What Is Tempera Paint?

Though tempera paints considered being quite popular among people, many get confused about this paint. If you have heard about this paint too but don’t know what it is, then you must know that first. The tempera paint is a fast-drying permanent medium of painting that consists of highly pigmented colors along with a binder medium (soluble in water). This is a water-based paint which can be cleaned up easily with water and soap. If you are a painting enthusiast and eager to know more, then you are at the right place! To know more about what this paint is used for or what this paint is made from, read on. We have provided all the essential details about the tempera paints and how it is different from that of the egg tempera paints and acrylic paints.

What Is Tempera Paint Use For?

The tempera paints, undoubtedly, are very common and they are used widely in schools and painting academies. They are easy to use and also are quite inexpensive in nature. This paint is used for many purposes and projects. Whether it is your craft project, classroom project or posters, the tempera paints can be used. This paint is also used for painting windows, using as a theater prop and exercises on mixing color.

This paint works perfectly on the surfaces that can absorb quickly. Hence, it is better to be used on poster board, cardboard and paper. In fact, this paint is used in art classes by the students for adding colors to their art project or crafts.

Children use the tempera paints to learn the lessons about color mixing. This is a basic lesson which is provided to many kids to know and understand what color you can get by mixing two colors. For instance, mixing blue and yellow colors together will produce green color. 

What Are Tempera Paints Made From?

These paints are made up of many basic ingredients. These ingredients are – cellulose or starch, water, cellulose and the most important one is pigment. But many people get confused and think that the tempera paints use yolks of eggs. But that is egg tempera which is completely different from that of tempera paints. Read the next section to know the difference between these two elaborately.

What Is the Difference Between Tempera Paints and Egg Tempera?

The tempera paints, actually, are the regular paints based on water and are used in crafts. It is a generic name which is given to these paints and these paints are used in schools. But egg tempera is a totally different variety of paint. It is actually a mixture of eggs and artist-grade colors/pigments.

Whereas eggs are not used in tempera paint, the egg yolk is used as a binder for binding the paint in egg tempera. These paints are generally used in schools for crafts and projects. But egg tempera is used mainly by professional painters and artists.

While the tempera paints (regular ones) are quite easily available in the art stores, the egg tempera paints can be rare and are not always found in the stores. In case artists cannot find the paints, they make the tempera paints using eggs just like the way they want. 

Is It Toxic?

As mentioned above, while making tempera paints, the ingredients used are completely natural. Hence, these paints are completely non-toxic as per AP Certification. Most of the brands that offer tempera paints claim that their pints are completely free from toxins and allergens.

If you compare the tempera paints with the professional paints, then these paints are much safer. Pigments used in the professional paints can be quite toxic as they contain toxins like cadmium and cobalt. As these paints are made for the students and children, these paints are non-toxic in nature.

The children, generally, play with the paints. They can also get those paints all over them. Hence, the tempera paints use non-toxic ingredients to make them for better safety. But even though these paints are non-toxic in nature, these paints are not at all healthy for ingesting. In case of accidental ingestion, you need to consult with a doctor immediately.

Does Tempera Paint Fade?

As these paints are made up of natural non-toxic pigments, they come with a downside too. This downside is that the paints are not permanent. Hence, they tend to fade away eventually. But there are certain premium paint brands that claim their paints as light fast i.e. the paints are resistant to fading. So, when you buy any tempera paint that don’t come with any information related to fade proof or fade resistance, then you have to assume that the paint can fade away. This is acceptable because the safety of the children is more important than that of the paint’s longevity.

How Long Does Tempera Paint Takes to Dry?

Generally, the tempera paints take about 5 minutes to 12 minutes to dry to the touch. But the actual duration depends a lot on different factors such as thickness of the paint, absorbing capacity of the paper and the weather condition.

The tempera paints start to dry by the process of evaporation. When the water present in the paint gets evaporated, the paint dries down. So, the humidity level, temperature and circulation of air have a great impact on the total time taken for the paint to dry. 

The water-based tempera paints tend to dry down quicker in the low humidity as the dryer air can encourage faster evaporation of water. On the other hand, if the humidity level is high, then the paint will take a lot of time to dry.

To make sure that the paint is drying faster, you have to ensure better air circulation. Indoor air circulation or wind can cause the pain to dry quite faster. If you leave the paint beside an open window or under the running fan, then it can help in faster drying. You can also use the hair dryer for faster result. 

Besides these, the paper quality also plays a major role in drying. If the surface of the paper is highly absorbent, then the paint can dry a lot faster. Hence, tempera paints can dry quite faster on the construction papers. But it can take a lot of time to dry on the glass as it is completely non-absorbent in nature. 

Are Tempera Paints Washable?

Being completely water based and water-soluble paints in nature, the tempera paints can come out of the skin easily with soap and water. But when you are talking about the fabrics, tempera paints can be extremely difficult to remove totally from the fabrics. They can fade after repeated washing.

But there are some tempera paints that advertise as special washable paints. These paints are supposed to come out after washing. In case the paint doesn’t mention washable, these tempera paints tend to leave behind some stains, especially on light-shade colors. 

How to Make Tempera Paint Permanent?

As you know that the tempera paints cannot be applied permanently. Though special tempera paints can be permanent with fade resistance power, but mostly these paints are temporary. If you have the regular tempera paints with you that are not permanent, you can make them permanent. You have to mix the pigment paste with the yolk of the egg as this can make your paint permanent. Whenever you are mixing the pigment with the yolk medium, you have to stir quite finely to mix things up properly. While doing this, make sure that the consistency of the paint is fine.

Can You Watercolor with Tempera Paint?

The tempera paints and the watercolors are two different types of paints. The main differences between the tempera paints and watercolors are use, texture as well as application. While watercolors have to thin in texture and translucent, the tempera paints have thick texture and are quite bold in nature. Watercolors can be used on thin surfaces only. On the other hand, tempera paints can be used on canvases, woods, fabrics and glass surfaces too.

What Surfaces Can You Use These Tempera Paints On?

As mentioned above, tempera paints can be used in different types of surfaces like canvas, cardboard and more. Here are some of the surfaces on which you can use tempera paints on:

  • Canvas: This paint can be used on the surface like canvas too but eventually the paint can crack or fade. After drying, these paints can remain soluble in water. You have to be careful as water can damage the painting surface. Hence, it is better to use other permanent colors if you want to make the paint last for a long time.
  • Woods: Yes, you can use this paint on the wood surfaces. But wood is not resistant to water. It is better to use the tempera paints only on the wooden surfaces that stay indoors. The tempera paints can look really good on the wooden surfaces.
  • Fabrics: Talking about the fabrics, most of the fabrics can accept this paint. But eventually the paint can fade away, flake off or it can even crack if you stretch the fabric or bend it. These paints are not at all flexible in nature. In fact, these paints are also not waterproof. So, this paint is not that suitable for clothing but you can use it.
  • Windows: Tempera paints can be the perfect option for painting on the glass of the windows as they are temporary in nature. Being a removable as well as inexpensive paint, this can be the perfect choice for painting on the glasses of your windows. You can easily remove the paint using some warm water and wet sponge. But if the windows have a tint film on them, then the tempera paints cannot be applicable on them.

What’s the Difference Between Acrylics and Tempera Paints?

This is one of the most important questions that many people ask about. So, if you are too interested to know about the differences between the tempera paints and acrylics, then this is the right place. While tempera paints can mainly be used by the school children and kids for their craft projects, the acrylics paints come with many more options. Acrylics can be used for building texture, blending, knife painting and glazing. 

These paints are not permanent. They are temporary and can fade away with time. On the other hand, acrylics are more permanent in nature. Hence, acrylic paints are mainly for professionals or art students whereas the school kids and students mainly use tempera paints for crafts. The two main differences between the tempera paints and the acrylic paints are:

  • Acrylics come with more options that tempera paints: This is one of the major differences between the acrylic paints and tempera paints. Acrylic paints can come in both types – opaque and transparent. But the tempera paints have a completely opaque texture. You will be able to create textures and many more things with the acrylic colors. But when it comes to tempera paints, there is only one way to use it.
  • Acrylics last longer than tempera paints: Longevity is one of the biggest differences when it comes to acrylic paints vs. tempera paints. While acrylic paints are more archival in nature, the tempera paints tend to be temporary. Though both of the acrylics and tempera paints have a thicker texture, the former one will not crack. The tempera paints have a probability to crack when it is applied thickly with lots of layers.

What Is the Difference Between Poster Paints and Tempera Paint?

Before jumping into the differences between these two paints, it is important to know what they are. As you already know about the tempera paints, you need to know what poster paint is. The poster paint is a term which is used for colorful paints that can be used for making signs and posters. One of the similarities between the tempera paints and poster paints is that they both can be temporary in nature. But some of the poster paints can be permanent too.

The most important difference between the tempera paints and poster paints is the binding agent that is used in both of these paints. While poster paints use low-quality and cheaper binding agent, the tempera paints use high-quality synthetic or natural binding agents delivering better performance.

Both of these can be used on different surfaces and can be washed off with the help of water. But when it comes to the formulation, the tempera paints proved to be safer for the children or kids than that of the poster paints. Some of the low-quality ingredients are used in making poster paints that can be harmful for the children.

Regular Tempera Paint Vs. Egg Tempera

People often get confused between regular tempera paints and egg tempera. Though some of them use these two terms interchangeably, the tempera paint and egg tempera are not the same. The biggest and most prominent difference between these two paints is the use of eggs. While regular tempera is completely water-based temporary paints, the egg tempera is formulated with the help of egg yolk as the binder.

Some of the Differences Between These Two Paints Are:

  • Formulation: As mentioned above, the formulation of tempera paints doesn’t have egg in it. But egg tempera needs the egg yolk as the main binding agent for the paint. Because of the difference in formulation, the latter one is called egg tempera while the other one is simply called tempera paints.
  • Uses: As the tempera paints tend to be inexpensive and temporary paints, these paints are mostly used by the school kids and children for their craft projects. On the other hand, the egg tempera is used by the professional artists and art students as it provides a much high-quality pigment.
  • Longevity: The next difference between the tempera paints and egg tempera paints is the longevity. While the yolk of the egg serves as the best binder by holding the paint together for a longer time, the tempera paints stay for a temporary time. In fact, you can wash off tempera paints if you want.
  • Toxicity: As the egg tempera is used by professionals, these paints use top-grade pigments. These pigments can be quite toxic for the children or kids. But the tempera paints have proved to be completely safe and they don’t contain any toxic materials. Hence, the latter one is a safer option.


This is all about the tempera paint and its differences with other paints like acrylic paint, poster paint and egg tempera. The highlight of this article is that the tempera paints can be considered completely safe as they don’t have any toxic materials or ingredients in them. Hence, this paint is the perfect choice when it comes to choosing the right paint for your kids to do their school projects or craft projects. But the downside of these tempera paints is that they are temporary in nature. They don’t last longer as they are washable in nature and can get cracks or can fade away too. But tempera paints can be widely used in different surfaces like woods, windows, canvas etc. It is a popular paint, and many people use this paint.