Tempera vs Acrylic Paint: Are They the Same?

  • By: Michael Smith
  • Time to read: 16 min.
Michael Smith
I'm Michael Smith, the founder and creative director of Art and Drawing. With over a decade of experience in the art and design industry, my keen eye for detail and passion for creating inspiring artwork drive my work. I'm dedicated to capturing the world's beauty through vibrant, expressive pieces that spark imagination and emotion.

When it comes to choosing the right type of paint for your artistic endeavors, tempera and acrylic paint are often mistaken for being the same. However, these two painting mediums have distinct differences that are important to understand. By knowing the similarities and differences between tempera and acrylic paint, you can make an informed decision and select the paint that best suits your artistic needs.

Key Takeaways:

  • Tempera paint and acrylic paint have distinct differences in composition and characteristics.
  • Acrylic paint is made up of pigments suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion, while tempera paint consists of pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder.
  • Acrylic paint offers versatility, vibrant colors, compatibility with various surfaces, ease of use, durability, quick drying time, affordability, and non-toxicity.
  • Tempera paint is valued for its water-based composition, safety, ease of use, quick drying time, affordability, and the ability to reactivate with water.
  • The choice between tempera and acrylic paint depends on factors such as the desired finish, surface type, level of permanence required, and personal preferences.

The Composition of Acrylic and Tempera Paint

Understanding the composition of acrylic and tempera paint is essential to appreciate their unique qualities and characteristics.

Acrylic paint, a popular choice among artists, is composed of pigments suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion. This means that the pigments are bound together by an acrylic binder, creating a smooth and flexible paint consistency. The use of an acrylic polymer emulsion as a binder enhances the durability and water-resistance of the paint, allowing it to withstand the test of time. Acrylic paint is known for its vibrant colors and versatility, making it suitable for various art techniques and surfaces.

On the other hand, tempera paint has a different composition. It consists of pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder, which can be either egg yolk or glue. This binder provides the desired consistency and allows for easy water solubility. Tempera paint dries quickly, making it ideal for artists who prefer a swift painting process. It has been used for centuries and is well-known for its use in religious iconography and traditional egg tempera techniques.

Comparison of Composition:

Paint Composition
Acrylic Paint Pigments + Acrylic Polymer Emulsion Binder
Tempera Paint Pigments + Water-Soluble Binder (Egg Yolk or Glue)

As seen in the table above, the primary difference lies in the binder used in the two types of paint. While acrylic paint utilizes an acrylic polymer emulsion, tempera paint relies on a water-soluble binder like egg yolk or glue.

This variation in composition leads to differences in the properties and performances of acrylic and tempera paint, making them suitable for various artistic purposes.

Advantages of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint offers several advantages that make it a popular choice among artists of all skill levels.

  1. Versatility: Acrylic paint can be used on various surfaces such as canvas, wood, paper, fabric, and more. It allows artists to explore different techniques and create diverse artworks.
  2. Vibrant Colors: Acrylic paint is known for its intense and vibrant colors. It allows artists to achieve bold and eye-catching effects in their artwork.
  3. Compatibility with Various Surfaces: Acrylic paint has excellent adhesion properties, making it suitable for a wide range of surfaces. It can adhere well to both porous and non-porous surfaces.
  4. Ease of Use: Acrylic paint is easy to work with due to its fast-drying nature. Artists can quickly build up layers and make changes to their artwork without having to wait for long drying times.
  5. Durability: Acrylic paint forms a durable and flexible film once dry. It resists cracking, peeling, and fading over time, ensuring the longevity of the artwork.
  6. Quick Drying Time: Unlike other paint mediums, acrylic paint dries quickly, allowing artists to complete their artwork faster. This is especially beneficial for artists who prefer working in layers or enjoy a more spontaneous painting approach.
  7. Affordability: Acrylic paint is relatively more affordable compared to other professional-grade paint mediums. It offers a cost-effective option for artists to experiment and create their artwork.
  8. Non-Toxic: Most acrylic paints are non-toxic and safe to use, making them ideal for artists of all ages, including children and those with sensitivities or allergies.

With its versatility, vibrant colors, compatibility with various surfaces, ease of use, durability, quick drying time, affordability, and non-toxicity, acrylic paint provides artists with the freedom and flexibility to express their creativity.

“Acrylic paint offers a wide range of colors and a quick-drying formula that allows me to work efficiently and achieve vibrant results in my artwork.” – Artist Janet Miller

Comparison Table: Advantages of Acrylic Paint

Advantages Acrylic Paint Tempera Paint
Versatility
Vibrant Colors
Compatibility with Various Surfaces
Ease of Use
Durability
Quick Drying Time
Affordability
Non-Toxic
See also
Optimal Acrylic Paint Amount for Canvas Use

As seen in the comparison table, acrylic paint offers a wide range of advantages that make it a versatile and popular choice for artists.

Disadvantages of Acrylic Paint

While acrylic paint has many advantages, it’s important to consider its disadvantages before making a decision. Acrylic paint offers a wide range of colors, but this can also lead to choice overload, making it difficult to choose the perfect shade for your artwork.

Another disadvantage of acrylic paint is its tendency to darken when dry. This can affect the overall appearance of your painting, especially if you were aiming for lighter tones. It’s important to keep this in mind and adjust your color choices accordingly.

The quick drying time of acrylic paint is both a benefit and a disadvantage. While it allows you to work faster and layer colors without waiting for them to dry, it can also be a challenge, especially for beginners or those who prefer a slower pace. You need to work quickly to blend and create desired effects before the paint sets.

Removing dry acrylic paint can be difficult, especially if it has adhered to a non-porous surface. Unlike watercolors or tempera paint, acrylic paint forms a permanent, plastic-like film when dry. So, be mindful of where you apply the paint, as mistakes and corrections can be challenging to fix.

Lastly, the quality of acrylic paint can vary greatly among different brands. Cheap acrylic paints may have lower pigment concentration, resulting in less vibrant colors and poorer coverage compared to higher-quality brands. It’s important to invest in good quality acrylic paints to achieve the best results in your artwork.

“The wide range of colors in acrylic paint can be overwhelming, making it difficult to choose the right shade for your artwork.”

Disadvantages of Acrylic Paint
Choice overload due to a wide range of colors
Tendency to darken when dry
Quick drying time requires fast work
Difficulty in removing dry paint
Varying quality among cheap brands

Despite these disadvantages, acrylic paint remains a popular choice for artists due to its versatility, durability, and vibrant color options.

Advantages of Tempera Paint

Tempera paint offers several advantages that make it a preferred choice for many artists, particularly for children’s art projects and craftwork. Here are some of the key characteristics and benefits of tempera paint:

  1. Water-based composition: Tempera paint is made with water-soluble binders, making it easy to clean up and wash off hands, clothes, and surfaces. This water-based nature also makes it non-toxic and safe for children to use.
  2. Ease of use: Tempera paint is known for its smooth and creamy consistency, making it effortless to apply and blend. It glides onto surfaces, allowing for precise brushstrokes and smooth coverage.
  3. Quick drying time: One of the advantages of tempera paint is its rapid drying time, which is advantageous for artists who prefer to work quickly or require multiple layers in their artwork.
  4. Affordability: Tempera paint is often more cost-effective compared to other painting mediums, making it accessible to artists of all skill levels. It comes in various sizes and colors, catering to different budget constraints.
  5. Reactivates with water: One unique characteristic of tempera paint is its ability to reactivate with water even after drying. This feature allows artists to make adjustments or rework areas of their artwork, even days after application.

Incorporating tempera paint into your artistic endeavors provides you with a versatile and user-friendly medium that encourages creativity and exploration. Its non-toxic nature, affordability, and washable properties make it an excellent choice for individuals of all ages, especially children who are just starting their artistic journey.

Recommended Tempera Paint Brands:

Brand Features
Prang Non-toxic, vibrant colors, washable
Colorations Washable, non-toxic, creamy consistency
Sargent Art Rich pigment, easy to blend, non-toxic

Disadvantages of Tempera Paint

While tempera paint offers numerous advantages, it also has its fair share of disadvantages that should be taken into consideration. Understanding these drawbacks will help you make an informed decision when choosing your painting medium.

    1. Requires a Porous Surface for Proper Adhesion:

Unlike acrylic paint, tempera paint requires a porous surface for optimal adhesion. This means that it may not adhere well to smooth or non-absorbent surfaces like glass or plastic, limiting its application possibilities.

    1. Tendency to Crack or Flake Over Time:

One of the notable disadvantages of tempera paint is its tendency to crack or flake over time, especially when applied in thick layers. This can be a concern if you’re looking for long-lasting results or if your artwork requires preservation.

    1. Reactivity with Water:

Tempera paint is water-soluble, which means it can reactivate and dissolve when exposed to water. This reactivity can be confusing for beginners who may unintentionally rework their artwork or accidentally smudge their work.

    1. Fades When Exposed to Sunlight:

Another drawback of tempera paint is its susceptibility to fading when exposed to sunlight. This makes it less suitable for artworks or crafts that will be displayed in areas with direct sunlight, as the colors may lose their vibrancy over time.

    1. Not Recommended for Non-Porous Surfaces:

Due to its water-based nature and requirement for a porous surface, tempera paint is not recommended for use on non-porous surfaces like metal or glazed ceramics. It may not adhere properly and could result in the paint easily peeling off.

Despite these disadvantages, tempera paint remains a popular choice for various art projects, especially those involving children or temporary creations. Understanding the limitations of tempera paint allows you to make the best use of its unique qualities and create beautiful artworks suited to its properties.

Comparing Tempera and Acrylic Paint

When comparing tempera and acrylic paint, it’s important to consider various factors that can influence your artistic process. Let’s explore the composition, permanence, drying time, water solubility, color vibrancy, surface compatibility, lightfastness, and overall suitability of these two paint mediums.

Composition

Tempera paint consists of pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder, while acrylic paint is made up of pigments suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion. The composition of these paints plays a significant role in their characteristics and application.

See also
Achieve Opacity: Make Acrylic Paint Less Transparent

Permanence

Acrylic paint is known for its permanence and durability. Once dry, it becomes water-resistant and less prone to cracking or fading over time. On the other hand, tempera paint may require additional precautions to ensure its long-term stability and prevent cracking or flaking.

Drying Time

Acrylic paint has a relatively fast drying time, allowing artists to work quickly and build layers. In contrast, tempera paint dries rapidly due to its water-based binder, making it ideal for projects that require swift completion or layering techniques.

Water Solubility

Acrylic paint becomes water-resistant once dry, making it less soluble in water once applied to a surface. Tempera paint, on the other hand, reactivates with water, allowing for easy corrections or reworking during the painting process.

Color Vibrancy

Both tempera and acrylic paints offer a wide range of vibrant colors. However, acrylic paint tends to maintain its color intensity and vibrancy over time, while tempera paint may fade or become less vibrant when exposed to sunlight or other environmental factors.

Surface Compatibility

Acrylic paint demonstrates excellent adherence to various surfaces, including canvas, wood, paper, and more. Tempera paint requires a porous surface for proper adhesion and may not adhere as well to non-porous surfaces.

Lightfastness

Acrylic paint is generally more lightfast than tempera paint, meaning it is less likely to fade when exposed to light. This makes acrylic paint a preferred choice for artworks that will be displayed in well-lit environments.

Suitability for Different Artistic Projects

Both tempera and acrylic paints serve different artistic purposes. Tempera paint is often used in educational settings, craft projects, and temporary artworks due to its affordability, non-toxicity, and washability. Acrylic paint, on the other hand, is a versatile medium preferred by professional artists for its durability, range of techniques, and long-lasting results.

Now that we’ve explored the comparisons between tempera and acrylic paint, you can make an informed decision based on your artistic preferences and project requirements.

Factors Tempera Paint Acrylic Paint
Composition Water-soluble binder, like egg or glue Acrylic polymer emulsion
Permanence Requires precautions to prevent cracking or flaking Durable and water-resistant
Drying Time Rapid drying time Faster drying time
Water Solubility Reactivates with water Becomes water-resistant once dry
Color Vibrancy May fade when exposed to sunlight Maintains color intensity over time
Surface Compatibility Requires a porous surface for proper adhesion Adheres well to various surfaces
Lightfastness May fade when exposed to light Less likely to fade when exposed to light
Suitability for Different Artistic Projects Commonly used for educational activities and craft projects Preferred choice for professional artworks and versatile techniques

Choosing Between Tempera and Acrylic Paint

When it comes to choosing between tempera and acrylic paint for your artistic projects, several factors should be taken into consideration. Understanding the differences and knowing which paint to use can greatly impact the outcome and longevity of your artwork.

One important aspect to consider is the desired finish. Tempera paint is best suited for temporary or washable projects, as it tends to have a matte or eggshell finish. On the other hand, acrylic paint offers a range of finishes, including matte, satin, and glossy, allowing for more versatility in achieving the desired effect.

The type of surface you will be painting on is another significant factor. Tempera paint performs well on porous surfaces such as paper, cardboard, and wood, while acrylic paint can be used on a wider range of surfaces, including canvas, glass, metal, and plastic.

The level of permanence required for your artwork should also be taken into account. Acrylic paint is known for its durability and resistance to fading, making it a suitable choice for long-lasting artworks. On the other hand, tempera paint may be more prone to cracking, flaking, and fading over time.

Personal preferences play a crucial role in the decision-making process as well. Some artists prefer the quick drying time of tempera paint, which allows for layering and reworking. Others may find acrylic paint more appealing due to its ability to retain vibrant colors and its ease of use.

To summarize:

  • Choose tempera paint for temporary or washable projects, matte finishes, and porous surfaces.
  • Opt for acrylic paint for long-lasting artworks, versatile finishes, and various surface types.
  • Consider the level of permanence required and personal preferences in terms of drying time and color vibrancy.

Ultimately, the choice between tempera and acrylic paint depends on the nature of your project and your artistic goals. By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision and select the paint that best suits your needs.

Factors Tempera Paint Acrylic Paint
Desired Finish Matte or eggshell Matte, satin, or glossy
Surface Compatibility Porous surfaces (paper, cardboard, wood) Wide range of surfaces (canvas, glass, metal, plastic)
Permanence May crack, flake, and fade over time Durable and resistant to fading
Drying Time Quick drying, allows for layering and reworking Varies, generally dries quickly
Vibrancy Colors may fade over time Retains vibrant colors
Use for Temporary or washable projects, crafts, educational activities Fine art, canvas painting, murals, various techniques

Application Areas for Tempera and Acrylic Paint

Now that we have explored the composition and characteristics of tempera and acrylic paint, let’s delve into their specific application areas. Both types of paint have distinct uses and are favored by artists in different scenarios.

Application Areas for Tempera Paint:

Tempera paint is known for its versatility and is commonly utilized in various craft projects, finger painting sessions, and educational activities. Its water-based nature and non-toxic composition make it a safe and suitable choice for children’s art projects. Some specific application areas for tempera paint include:

  • Craft projects: Tempera paint is ideal for creating vibrant artwork on paper, cardboard, or other porous surfaces. Its quick-drying nature allows for speedy completion of craft projects.
  • Finger painting: This popular activity for young children and early learners is often done using tempera paint, as it is washable and safe for direct contact with the skin.
  • Educational activities: Tempera paint is frequently used in schools and educational institutions for art classes, poster making, diorama creation, and other hands-on learning experiences.
See also
Preserve Acrylics: Stop Paint Drying Out Fast

Application Areas for Acrylic Paint:

Acrylic paint, on the other hand, is renowned for its durability and versatility, making it a favorite among professional artists. Its flexible nature allows for a wide range of application areas, including:

  • Fine art: Acrylic paint is commonly employed in fine art creations, such as canvas paintings, abstract artwork, and mixed media pieces. Its vibrant colors, quick-drying time, and compatibility with various surfaces make it a preferred choice for many artists.
  • Murals: Due to its ability to withstand outdoor conditions and resist fading, acrylic paint is often used for large-scale murals and street art.
  • Art techniques: Acrylic paint lends itself to numerous art techniques, including impasto (thick application), glazing (layering transparent colors), and pouring (creating fluid, abstract effects).

Here’s a visually engaging table summarizing the application areas for tempera and acrylic paint:

Tempera Paint Acrylic Paint
Craft projects Fine art
Finger painting Murals
Educational activities Art techniques

As you can see, tempera paint is commonly used in craft projects and educational settings, while acrylic paint finds its place in fine art, murals, and various art techniques. Depending on your artistic pursuits and project requirements, you can choose the paint that best suits your needs and preferences.

Durability and Lightfastness

When it comes to the durability and lightfastness of paint, acrylic paint outperforms tempera paint. Acrylics are known for their longevity and resistance to fading, making them a popular choice for artists who want their artwork to stand the test of time.

Acrylic paint is highly durable, withstanding the effects of moisture, sunlight, and general wear and tear. It retains its vibrant colors for an extended period, ensuring that your artwork remains vibrant and true to life. This durability makes acrylic paint suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications.

On the other hand, tempera paint is not as durable as acrylic paint. It is more prone to cracking, flaking, and fading over time. Tempera paint may require additional protective measures if used in outdoor settings or exposed to direct sunlight.

It’s important to consider the durability and lightfastness of paint when choosing the right medium for your artwork. Acrylic paint’s ability to withstand various environmental factors and retain its vibrancy over time makes it a reliable choice for artists who prioritize longevity and color preservation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, when it comes to choosing between tempera and acrylic paint, it’s important to consider their composition, characteristics, application areas, and durability. While both paints are water-based and quick-drying, they have distinct differences that can impact your artistic outcomes.

Tempera paint, with its water-soluble binder, is best suited for temporary or washable projects, making it a popular choice for craft projects and educational activities. On the other hand, acrylic paint, with its acrylic polymer emulsion, offers versatility, vibrant colors, and durability, making it ideal for fine art, canvas painting, and various art techniques.

Ultimately, the choice between tempera and acrylic paint depends on your specific project requirements and personal preferences. Consider factors like the desired finish, the type of surface being painted on, the level of permanence required, and your own artistic style. Both paints have their advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to weigh your options before making a decision.

Whether you’re a professional artist or a beginner, understanding the differences between tempera and acrylic paint will help you choose the right medium to bring your artistic visions to life. So, take into account the unique qualities of each paint and let your creativity shine!

FAQ

Are tempera and acrylic paint the same?

No, tempera and acrylic paint have distinct differences in composition, characteristics, and application areas.

What is the composition of tempera paint?

Tempera paint consists of pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder, such as egg or glue.

What is the composition of acrylic paint?

Acrylic paint is made up of pigments suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion.

What are the advantages of using acrylic paint?

Acrylic paint offers versatility, vibrant colors, compatibility with various surfaces, ease of use, durability, quick drying time, affordability, and non-toxicity.

What are the disadvantages of using acrylic paint?

Acrylic paint can darken when dry, requires fast work due to quick drying time, has varying quality among cheap brands, and is difficult to remove once dry.

What are the advantages of using tempera paint?

Tempera paint is valued for its water-based composition, safety, ease of use, quick drying time, affordability, and the ability to reactivate with water.

What are the disadvantages of using tempera paint?

Tempera paint requires a porous surface for proper adhesion, can crack or flake over time, fades when exposed to sunlight, and is not recommended for non-porous surfaces.

How do tempera and acrylic paint compare?

Tempera and acrylic paint differ in terms of composition, drying time, water solubility, color vibrancy, surface compatibility, lightfastness, and overall suitability for different artistic projects.

How do I choose between tempera and acrylic paint?

The choice depends on factors such as desired finish, surface type, permanence, and personal preferences. Tempera paint is best for temporary or washable projects, while acrylic paint is more suitable for long-lasting artworks.

What are the application areas for tempera paint?

Tempera paint is commonly used for craft projects, finger painting, and educational activities.

What are the application areas for acrylic paint?

Acrylic paint is widely used for fine art, canvas painting, murals, and various art techniques.

How durable are tempera and acrylic paint?

Acrylic paint is more durable and resistant to fading than tempera paint.

What is the conclusion of the tempera vs acrylic paint comparison?

Tempera and acrylic paint have distinct differences and are suited for different artistic needs. The choice between the two depends on the project requirements and personal preferences of the artist.