for foundational students in upper elementary and secondary schools. You can typically find tempera paint in liquid, stick, cake, or powder form.

4.1. Animal Collaborators

Enrichment painting is used by zoos and animal caregivers all around the world to keep animals interested and educated. Animals must make marks with paint in order to feel different emotions. A line of blue paint might be crossed by a penguin, and as they go on, their colorful footsteps might appear throughout the canvas.

For an animal artist, getting their feet wet with paint and feeling the canvas for the first time can be exhilarating and novel. For its animal artists, zoos utilize non-toxic, extremely washable tempera paint. Red or pink are never utilized since they don’t want it to be mistaken for an injury.

4.2. Layering and Scratching

On a piece of drawing paper, students apply a thick coating of tempera paint. Then they select a different hue and apply a fresh coat of paint over the still-wet paint. Students can use the brush’s back to scratch through both wet layers to reveal the color underneath. As a “DIY painted scratchboard,” think of this. Swipe paint over the scratched lines and have the pupil attempt again if they’re not satisfied with their marks.

4.3. Painting on Plastic

If you want to create an engaging artmaking experience, try painting these plastic barriers with tempera paint, whether or not you are still utilizing this personal protection equipment in your studio. If you have plastic partitions, place one pupil behind each one. Their partner should be the student artist who paints their side of the barrier with tempera.

Draw a mustache, a hat, or a patterned background. After the painting is finished, take a picture of the pupil standing behind the artwork. The final artwork is created from the photos. Wipe the plastic barrier before using it again for another pair of peers or to switch roles.

By paulabassi2 / Pixabay Copyright 2015

4.4. Mono Printing

Use plastic sheet protectors or plexiglass sheets to make inexpensive monoprints. The hardware store is typically able to cut the plexiglass sheets. Your budget will be stretched if you use tempera paint rather than ink to transfer images onto paper.

Students must work rapidly or with more abstract imagery to use tempera paint in this fashion. Use tempera to color the plastic. To transfer the picture, place the paper face down on top of the tempera and rub the back of the page. Create layers by repeating this method.

4.5. Clay Color Washes

Tempera washes of color added to highly textured clay will function swiftly and effectively if glazing is not an option owing to cost or lack of kiln access, or if you’re seeking for a fresh technique to add color to ceramic objects. Large bowls should be filled with thinned-down tempera paint. In the huge bowls, put large plastic pasta strainers.

Place the strainers with the heated clay in them. Pull the strainer carefully out of the color wash. Play around with how long the pieces are submerged. The clay objects can be further adorned with other paints or materials after they have dried quickly.

What is tempera paint
By Jyoti Singh / Unsplash Copyright

5. How Long Does It Take for Tempera Paint to Dry?

Tempera paint is used for craft projects, classroom projects, posters, theatre props, window painting, colour-mixing exercises, and much more, but the best results can be found when used on paper, cardboard, and cardboard. In schools, children use tempera to paint various pictures on drawing paper or cardstock, and art students use it to add some color to their art projects.

You can have your children make paper-mâché objects, figurines, or masks and then paint them. Any project that uses cardboard or other absorbent surfaces should take tempera paints. Tempera paints are mostly opaque, but acrylic paints are available in opaque colors and can be used as transparent colors. This aspect plays an important role in painting, as transparent colors create magnificent glaze and watercolor effects.

Tempera paint dries in about 5 to 10 minutes. The tempera paint drying process occurs when water evaporates from the paint and is affected by air circulation, temperature, and humidity levels. So, drying times depend on the following factors:

  • How absorbent is the paper?
  • weather conditions
  • paint thickness

As a general rule, all water-based paints dry quickly in low humidity and high temperatures, as dry, warm, dry air helps water evaporate faster. However, high humidity will delay drying time. On the other hand, cooler temperatures will also cause the paint to dry more slowly since the water takes longer to evaporate. Wind and drafts will also help the paint dry faster, even indoors when you use a fan or open the window. You can also try using a hair dryer, which should also help the paint dry faster.

What is tempra paint?
By Victoria Bilsborough / Unsplash Copyright

6. Tempera Paint vs Acrylic Paint

The only thing that acrylic and temperature paintings have in common is that both are based on water. However, that is where similarities end. The most crucial difference between tempera painting and acrylic paint is how paint uses.

Tempera paint is mainly used by children in schools, as well as for several craft projects, while acrylic paint is used more by painters and professional students. Acrylic paintings offer the user many more options for different textures, mixing, glazing, and being able to apply it with a palette blade. Below are some more comparisons about tempera painting in front of acrylic.

Acrylic paints have many more options available to create different textures, for example, you can get a variation of textured gels consisting of pumice, fibers, glass beads, sand, and much more. They also come in a variety of thicknesses and finishes, for example, if you add matte or gloss to your acrylic paints, you can alter the shine of the surface. On the other hand, tempera paints always dry to a matte finish.

6.1. Acrylics are More Archival than Tempera Paint

Acrylic paints are more archival than tempera paints, and longevity is a big concern for professional artist who wants their paints to last a long time. The main reason for the longevity of acrylic paints is the acrylic polymer used as a binder, which will always remain flexible even after the paint has dried. Acrylic paint has a lifespan of 10-15 years, while tempera paint can only last 2-5 years. All acrylic paints for artists, and even some for students, are lightfast, which means they are resistant to fading.

This is very important for a painting because once you have applied acrylic paint and it has dried, it is there to stay. Acrylic paint becomes permanent, but tempera paint is only semi-permanent since they are resolvable, much like watercolor paint. By painting with acrylic paints, you can apply thicker layers of paint without worrying about the paint cracking. Tempera paints tend to crack very easily when thicker layers are applied.

7. Simple Techniques for Using Tempera Paint in Artwork

Create a quick pencil sketch of your idea, or just have it in mind and start with a color. Since dark colors can be painted over light ones but not the other way around, light colors should always be painted first. It is advisable to wait until the lower layers are completely dry before painting on top of them. You can also experiment with painting wet atop wet paint. Here are a few simple guidelines to follow.

  • Put some paint on the plate with a squeeze. To begin, pick two or three colors, but keep them on the plate apart.
  • To get rid of surplus moisture, tap the cup’s rim after dipping the brush into water.
  • Make marks on the paper by dipping the brush into the paint and swirling it around.
  • Before using the brush on the subsequent color, always give it a thorough rinse.
  • On the plate, you can combine two colors to make several colors. Green results from combining yellow and blue.
  • Try drawing with wax crayons first, and then painting over it.
  • Let your painting dry after you are satisfied with it. Depending on how thick the paint is applied and how absorbent the paper is, the time will vary.
  • Apply an acrylic varnish or glaze to the painting to increase its durability.
  • If you created a beautiful painting, frame it and avoid hanging it in direct sunlight because the colors will deteriorate.


Children can be introduced to painting with tempera paint since it is colorful, secure, and reasonably priced. It is constructed of non-toxic materials and is simple to remove from the majority of surfaces. With Tempera paint, children are unrestricted in their ability to unwind and have fun. Without specific glazes and a glass frame, it is not durable and will eventually fade and shatter.

What is tempera paint? As for paints, tempera is best for children, as it is easy to clean and less toxic. Tempera paints are affordable and ideal for use in schools and for other arts and crafts projects. We also now know that egg tempera paints are different and are only used by professional artists.

However, older students, as well as older artists, can easily work with modern tempera paints as well, perhaps even considering combining them with other non-toxic paints. After all, art is about letting your imagination run wild.

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