Best Paper for Tempera Paint: A Comprehensive Guide to Its History, Types, and Techniques

Best paper for tempera paint embarks on a captivating journey through the annals of art history, exploring the evolution, techniques, and contemporary applications of this versatile medium.

From its humble beginnings in ancient times to its pivotal role in the Renaissance and beyond, tempera paint has left an enduring mark on the world of art. This guide delves into the different types of tempera paint, their unique properties, and the methods used to create stunning works of art.

Historical Evolution of Tempera Paint

Best paper for tempera paint

Tempera paint has a rich history that spans centuries, with its origins tracing back to ancient times. It is a painting technique that uses a water-based medium mixed with pigments, and it has been employed by artists to create stunning works of art throughout history.

The earliest known examples of tempera painting date back to ancient Egypt, where it was used to decorate tombs and sarcophagi. The Egyptians used a tempera medium made from egg yolk, which gave their paintings a smooth, matte finish. Tempera was also used by the Greeks and Romans, who developed their own techniques and styles of tempera painting.

Medieval and Renaissance Periods

During the medieval period, tempera paint became the dominant medium for painting in Europe. It was used to create religious icons, altarpieces, and other works of art. Tempera was also used by the early Renaissance masters, such as Giotto and Fra Angelico.

These artists developed new techniques for using tempera, such as the use of glazes and underpainting, which allowed them to create more realistic and expressive paintings.

19th and 20th Centuries

In the 19th and 20th centuries, tempera paint was largely replaced by oil paint, which offered a wider range of colors and effects. However, some artists continued to use tempera, and it has experienced a revival in recent years as artists have rediscovered its unique qualities.

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Types of Tempera Paint

Best paper for tempera paint

Tempera paint is a type of water-based paint that uses a binder made from egg yolk, casein, or acrylic resin. It has been used by artists for centuries, and it is still popular today for its versatility and durability.

There are three main types of tempera paint available today: egg tempera, casein tempera, and acrylic tempera. Each type has its own unique properties, advantages, and disadvantages.

Egg Tempera

Egg tempera is made with a binder made from egg yolk. It is a very versatile paint that can be used for a wide variety of techniques. Egg tempera is known for its rich, luminous colors and its ability to create fine details.

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Some famous artists who have used egg tempera include:

  • Giotto
  • Sandro Botticelli
  • Leonardo da Vinci

Casein Tempera

Casein tempera is made with a binder made from casein, a protein found in milk. It is a durable paint that is resistant to water and fading. Casein tempera is often used for painting on wood, canvas, and paper.

Some famous artists who have used casein tempera include:

  • Michelangelo
  • Raphael
  • Rembrandt

Acrylic Tempera

Acrylic tempera is made with a binder made from acrylic resin. It is a versatile paint that can be used for a wide variety of techniques. Acrylic tempera is known for its bright, vibrant colors and its fast drying time.

Some famous artists who have used acrylic tempera include:

  • Andy Warhol
  • Jackson Pollock
  • Mark Rothko
Type of Tempera Binder Properties Advantages Disadvantages
Egg Tempera Egg yolk Versatile, rich colors, fine details Durable, water-resistant Slow drying time
Casein Tempera Casein Durable, water-resistant Fast drying time Limited color range
Acrylic Tempera Acrylic resin Versatile, bright colors, fast drying time Water-resistant, durable Can be difficult to work with

Techniques for Tempera Painting

Tempera painting involves a range of techniques that allow artists to create diverse effects and textures. These techniques include underpainting, glazing, and dry brushing.


Underpainting refers to the initial layer of paint applied to the surface, typically in a neutral color such as gray or brown. This layer serves as a foundation for subsequent layers of paint, providing depth and tonal variation to the artwork.


Glazing involves applying thin, transparent layers of paint over one another. Each layer allows the underlying colors to show through, creating a luminous and ethereal effect. Glazing is often used to create smooth transitions between colors and to add depth and richness to the artwork.

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing involves applying paint to a dry brush and then lightly brushing it over the surface. This technique creates a textured effect, with the paint adhering to the raised areas of the surface and leaving the recessed areas bare.

Dry brushing is often used to create highlights, textures, and details in the artwork.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Tempera Painting

  1. Prepare the surface: Choose a suitable surface such as wood, canvas, or paper. Prime the surface with gesso or another suitable primer to create a smooth and absorbent base for the paint.
  2. Apply the underpainting: Apply a thin layer of paint in a neutral color to the entire surface. Allow it to dry completely.
  3. Sketch the design: Sketch the design onto the underpainting using a pencil or charcoal. This will provide a guide for the subsequent layers of paint.
  4. Apply the paint: Apply the paint in thin layers, allowing each layer to dry completely before applying the next. Use a variety of techniques such as underpainting, glazing, and dry brushing to create different effects and textures.
  5. Finish the artwork: Once the paint is dry, apply a varnish or other protective coating to protect the artwork from damage and discoloration.

Contemporary Artists Using Innovative Techniques in Tempera Painting

Contemporary artists are exploring innovative techniques in tempera painting, pushing the boundaries of the medium. Some notable examples include:

  • Margaret Keane: Known for her large-eyed paintings, Keane uses tempera to create a unique and dreamlike aesthetic.
  • James Jean: Jean combines tempera with other techniques such as collage and digital painting to create surreal and evocative works.
  • Kehinde Wiley: Wiley uses tempera to create vibrant and powerful portraits that explore themes of race, identity, and history.

Conservation and Restoration of Tempera Paintings

Tempera paintings are susceptible to various factors that can cause damage, including moisture, heat, light, and pollution. The conservation and restoration of tempera paintings require specialized techniques to preserve and repair these delicate works of art.

The conservation of tempera paintings involves stabilizing the painting’s structure, preventing further deterioration, and maintaining its original appearance. This may involve cleaning the painting to remove dirt and grime, repairing tears or holes in the canvas, and reattaching loose paint.

Restoration, on the other hand, involves more extensive interventions to restore the painting’s original appearance, such as retouching and varnishing.


Cleaning tempera paintings is a delicate process that requires careful consideration of the painting’s materials and condition. Surface dirt and grime can be removed using a variety of methods, such as gentle brushing or wiping with a damp cloth. More stubborn stains may require the use of solvents or chemical cleaning agents.

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Retouching is the process of repairing damaged areas of a painting by filling in missing paint or restoring faded colors. Retouching should be carried out by a skilled conservator who can match the original paint color and texture as closely as possible.


Varnishing is the application of a protective layer to the surface of a painting. Varnishes can protect the painting from dirt, moisture, and UV radiation. Varnishes can also enhance the painting’s appearance by increasing its gloss and depth of color.

Case Studies

There are numerous successful examples of tempera painting restoration projects. One notable example is the restoration of the “Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. The painting was severely damaged by a fire in 1992, but it was painstakingly restored over a period of 20 years.

Another example is the restoration of the “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci. The painting was stolen in 1911 and recovered in 1913, but it was damaged during the theft. The painting was restored over a period of several years and is now on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Contemporary Applications of Tempera Paint: Best Paper For Tempera Paint

Tempera paint continues to find relevance in contemporary art, transcending its traditional associations. Artists are rediscovering its versatility, employing it in diverse settings and techniques.


The durability and longevity of tempera make it an ideal choice for murals. Street artists, in particular, have embraced its ability to withstand the elements and create vibrant, large-scale works. Notable examples include the murals of Shepard Fairey and Banksy, which have become iconic symbols of contemporary urban art.

Street Art

Tempera’s portability and quick-drying properties make it well-suited for street art. Artists can create spontaneous and ephemeral works on walls, sidewalks, and other surfaces. Its opacity and vibrant colors allow for bold and expressive designs that can withstand the harsh conditions of urban environments.

Mixed Media

Tempera paint is increasingly used in mixed media works, where it is combined with other materials such as acrylics, oils, and collage. This versatility allows artists to explore new textures, effects, and visual possibilities. Contemporary artists like Jenny Saville and Anselm Kiefer have incorporated tempera into their mixed media works to create evocative and multi-layered compositions.

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Emerging Trends and Innovations, Best paper for tempera paint

Emerging trends in tempera painting include the use of unconventional surfaces and experimental techniques. Artists are exploring the possibilities of painting on canvas, wood, metal, and even found objects. They are also experimenting with new ways to apply tempera, such as using brushes, sponges, and even spray guns.

Potential of Tempera Paint

The future of tempera paint is promising. Its versatility and adaptability make it a compelling medium for contemporary artists seeking to express themselves in new and innovative ways. Its durability and longevity ensure that tempera paintings will continue to be appreciated by generations to come.

Final Wrap-Up

As we conclude our exploration of tempera paint, it is evident that this medium continues to captivate artists with its versatility and expressive potential. From traditional techniques to contemporary innovations, tempera paint remains a vibrant and dynamic medium that invites endless artistic possibilities.


What is the difference between egg tempera and casein tempera?

Egg tempera is made with egg yolk as the binder, while casein tempera uses milk protein as the binder. Egg tempera dries quickly and has a matte finish, while casein tempera dries more slowly and has a glossy finish.

What are some famous paintings that were created using tempera paint?

Some famous paintings that were created using tempera paint include Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” and Jan van Eyck’s “The Ghent Altarpiece.”

What are some tips for using tempera paint?

Some tips for using tempera paint include using a gessoed surface, applying thin layers of paint, and allowing each layer to dry completely before applying the next.