Tempera Vs Acrylic Paint: What Are The Differences?

Are you still confused when it comes to tempera vs acrylic paint? Getting some supplies for your next art project does not have to be a complicated venture. I understand, if you are new to the world of art and craft supplies, all these terms like tempera paint and acrylic paint may seem like complicated jargon that is confusing.

Acrylic paint is permanent while modern tempera is washable. Tempera paint turns all faded as a result of its lower durability qualities. The only resemblance between acrylic and tempera paints is that they are both water-based mediums. Tempera paints are great fro school projects and as cheaper alternative for kids, while acrylic paint is a medium for artists of all levels.

Tempera Vs Acrylic Paint

At the end of the day, they are simply two different paints used for different purposes. 

Let’s get into the article to learn the differences between these two paint!


Is Tempera Paint The Same As Acrylic?

The key distinction between tempera paint and acrylic is their composition and how durable they become after drying.

At most, tempera paint is semi-permanent because it is washable and reactivated with water. While acrylic paint is recognized for its permanent properties and fast drying time. Only egg tempera is water-resistant as acrylic, but it is very rare to find today.

In terms of composition, traditional tempera had eggs in it, while acrylic paint has acrylic polymer as a binder. Modern tempera has calcium carbonate or starch as a binder and that is what makes it so close to poster paint.


What Is Tempera Paint? 

Tempera paint is a water-based paint that contains calcium carbonate, cellulose, starch, water, and, of course, the pigments that give it its stunning and vivid colors. More traditional and artist-grade tempera will have a binder of eggs, gum arabic, and vegetable.

In traditional egg tempera, you can find ingredients like eggs, dairy, peanuts, and more. 

egg tempera

Tempera paints today are frequently seen in classrooms because they are versatile and work well for most craft projects and is often confused with poster paint. Tempera paint is great for finger painting.

But historically it was one of the favorite artists’ mediums.

There are numerous tempera variants, each with a varying cost and quality, including washable, student, economical, and premium. A high-quality tempera is typically less expensive to purchase than other paints, making it a fantastic option for groundwork for students in schools.

You may typically find tempera paint in the following forms:

What Is Tempera Paint
Forms of tempera paint

If you are just starting out or if you are planning a fun painting session with the children, going for liquid tempera paint would be the easiest and fuss-free option. You can find washable tempera paint on the market like this one from Colorations – one of the bestselling craft supplies brands. 

Tempera paint is produced utilizing a water-based composition and is made to make painting fuss-free for you.

These are the advantages of tempera paint:

  • Quick drying
  • Washable and easy to tidy up
  • Safe to be used on the skin
  • Mixes well

The drawbacks of tempera paint are:

  • Can rarely achieve the intense color saturation acrylics provide
  • Since tempera is cheap paint, its production practice of using fillers results in a high degree of chalky texture.
  • It can turn crumbly if the water content used in the paint mixture is incorrect.
  • True tempera is now replaced by cheap washable craft paints and it has been downgraded from artists’ medium to paint for school projects.

Egg Tempera Paint

The egg serves as a binder in this sort of tempera, which is made up of artist-grade pigments and eggs. Since the 1600s, this kind of paint has been employed as the standard painting medium, and samples of it may still be found in galleries today.

Marc Chagall used egg tempera for his masterpieces! The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli is also painted with tempera!

Marc Chagall, oil and tempera paint

Now, you can only find Sennelier Egg Tempera on Amazon but dozens of cheap washable “tempera” paints. Times change, it’s no longer Renaissance!

As they are hard to come by these days, many artists resort to making their own egg tempera paint because all you need are eggs, coloring, and a tool to mix them, like a fork or whisk. 

However, due to the pigments’ incredible saturation, egg tempera does have some wonderful features. However, eggs make cause allergies, so be careful!

Powdered Tempera Paint

Powdered Tempera Paint

Tempera paints are produced by combining dried powder color pigments with a variety of other components, such as egg and distilled water. Powdered tempera paint is easy to use as you just need to add a little bit of water.

It is a more flexible way of using tempera than liquid as you can control the viscosity of the paint by adding more or less water or binder. The general rule is to mix 1:1 powdered tempera and water.


5 best tempera paints

best tempera paint

The best paint would be Colorations and they are an excellent option if you want colors that will remain bright after drying. The paint dries matte, won’t chip, and is suitable for children

This washable paint is AP-certified as nontoxic and free of numerous common allergies, including soy, latex, dairy, and gluten. Its super-washable nature makes it a stress-free option.


What Is Acrylic Paint? 

Acrylic paint is a type of water-based paint that uses synthetic polymer compounds and binders. Since the pigments are gritty solids, the coloring doesn’t disintegrate. Rather, it is kept in place by the binder and suspended in the polymers.

The polymers allow acrylic paint to be built up. It holds a shape reasonably well, which makes it ideal for anything that is intended to add a lot of texture. Acrylic paint loses water during the drying process. Ultimately, only the colors are visible.

Acrylic paint is generally considered to be thick, glossy, water-resistant, and highly durable.

Some of the best acrylic paints to start with are:

If you want a comprehensive review of some of the best acrylic paint out there, here is a detailed guide on 21 different brands.

Some of the advantages of acrylic paint are:

  • It is a versatile paint – acrylics can be used to produce any desired effect you’d like because you can easily thicken them up or water them down to the desired consistency
  • Brushes and paint can be washed with mere water – remember to do it quickly!
  • Layering the paint is a breeze because of how quickly it dries up
  • It is flexible, solid, and once dry, water-resistant

The drawbacks of acrylics are:

  • Blending might be problematic because the drying process is so rapid
  • When it comes to acrylic mediums, some acrylics may have additional chemicals and harmful pigments.
  • The color of an acrylic gets darker as it dies, so you may not get the hue you want
  • You cannot change the paint after it has dried – some modern acrylics may be reactivated like the Atelier Chroma Interactive Acrylic Paint.

What Is The Difference Between Tempera Paint Vs Acrylic?

TemperaAcrylic
Paint CompositionTypically water-based. Binder is food-based: eggs, or natural.Water-based paint. Binder is an acrylic polymer emulsion.
ConsistencyCreamy3 main consistencies:
– Heavy-body (thick),
– soft body,
– and fluid. 
Dry TimeAnywhere between 5 – 10 minutes10 – 30 minutes to touch dry.12 – 24 hrs to be fully cured
OpacitySemi-opacityDifferent opacities available (translucent, medium, and opaque)
PreparationNo prep is necessary as tempera paint is best used on paperGesso is needed to prep the canvas prior to painting
PriceIt is reasonably priced for anyone starting out with painting (USD 0.1 per fluid oz)Entry-level acrylic paints are affordable (USD 1.2 per fluid oz) but high-end, professional acrylics can be quite pricey.
Painting SurfacesAlthough it can be used on a variety of absorbent materials, tempera paint works best when applied on paper, cardboard, or paper mache.They are adaptable and work well on a variety of surfaces like paper, wood, fabric, metal, etc.
Mixing And BlendingColor mixes and blends wellColor mixes and blends well.
LayeringPainting in layers is challenging because adding water might revive the initial dried first layer.Layering can be done easily as the paint does not budge once dried.
Color LiftingColors can lift. Upon drying, colors are permanent.
FinishMatte finishGlossy finish
DurabilityMost surfaces can be cleaned with a simple scrub or scrape. However, when subjected to long exposure to light, the colors fade over time.The solid bond in the paint can withstand some scrubbing and wear and tear. Maintains its color over time.
Toxicity And SafetyThe majority of well-known brands of tempera paint have the AP (Approved Product) Certification Seal, which attests to the materials’ safety, and non-toxicity and guarantees that users, especially kids.Although standard acrylic paint is thought to be non-toxic, certain pigments, such as cadmium or cobalt, can be dangerous. Keep acrylic paint away from your skin.
Water ResistanceTempera paint cannot be used on fabrics or garments since it is not water-resistant.
Egg tempera is water-resistant
It is water-resistant but not waterproof to some extent. As a result, you must seal the paint to make it more water-resistant.
MediumTempera is often used as what it is without the involvement of any medium.Acrylic paints are extremely versatile as they have multiple mediums such as gel, fluid, matte, and the list goes on! 

Paint Composition

Acrylic paints are water-based paints that have pigments for color, a binder to ensure it is water resistant, and other agents that provide durability.  

There are various types of tempera paints, so their composition varies. Common ingredients in these water-based paints include eggs (for egg tempera), casein, calcium carbonate, and carbohydrates like maize starch.

Consistency

Similar to oil paints in substance, heavy-body acrylics hold brushstrokes and make it easier to blend and combine colors. In comparison, fluid acrylics are lighter and are more suited for dry-brushing, dyeing, detail work, and watercolor approaches. 

Tempera paint is preferable for cheaper crafts because of its creamy consistency and matte finish.

While acrylic paints mostly come in tubes and jars, tempera comes in big bottles or cups (cakes and sticks are also quite popular).

Dry Time

Acrylic paint dries fast, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to touch dry. However, if you apply thick layers, it can take longer. 

Tempera paint on the other hand takes anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to dry, depending on the number of layers. This is why tempera paint is great for kid’s craft projects because they dry in no time. 

Opacity

Tempera is an opaque substance, although it does not coat as evenly or thickly as acrylics do. However, because of its distinctive transparent look when applied thinly, this may be advantageous for certain projects. 

Acrylic paints have different opacity based on the brands used. Typically, they are thick, cover the surface of the artwork beautifully, and are opaque.  

You may apply acrylic paint over or under any layer because it is made to function like oil. The fact that these paints can be thinned with water or mediums to become more transparent also explains why they are sometimes used as a watercolor substitute -.

Here are 7 ways how to make acrylics more opaque for you to try out. 

Preparation

Assuming you would like to paint your acrylics on a canvas, there are some steps to be taken. Nowadays, gesso has already been applied to the majority of available canvases. You may, however, use your own as well. Similar to how a primer works, the purpose of gesso is to aid in the improvement of paint adhesion to the canvas surface.

If you are wondering if is gesso really necessary for acrylic painting, this detailed guide has it all explained clearly for you. 

Now, when it comes to tempera paint, canvas may not be suitable. Due to the flexibility of canvas, particularly when thick layers of paint are used, the paint may break when it dries. Stick to materials like paper, no preparation is required. 

Another aspect that differs when it comes to these two paint is the brush application. 

When it comes to tempera, avoid wetting your brush with water as this can thin the tempera and cause it to poorly cover the surfaces. If you need to rinse it off because the paint became too thick, make sure to wring out any excess water from the brush before dropping it back into the tempera

However, with acrylics, some moisture can aid in the paint’s ability to flow onto the canvas. Acrylics work better when applied with a brush that has been dipped into the water. 

You can add modeling paste, impasto, or gels to acrylic paint to give it a textured appearance, or we can just apply very large chunks of paint (but prepare to wait out during the longer drying time). Now without it, acrylic will be smooth if we only use a brush to apply it.

So then, in this case, your brush can be dry because what you can do to accentuate certain areas of your painting is to add some development in the underpainting and then go over the high points with a dry brush.

Price

When comparing these two types of paint, acrylic is priced higher.

For example, Liquitex is an amazing brand of acrylic paints and is priced at USD 1.48 per fluid ounce. Likewise, when it comes to tempera, Crayola is a great brand and is priced at USD 0.61 per fluid ounce.

With pricing, the pigments in them play a role. Great-quality pigments are present in high concentrations in professionally-used acrylics. As a result, the prices are greater. Depending on how expensive the pigments are and how challenging it is to locate them and make paint, prices may change.

Acrylics for beginners are considerably less expensive than professionally-used acrylics but have less pigment density and more filler.

Tempera paints are more affordable. Cheap binders like cellulose and starch are used in tempera paints. They also have a relatively low pigment density. 

Painting Surfaces

Nearly every single surface, including cloth, paper, wood, porcelain, plastic, canvas, metal, mirrors, glass, and a variety of other materials, can be painted using acrylic paint.

Here is an article on 11 amazing painting surfaces for you to try out acrylic painting.

Tempera paints work best on paper, paper mache, cardboard, and poster boards.

Mixing And Blending

Overall, mixability shouldn’t be an issue because both types of paint easily combine with hues of the same kind.

Color mixing options with acrylic paints are virtually limitless. By mixing, you may create any color. However, because acrylics dry more quickly, you won’t have as much room for blending on the canvas. Due to their thickness, acrylics may be best handled with a palette knife.

In this article, you will find 11 ways how to blend acrylic paint smoothly.

Since tempera is creamier, mixing colors with a firm brush in a bowl might work. However, thick coats of tempera do not blend properly. So, what you can do is add your tempera layers in tiny bits and in thin layers, letting the previous layer completely dry first.

When acrylic paint and tempera paint are combined, the acrylic hue will dominate.

The blended color is more translucent than acrylic paint and dries deeper than tempera paint. What this means is that when you blend acrylic paints, the colors will be deeper in shade in comparison to tempera paint. 

Layering

The versatility of acrylic’s application in layers is its best feature.

The paint dries rapidly and becomes water-resistant after it has done so. The bottom layer is therefore not disturbed by the top layer. You are free to add as many layers of acrylic paint as you like. 

If you are just starting out, here are 25 acrylic painting techniques for beginners to paint like a pro. 

Acrylics offer countless alternatives, however tempera paint is not designed for the same use. Typically, it is produced for use in children’s creative projects. It is challenging to paint layers of tempera on top of one another because tempera paint can be redissolved in water.

So what happens is that you will blend the colors by reactivating the lower paint layers.

There are 3 techniques commonly used with tempera paint:

  • Double-loading

This process requires loading your brush with more than one color before applying it to the paper. Typically, you are instructed to combine the colors on your palette first before applying them to the paper.

The other option is to get color on your brush and get on painting. Double loading combines or blends these two possibilities.

  • Scratching

Try out the scratching method to elevate your artwork with different textures. All you need to do for this layering technique is to get a craft stick or your brush and scratch the wet paint to create the desired outcome. 

  • Smoothing

To create a smooth finish to your artwork, go over any parts of your painting that has clumps of paint with a dry flat brush to smooth it over. 

Color Lifting

Color lifting is the easiness with which paint can be redissolved in water and removed by dabbing tissue paper over it.

You can lift tempera paint but once acrylic paint has dried, it cannot be lifted or dispersed again. 

However, you may simply apply a top paint layer if you want to fix a mistake.

Finish and Lightfastness

On canvas, tempera paints have a somewhat matte, grainy finish, and acrylic paints have a somewhat glossy finish. This might be a result of the acrylic polymer blend in acrylic paint creating a plastic skin on top of the paint layer.

However, tempera paint lacks this type of finish. The only binders are cellulose and starch, giving the paper a matte, chalky appearance.

Acrylic paint is lightfast meaning it doesn’t fade over time and stays permanent as it was once dried. But tempera paint is less lightfast and can fade if exposed to sunlight.

Durability

When acrylic is exposed to sunshine, the colors remain vibrant for longer,  especially if you varnish the finished artwork to give a protective coating. Additionally, to ensure paint retention, gesso the surface prior to painting.

Acrylics can be used for both indoor and outdoor applications because of its durability.

Tempera paint is not often durable. When the paints are exposed to sunshine, they may fade. However, certain companies of tempera paint assert that their products are lightfast, which enables long-term preservation of the paintings.

Since the binding agent in acrylic paints is formed of acrylic polymer, they are recognized for having a long shelf life. The shelf life of acrylic paint is 10 to 15 years, while that of tempera paint is 2 to 5 years.

Acrylic paint technically has no expiration date because it is made of a synthetic substance. Acrylic paint, however, can deteriorate and be damaged in a number of ways even before it is opened. Environmental conditions, such as exposure to excessive heat or cold, play a big role in this.

Tempera paints are made of organic ingredients, which degrade over time. It will smell unpleasant when tempera paint starts to deteriorate, so you can tell. Liquid tempera has a greater shelf life than solid tempera, which is better if you want your artwork longer.

The most resilient type is egg tempera, which is often unaffected by humidity and temperature. It rapidly dries to create a durable coating that serves as protective skin. It is similar to contemporary acrylic resin emulsion paints in the application, offering a variety of transparent and opaque effects, and smooth gloss finishing.

Read also: 5 Pro Steps to Protect Acrylic Paintings on Canvas

Toxicity And Safety

The majority of the available tempera paint is non-toxic and water-soluble. Water, starch or cellulose, calcium carbonate, and colors make up the essential components. It is frequently confused with egg tempera, which is a different type of paint.

Since there is more than one kind of tempera paint, you may find that there are some allergens in the paint like eggs, dairy, soy, or casein. If you want to avoid buying tempera with these ingredients, look for an allergen-free alternative like this Colorations Allergen-free Tempera Cakes. Crayola is also trying to reduce allergens in their composition.

Kids may employ a range of artistic painting techniques thanks to the paint’s creamy quality, which makes it flow nicely onto paper, cardboard, fabric, wood, or canvas and offers excellent coverage.

You shouldn’t use acrylic paint on any part of your body, including your hands. Pigments and preservatives in acrylic paint may contain harmful components that can cause allergies or skin irritation. Never put acrylic paint on your hands or those of your children for artistic activities.

In this article, you can find out if acrylic paint is toxic and the brands that have toxic ingredients in them so you can stay clear of them.

However, if you accidentally spill acrylic paint while pouring or painting, don’t be alarmed. You will be okay if you wash it off right away. If you want everything to be clean or if you already have skin concerns, wear gloves.

Read this detailed guide if you are wondering if can you put acrylic paint on your face and body.

Water-Resistant

Since regular tempera paint is water-based and not naturally waterproof, it frequently runs when it comes into contact with moisture. This happens when the water rehydrates the tempera paint, which makes the paint bleed.

This holds true for all respectable tempera paint products available on the market because modern tempera paint was created with kids’ arts and crafts activities in mind. Even while some of the less expensive, these tempera paints might not rehydrate when exposed to water, they usually break and just slip off the paper.

You can reactivate tempera paint with water and there are plenty of washable tempera paints available on the market. Meanwhile, classic egg tempera is water-resistant and made for artists.

Now, when it comes to acrylic paint, is water-resistant. There are many ways to make acrylic paint waterproof and this article will teach you 11 ways to make acrylics waterproof.

Acrylic paint is generally not washable and it can be difficult to remove.

Mediums

Acrylic paint is extremely versatile and mediums are added to thicken the paint, extend its drying period, and perform other functions. Typically, mediums are purchased in addition to paint. They provide you the ability to change your paint’s characteristics so that it will last longer while still being usable.

The common types of mediums for acrylics are

  • Gel medium
  • Matte or gloss medium
  • Flow medium
  • Glazing medium

Now in the case of tempera paint, it is often used as what it is without the involvement of any medium.

Read also: 15 Proven Ways How to Make Acrylic Paint Dry Slower & Homemade Acrylic Paint Retarder Recipe


Tempera Vs Poster Paint

Although they may be confused to be the same thing, tempera and poster paint is not the same. In the US, poster paint is commonly referred to as tempera paint, so I can see why there is some confusion.

The binder that you find in poster paint varies from tempera paint. For example, with egg tempera, the binder would be egg yolks or casein whereas, in cheap poster paints, it would be some form of glue or gum.

Poster paints are a general name for vibrant cheap washable paints. As egg tempera became less popular, washable tempera paint, closer in composition to poster paint came to market. Thus, the confusion started.

Talking about modern washable tempera for kids, it is ok to say poster paint, as they both have similar cheap composition and quality, enough for kids and school projects.

Good tempera can be used for pouring, but I’ve never seen poster paint used like that.

Keep reading: Poster Paint vs Acrylic Paint: What’s the Difference and Which is best?


Tempera Paint On Fabric

Washable tempera paint is not ideal to paint fabric because tempera paint is not permanent. The color will readily peel or fracture without a medium and even with just soap and water, tempera paints are easily removed off surfaces.

However, if tempera paint is accidentally spilled on clothes and kids (we know, it can get messy during an arts and crafts session!), all you need to do is run the cloth through cold water and wash it with a heavy-duty detergent or bleach.

If you truly want to try painting them on fabric, choose fabric or acrylic paint and read this easy guide: Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Fabric? How to Paint it Permanently: Best Guide


Tempera Vs Acrylic Paint On Canvas

Tempera paint isn’t the best choice if you want to paint on a canvas. Over time, the paint may fade and break. Additionally, the paint is not really durable, which makes it a much poorer option than acrylic.

Since it is washable, it doesn’t make sense to me to waste a canvas on tempera. Sorry to say that.

With good reason, acrylic paint is one of the most often used paint kinds for canvas paintings. It dries rapidly, needs few supplies, and is simple to work with. Acrylic, which can be applied either with a brush or palette knife, works best on a prepared canvas.

Choosing a canvas? Read 38 Best Canvas for Acrylic Painting for Beginners in 2022 that Professionals use


Tempera Vs Acrylic Paint On Wood

Acrylic paint is more durable and a better choice for painting on wood than tempera.

Tempera paint is not water resistant. The paint will readily disappear due to water exposure if it is applied to wood and is left to dry out in the sun.

Acrylic paint, on the other hand, is excellent for wood because it won’t cause the surface to shrivel or split. If you want your paint job to last longer, simply prepare any wooden surface before painting it. Preparing the surface with a primer will ensure the durability of the paint even though it is not required to do so before painting.


Tempera Vs Acrylic Paint On Plastic

Acrylic paint won’t stick to plastic since plastic, in general, is smooth and nonporous, and acrylic paint has the same consistency when dried. The same goes for tempera paint. 

However, if you sand down the plastic beforehand or prepare the surface, there are chances of the paint sticking to the surface. 


Tempera Vs Acrylic Paint On Windows

Painting windows is an excellent application for tempera.

It often lasts for a long time and is simple to wash off with water. You can use it for temporary window painting for the holiday season.

However, compared to acrylic paints, tempera is more prone to flaking.


Is Tempera Paint Better Than Acrylic?

Tempera and acrylic paint are both great mediums, but tempera is better for school projects, while acrylics are a better choice for aspiring artists.

Children and young painters who use paper as support should use craft tempera paints. They are colorful, simple to use, and typically washable. For traditional art tasks, such as painting on canvas, pottery, and other surfaces, acrylics and egg tempera work well.


How To Make Tempera Paint Into Acrylic?

Technically, we cannot turn tempera into acrylic because it will mean completely changing the composition of the paint from starch or egg to the polymer. The process will be time-consuming, and completely experimental and that’s why it is best to simply purchase acrylic paints if you want to use them.

However, you can use good quality tempera in the same way you would use acrylic paint. For example, let’s take pour painting. Acrylics are often used for this painting technique but you can also use tempera paint.

The only thing to keep in mind is some differences in them like drying time, the opacity of these paints, and such. It all depends on the art you are trying to create. As mentioned earlier, tempera is widely used for kids’ projects and acrylics are used for more professional ones. 


FAQs

What Is Tempera Paint Best Used For?

Tempera paint can be used on paper, cardboard, and poster board to produce the greatest results when used for crafts, school projects, posters, theatre props, painting windows, and other projects.

Can I Use Acrylic Paint Instead Of Tempera?

Depending on the outcome desired, you can. 

However, bear in mind that despite being water-based and generally non-toxic, acrylics are typically not used in often because of the potential for damage to drain pipes caused by the way they dry and produce a kind of skin that must be removed.

Tempera paint doesn’t produce such kinds of issues and readily washes down the drain.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Tempera Paint?

Normally, tempera is used on a surface that has been prepared.

Paintings on wood panels, for example, had layers of gesso – a combination of size and chalk applied to create a smooth surface. Then, the tempera is applied and is gradually built up in a series of thin, translucent layers.

Tempera cannot be applied too heavily, unlike oil paint, so it would produce a result that lacks the rich coloration of oils.

Contrary to oil paints, which have a tendency to darken or lose color with age, tempera paintings are extremely durable and their colors do not fade over time.

It dries quickly and leaves behind a matte finish that is smooth. The biggest drawback, aside from the time-consuming requirement to apply it in thin layers, is that tempera paintings require multiple layers.

Can I Mix Acrylic Paint With Tempera Paint?

I would not advise it.

Despite the fact that they are all water-based, I don’t believe you would attain the desired consistencies because of the varied elements in the paint itself. Also, remember that they will have very different looks once they have dried.

To Sum Up

The type of paint you select ultimately depends on the project you’re working on and the degree of durability you’re pursuing.

A range of creative projects, such as finger painting, can be completed using tempera paint. Acrylic paint is a simple and widely available medium for painting on canvas or paper.

Due to its non-toxic makeup and usage of food-grade or organic components, tempera paint is a favorite among many artists and educators when working with children. Acrylics, it is the go-to option for many artists because of the results it produces. 

So, which one will it be for you?