What is Tempera Paint? Is It Washable?

Tempera paint, also known as egg tempera paint, is visible mainly as painting material in school art projects. This paint is a water-based paint that you can clean with soapy water.

Its popularity is it is fast drying, vibrant in color, and long-lasting on the painted surface.

What is Tempera Paint? Is It Washable?

So, what is tempera paint? Tempera paints are a special kind of paints made of quality pigments and water-soluble binders. These binders are usually adhesive material like the yolk of the eggs. Tempera paints are popular among school-going kids as they are easy to use and clean if needed.

These paints are entirely safe to use. Most brands produce them from non-toxic, allergen-free materials. Using tempera paints depends on the age groups and skill levels. But many professionals love to keep this paint in their tools and materials list. As it is fast-drying and easy to clean, kids can enjoy their painting with these paints without harming them.

In this article, I will cover every little thing about tempera paint as much as possible. You will get to know its applications, differences, quality, and other things. Also, these questions will be answered:

  • What is tempera paint made of?
  • What is Tempera Paint Used for?
  • Is tempera paint washable?
  • The Debate on Tempera Paints
  • Tempera Paint on Different Surfaces
  • Tempera Paint: Toxic or Non-Toxic
  • And Much more!

What is Tempera Paint Made Of?

Tempera paint made of

Each paint brand has its techniques of business. They use different paint materials for a specific type of paint. Tempera paints have healthy ingredients such as water, calcium carbonate, pigments, and additives.


Binders, the major paint component, helps to dry the paint faster after applying. They also ensure the stickiness of paint to the surface. In tempera paints, the binders are usually starch or cellulose.

Some paints like gouache and watercolor also have binders like gum Arabic. But in tempera paints, the stuff is different. Starch or cellulose is cheaper than gum Arabic. This is very beneficial to produce tempera paints.

Starch for this paint is possibly the cornstarch as some allergen lists having corn. When you shake the paint, this cornstarch becomes thicker.

Calcium carbonate:

Ground calcium carbonate (GCC) is a common ingredient in many paint and coating products. Usually, you can find it as an extender agent to improve or lessen the glossiness of the paint. On the other hand, calcium carbonate is available in chalk form beside others.

When you paint the surface with tempera paint, this ingredient gives a matte finish and opacity on the painted surface. Then, it will appear the same as gouache.


The main objective of pigments is to provide the color we want to see. Typically, the manufacturers do not share information about the use of pigments. The more pigments a paint has, the more vibrant color you get. However, they should be non-toxic, hypoallergenic. In case of tempera paint, they should be cheaper and non-toxic than pro-grade pigments.

What is Tempera Paint Used for?

Tempera paint is not a wall painting product. I mean you will not get satisfaction if you use it to paint your house. Instead, it has many other versatile ways of applications.

Typically, tempera paints are a popular choice for classroom projects. Many people use this paint in art and crafts painting, prop, and poster paint. You can use it for color mixture exercises and window painting. Mostly, it gives the best result on absorbent surfaces like paper, posters, or cardboard.

Kids in the schools use tempera paint in their drawing classes. They can do classwork such as illustrating a scene, painting a character, etc.

In the color mixture lesson, the kids can learn how to create a new color by mixing two or more colors. For example, they can use tempera paints of yellow and red to make a new color, orange.

Is Tempera Paint Washable?

Yes, tempera paint is washable in a very easy manner. It is water-soluble paint. However, there is a bit complexity.

Colorations Washable Kids Paint
Colorations Washable Kids Paint

The egg tempera is mostly made for professional applications. Eggshells work as stronger binders than kids’ tempera paints’ binders. So, most of them are permanent after applying and cured. You cannot wash them with water. But you can scrape them using other scraping tools.

Again, tempera paints which are popular among school students are easy to wash and remove.

Normally, you may find it hard to eliminate color from fabrics. But some unique tempera paints offer easy removal of paint from fabrics after wash. In case of the regular ones, you will see some leftover stains on lighter colors. I find washing off the hard, and non-absorbent coats very easy to wash off.

If some tempera paints accidentally fall upon your shirt, you can easily remove them by washing it with liquid detergent.

Read More: What is Deep Base Paint?

The Debate on Tempera Paints

Egg Tempera vs Tempera

Do not get confused! Both are tempera paints. But there are some distinctions between these two paints.
Regular tempera is the generic name for cheap water-based art paints. You can find it in schools and colleges. Actually, this long article mainly focuses on tempera paint.

Egg tempera is a unique version of tempera paint. It contains artist or professional-grade pigments and the eggs. In this paint, the egg yolk works as the binders. You can hardly find these paints in nearby supply stores. In most cases, artists love to prepare egg tempera paints on their own.

Some pigments in egg tempera may be toxic. But they can create a more attractive and colorful painting. They can cover the painted object well. Also, the saturation gets fine with egg tempera paints.

One more thing, egg tempera paint is not a modern-day’s idea. You can look at some paintings of the 1600s in the museums painted with egg tempera. So, the thing is, egg tempera was famous before science creates oil paints.

Tempera Paint vs Acrylic Paint

Both acrylic and tempera paints are popular for their ease of application and versatility. The basic difference between these two is that tempera paints are popular among school kids, whereas artists prefer acrylic for better results. These two types of paint differ more:

Permanent paintTemporary paint
Available in transparent and opaque colorsAvailable in primarily opaque colors
Tough to washEasy to wash
No discoloration when exposed to lightMay discolor soon under the sun
Better opacityGood opacity
Thick consistencyCreamy consistency
Mixes wellMixes well
Thicker liquidThinner and more liquid
Glossy to semi-glossy finishMatte finish
More options for blending, texture building, glazing, palette knife paintingFewer options of these things
Do not crack in thick layersMay crack in thick layers
Applicable on paper, wood, canvas, metal, fabric, and ceramicApplicable on paper, newspaper print, cardboard, poster boards, and sponge painting

Tempera Paint on Different Surfaces

Now, I will talk about the possibilities of using tempera paints in different applications. You may know if they work on glass, fabric, canvas well or not. Let me start with the first one:

Can you use tempera paint on wood?

You have paint (whatever type) in your hand and thinking that you want to paint a plastic mug or a concrete wall. Most people may indeed believe similarly. But when you have proper knowledge of paints, you will specify one item for its targeted applications. Tempera paint is not above then it.

It is possible to apply tempera paint of wood. But the water resistance would be less than expected. If you paint on wood, the result will not be long-lasting as paints made explicitly for wood (e.g., acrylic). For a natural sturdiness, you should use acrylic, water-based, or oil-based paints.

Can I use tempera paint on glass?

If it is school or junior tempera paint, you can use it on glass. Of course, you can use tempera paint on glass. But the result will be temporary. It will be easy to wash off when you don’t want the color anymore.

Alternatively, the egg tempera provides a permanent, translucent result. The manufacturers use a special formula of this paint to use on glass. You can choose any opaque and transparent colors. Usually, these tempera paints are available at adjacent arts and crafts stores.

Can You Use Tempera Paint on Fabric?

Liquid Tempera Paint for Fabric Surface
Liquid Tempera Paint for Fabric Surface

Tempera paint works a bit on fabric items. But it will gradually crack or flake off when you stretch or bend the fabric. Unfortunately, the tempera paint is not so flexible to stay put while stretching fabric. Even when you wash the fabric with water, the color will go away.

You can knock the paint stores to know the genres of paints applicable on fabric. Habitually, water-based acrylic paints are more suitable to paint on fabrics. These paints can remain stuck to the surface after gent washing cycle. Also, there are some paints that need heat setting with iron to stick better on the surface.

Can I use tempera paint on canvas?

Painting canvas with tempera paint is doable but not recommended. Why? Let me explain the matter.

Think of an artist who loves to reflect the drawing of his mind on the canvas. He would love to see the art remains alive, vibrant, and lovely for a long time. So, his choice of paint will match his needs. If you are in this position, you should choose the paint especially designed for the canvas.

Tempera paint is preferable if you don’t want a durable result or maybe practicing of painting. When you use liquid tempera paint on canvas, it will likely drip down. The fluidity of this paint is the reason behind it. Again, the paint does not stick as long as others on the canvas.

However, if you really want to use tempera paint, you must arrange some absorbent surface to stick the paint. Otherwise, the water-soluble paint eventually gets cracks. Water can damage the painting on canvas.

Tempera Paint: Toxic or Non-Toxic

Is tempera paint toxic

Is tempera paint toxic? Same question in another version: “are tempera paints toxic?”. Here is the answer:

Children at school use most tempera paints. So, the purpose of making the paints is very much positive for their health. Many of these paints have AP certification as non-toxic paint. It means they don’t have any toxicity at all. Similarly, many brands offer allergen-free tempera paints.

If you compare tempera with pro artist’s paints, tempera will be on top as a safer product. Pro-grade paints may have toxic pigments like cobalt or cadmium. They are safe for adults who follow the basic guidelines of tempera paints.

Arteza Kids Nontoxic Tempera Paint
Arteza Kids Nontoxic Tempera Paint

Unfortunately, there is a matter that may frustrate you. Tempera paint manufacturers do not share the full list of ingredients on the product label. I think they should keep everything discloses names, at least the pigments in the paint.

Though tempera paints are non-toxic, nobody should swallow them. Even if it happens, you can follow the safety data sheets or SDS on the paint company’s website. Again, teachers should be aware of kids when they are using tempera paints.

The Duration of Drying

You may have more questions in your mind about what tempera paint is. You may also ask “how long does it take for tempera paint to dry?”. In general, it will offer a dry-to-touch situation within 5-10 minutes only. But the weather conditions play a great role to say the duration of drying time. Also, the thickness and absorbency of the paint also matter.

The water evaporates from the painted surface and leaves it dry. In this case, temperature, air humidity, and circulation have an impact on evaporation. Usually, water-based paints are faster to dry in weather of low humidity. If the air has high humidity, tempera paint will take more time to dry.

The air nearby the painted object may enable faster drying. If you are painting inside the room, and the window, fan, or vents on, they could be drying quicker. Manually, you can use a hairdryer to dry the tempera paint faster.

The absorbency of the painting surface is another factor of drying. An excessive absorbent surface helps the paint dry faster because it pulls the moisture out faster. In the case of a less absorbent surface, the activity becomes slower.

A great example of it is the construction paper. When you are using liquid tempera paint, it will dry faster.

How to Use Tempera Paint?

You can use tempera paint in several ways. I am discussing one common method of using tempera paint. It is very simple to perform a tempera painting work. By the way, you need several things to use the paint:

Tools Needed:

Main paintPaper board
Sticks (for craft)A cup
A platePaper towel

Steps you should follow:

First step:

Arrange everything well and keep the painting stuffs close. As the paint dries faster, the whole project will take only a few moments. Now, fill up the cup with water for washing the painting brushes.

Second step:
Take a pencil and draw something you like on a paper board. But press the pencil lightly to put thin lines. It will help as a guide for painting.

Third step:

Make a mixture of your paints. You can use a craft stick or paintbrush to mix the color by pouring a little onto the plate. A plate helps to use the paint easily. If you don’t want it, you may need to dip the brush into the paint container repeatedly. I suggest you not put the paint back into the bottle.

Fourth step:

Apply some paint on the paper with a paintbrush. Tempera paint works great in thin layers. So, you should create thin layers (in case of multicoat). But each coat should be dried well before giving another coat. After doing these, clean the paintbrushes with water and a paper towel. Otherwise, it will invite muddy colors.

Final step:

Wait till the final coat dries fully. The paint gets hardened after a time. Then, you will get a waterproof surface.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Tempera Paint Contain Allergens?

There are tempera paints available that are free from many things, including allergens. You may not find latex, soy, egg, gluten, etc., ingredients in regular tempera paints.

Does Tempera Paint Fade?

I have already told you that tempera paints do not have any non-toxic pigments. But it causes a downside to the result. Non-toxic pigments are easy to fade. So, most tempera paints fade away slowly. There are some exceptions too in some brands. However, kids’ safety is more important than having toxic but long-lasting paint.

What Can You Use Tempera Paint On?

You can apply tempera paints on different surfaces. Among them, paper, cardboard, and papier-mâché are popular choices.

Can You Use Tempera Paint on Windows?

You can paint windows with tempera paints. The result will be temporary, yet the cleaning is easier, and the price is wallet-friendly. You can remove the paint from windows with a soapy solution. By the way, you cannot paint the tint film of windows with this paint.

Final Words

The idea of tempera paint comes from the 1600s’ egg tempera. It was a combination of fast-drying powdered pigments, distilled water, the yolk of egg, and linseed oil. Present tempera paints have very little likeliness with those classic paints. Now, companies are moving to produce better, safe, and effective paints.

From schoolwork to regular painting – tempera paints are great art tools. They are affordable, easy to remove, and safe for health. If you want to practice painting, you should definitely try tempera paint. For permanent results, you can try egg tempera paint.

I have tried to add all the necessary information about tempera paint in this article. I hope it will fill up your cravings for knowledge about the paint. Have a nice day at artboard!

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