Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of PaintCentric.com, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of PaintCentric.com, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

What is tempera paint?

Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of PaintCentric.com, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

Are you interested in experimenting with new types of paint but unsure where to start? You might have heard about tempera paint, a popular water-based paint with a chemical binding agent that’s safe and non-toxic.

Tempera Paint 01

This blog will guide you through everything you need to know about tempera paint – from what it is and how it’s made, to its uses and key benefits. Get ready to dive into the world of colorful creativity!

Ingredients and characteristics

Tempera paint is a mix of water and a chemical binding agent. This type of paint, also known as poster paint, uses safe parts. It does not cause allergies or make people sick. It is made with things that are good for you like non-toxic pigments and preservatives.

Also used in this mix are calcium carbonate, cellulose, and water. Cellulose helps to hold the parts together so the paint has a smooth feel when used on paper or wood surfaces. Tempera dries very fast which is great for artists who need to work quickly.

Unlike other paints such as oil or acrylic, tempera can be made wet again with water if needed.

Types of tempera paint

There are different types of tempera paint that you can use for your artwork.

  1. Egg Tempera: This is the oldest form of tempera paint. It uses egg yolk to bind the color together. The end result is a smooth and bright picture.
  2. Powdered Tempera: Here, dry pigment powder gets mixed with a binding agent and water to create the paint.
  3. Liquid Tempera: This type comes ready to use in bottles. It’s ideal for large projects or classroom use.
  4. Cake Tempera: These are small blocks of paint that artists rub with a wet brush to get the colors they need.
  5. Glycol Tempera: This type uses glycol as a binder instead of egg or glue and is less common than other types.

How is Tempera Paint Made?

Tempera paint can be made through traditional egg tempera or powdered tempera methods.

Traditional egg tempera

Traditional egg tempera is a type of tempera paint that was made using egg yolk as the binder. It has been used for centuries in art and was especially popular during the Renaissance period.

To make traditional egg tempera, artists would mix powdered pigments with water and then add beaten egg yolk to create a smooth consistency. This mixture would dry quickly, producing a matte finish with vibrant colors.

Although it requires some skill and practice to work with traditional egg tempera, many artists still enjoy using this medium today for its unique qualities and historical significance.

Powdered tempera

Powdered tempera is a type of tempera paint that comes in the form of dry powder. It is made by combining powdered pigments with a watersoluble binder, such as gum arabic or glue. To use powdered tempera, you simply mix it with water to create a smooth and creamy consistency.

This type of tempera paint is known for its vibrant colors and quick-drying properties. It can be used on various surfaces like paper, cardboard, and wood. One advantage of powdered tempera is that it is cost-effective since a little goes a long way.

However, one disadvantage is that it may not have the same permanence as other types of paints like acrylic or oil. But overall, powdered tempera is a great choice for amateur painters looking for an easy-to-use and versatile painting medium.

Uses and Applications of Tempera Paint

Tempera paint is a versatile medium that can be used on a variety of surfaces, including canvas, wood, and even glass. It is commonly used in artwork such as illustrations, murals, and fine art paintings.

Additionally, tempera paint is often chosen for its vibrant colors and opaque finish, making it perfect for posters and other promotional materials. Some popular techniques used with tempera paint include glazing, stippling, and sgraffito.

Surfaces suitable for tempera paint

Tempera paint can be used on various surfaces, including:

  • Paper: This is the most common surface for tempera paint. It provides a smooth and absorbent surface for the paint to adhere to.
  • Cardboard: If you want to create a sturdier piece of artwork, cardboard can be a good choice. Just make sure it is thick enough to hold the paint without warping.
  • Wood: Tempera paint can also be used on wood surfaces, such as wooden panels or blocks. It creates a vibrant and opaque finish.
  • Canvas: Although tempera is not commonly used on canvas, it is still possible to use it. Keep in mind that the texture of canvas may affect the appearance of your artwork.

Popular techniques and styles

Popular techniques and styles for using tempera paint include:

  • Brushwork: Use different brush sizes and strokes to create texture and depth in your artwork.
  • Glazing: Apply thin layers of paint over dried layers to build up color intensity and create a luminous effect.
  • Stippling: Create texture by dabbing the paint with a stippling brush or sponge for a dotted or speckled appearance.
  • Sgraffito: Scratch into wet or dry paint using a pointed tool to reveal underlying colors or create intricate designs.
  • Grisaille: Use monochromatic shades of gray to create a grayscale painting, often used as an underpainting for further layers of color.
  • Pointillism: Apply small dots of paint in various colors to create an image when viewed from a distance.
  • Trompe-l’oeil: Create the illusion of three-dimensional objects or scenes through realistic painting techniques.

Pros and Cons of Tempera Paint

Tempera paint offers several advantages, such as being water-based and quick-drying, making it ideal for projects that require immediate results. However, its fast-drying nature can also be a disadvantage, as it may not allow for blending or layering of colors.

Additionally, while tempera paint is permanent once dry, it may not adhere well to surfaces like oil paints do. So before you start your next painting project with tempera paint, consider these pros and cons carefully.

Advantages of tempera paint

Tempera paint has many advantages that make it a great choice for amateur painters:

  1. Easy to Use: Tempera paint is beginner-friendly and easy to work with, making it perfect for those who are just starting out in painting.
  2. Quick Drying: Unlike other types of paint, tempera dries quickly, allowing artists to layer colors without waiting for long periods of time.
  3. Vibrant and Opaque: Tempera paint produces vibrant and opaque colors, giving paintings a bold and rich appearance.
  4. Cost-Effective: Tempera paint is relatively inexpensive compared to other art mediums, making it an affordable option for artists on a budget.
  5. Permanent: Once dry, tempera paint becomes permanent and does not fade easily over time, ensuring the longevity of your artwork.
  6. Non-Toxic and Safe: Tempera paint is made from non-toxic ingredients, making it safe for artists of all ages to use without worrying about harmful fumes or chemicals.
  7. Versatile Application: Tempera can be applied on various surfaces such as paper, cardboard, canvas, and even wood, allowing artists to explore different techniques and styles.
  8. Easy Cleanup: Since tempera paint is water-based, it can be easily cleaned up with water and soap, making it hassle-free when it comes to maintaining brushes and supplies.

Disadvantages of tempera paint

  1. Tempera paint is not waterproof, so it may not be suitable for outdoor use or in areas prone to moisture.
  2. It can crack or peel if applied too thickly or not allowed to dry properly.
  3. Over time, tempera paint may fade or yellow, affecting the longevity of the artwork.
  4. It can be challenging to create smooth blends and gradients with tempera paint due to its quick – drying nature.
  5. Unlike oil or acrylic paints, tempera paint cannot be reworked once it has dried, limiting opportunities for corrections or adjustments.
  6. The colors of tempera paint may appear less vibrant compared to other painting mediums like acrylic or oil paints.
  7. Since it dries quickly, artists must work swiftly and efficiently, which may be challenging for beginners or those who prefer a slower-paced process.
  8. Some artists find the brushstrokes of tempera paint less forgiving and more visible compared to other mediums that allow for smoother blending and layering effects.

Remember that while tempera paint has its disadvantages, it also has unique qualities and advantages that make it a popular choice among artists.

Comparisons with other paint mediums

Tempera paint offers unique properties that set it apart from other popular paint mediums. Here’s a comparison that highlights these differences:

Paint MediumDrying TimeTexture & FinishPermanenceUsability
TemperaFast-dryingSmooth & matteNot waterproof, can be reactivated with waterEasy to use, safe for children due to non-toxic components
OilSlow-dryingThick & glossyWater-resistant, durable over timeRequires more skills, not suitable for children
AcrylicMedium-dryingVaried finishes, can mimic oil or watercolorWater-resistant once dry, flexibleEasy to use, suitable for various surfaces
WatercolorFast-dryingTransparent & delicateNot water-resistant, can be reworked with waterRequires learning specific techniques, great for paper surfaces

Depending upon the artist’s requirements, one paint medium might be preferable over others. For instance, tempera paint’s fast-drying attribute and allergen-free nature make it a safe and efficient medium, especially for novice artists and children.


In conclusion, tempera paint is a water-based paint that uses a chemical binding agent. It is popular for its quick-drying and vibrant colors, making it suitable for various art projects.

Whether you’re painting on paper or wood surfaces, tempera paint provides an affordable and permanent option for amateur painters.


1. What is tempera paint?

Tempera paint is a type of water-based paint that uses pigments mixed with an egg or egg yolk binder, resulting in a smooth and opaque finish.

2. Is tempera paint safe to use?

Yes, tempera paint is generally safe to use as it is non-toxic and does not contain harmful chemicals. However, it’s still important to follow safety guidelines and avoid ingestion or contact with eyes.

3. Can I use tempera paint on different surfaces?

Tempera paint can be used on various surfaces such as paper, cardboard, wood, and fabric. It adheres well to most porous materials but may not work well on shiny or non-absorbent surfaces.

4. How long does it take for tempera paint to dry?

The drying time for tempera paint depends on factors like temperature and thickness of the application. Generally, it dries within 30 minutes to 1 hour.

5. Can I mix different colors of tempera paint together?

Yes, you can mix different colors of tempera paints together to create new shades or hues. Mixing primary colors (red, blue, yellow) allows you to create a wide range of secondary and tertiary colors.

Randy CharlesProfessional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of PaintCentric.com, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years of experience in the painting industry, Randy has become an expert in the field and is passionate about helping others learn more about painting. He has written numerous articles on the subject and is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information to his readers.

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