Tempera vs Acrylic Paint: What’s Best to Choose with Key Differences

People often get confused with tempera and acrylic paint. Both of these paints have lots of similarities as well as differences. Some people often think about whether these two paints can be interchangeable or not. Can we choose one over the other on different projects?

In this article I will try to decode this tempera vs acrylic paint comparison in detail. I will help you choose the best one according to your various needs and use cases.

We must say that there are lots of differences between tempera and acrylic paint. They have different compositions that are why they perform differently. 

Tempera vs Acrylic paint
Tempera vs Acrylic paint

Acrylic paint is permanent and stays for a long time. On the other hand, tempera is washable. Due to the characteristics of lower light fastness, tempera paint becomes discoloured. Tempera paints are used to extend printmaking, craft projects, and plaster sculptures.

In this article, we are going to state all types of information about tempera vs acrylic paint. These two paints have similarities and differences.

Tempera vs Acrylic paint (The Major differences)

Some differences exist between Tempera and Acrylic paint. Those are stated below. 

1. Opacity

The tempera paint has ultimate opacity. It has a creamy consistency. It dries to give a matte finish. Moreover, it will not crack or flake.

However, we need to apply three to four coats to get the best result. Some acrylic paints are opaque while others are transparent or semi-transparent. It takes time to dry up. That is why it is more opaque than tempera paint.

2. Consistency

Regarding consistency, tempera paint has a creamy consistency. On the other hand, acrylic paint has a thick consistency. The thinner consistency is easier for paint. The thick consistency is hard to paint. Moreover, the thick consistency requires a lot of paint.

Tempera paint feels matte when it dries up. Acrylic paint gives a glossy and smooth look after it dries up. It is all because of the thickness of the acrylic paint.

3. Material Composition

The common similarity between the two paints is that both are water-based. From here, we can conclude that both have several differences in terms of the compositions. The food-based binder is the main unique difference of tempera paint.

Egg folk is the most important popular binder of tempera paint. Due to egg folk, we often call it egg tempera. Some professional artists have experimented with the utilization of other binders for tempera paint. Other than this, the other binders are egg white and yolk. Another milk-based tempera paint binder is casein. 

The other different tempera is called poster paint. In the case of poster paint, we use a glue-based binder. We can use poster paint, instead of a food-based protein binder. Acrylic paint uses synthetic polymer compound and gum arabic binder. The combination of these two gives acrylic paint reliable performance and permanence.

4. The surface to paint on

Acrylic Paint and tempera paint both can be painted on different surfaces. Let’s have a look at it.

Tempera vs acrylic paint on plastic

Unsanded plastic cannot be attached to the tempera paint. We can use plastic to any adhesion for any paint. In the case of acrylic paint, we cannot use it on plastic until and unless it is unsanded. First, we need to prepare the plastic with sand, then we have to.

spray it with a primer. As plastic is smooth and non-porous that is why the paint cannot adhere to the plastic.  

Tempera vs acrylic paint on Wood

Tempera paint can be used on wood. However, the paint will not last long. If we apply water to it then it will wash away. On the other hand, we can easily paint acrylic on wood. Acrylic paint dries quickly and then lasts long.

Tempera vs acrylic paint on canvas

We can use tempera paint on canvas. However, it is not an ideal medium. The consistency of tempera is thin. That is why, if we apply it on the canvas then it can drip downward.

On the other hand, acrylic paint can easily be painted on canvas. It is because of its thick consistency. The paint stays on the canvas for a long time. 

5. Permanent

 If we talk about permanency then the difference comes about in their longevity. However, both tempera, as well as acrylic paints, are water-based but not water-soluble. Even after getting dried up, the tempera paints become soluble. It is not so in the case of acrylic paint.

Acrylic paint is not soluble once it is dried. On the other hand, it is easier to scrub off the tempera paint. It is washable with a brush and a bucket of water. If we can seal acrylic paint properly then it will last forever. So, we can conclude that acrylic paint is permanent. While tempera paint is temporary and washable.

6. Drying Time

The tempera paint takes less time in drying. Within five to ten minutes, the tempera paint dries up. The process of drying tempera paint occurs when the water evaporates from the paint. After that, it is affected by air circulation, temperature, and humidity levels.

On the other hand, acrylic paint will take different times in drying. It might take 20 to 30 minutes. In extreme cases, it might take an hour or two. Professional acrylic paint remains usable on the pallet. 

7. Toxic

Tempera paints are non-toxic. It doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients. That is why tempera paint is used in school for project purposes. On the other hand, Acrylic paints are water-based. That is why it doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients.

That is why it is less toxic as compared to other oil-based paints. However, after proper research, we get to know that acrylic paint contains a few harmful ingredients like cobalt, chromium, lead, manganese, etc.

8. Finish

Tempera paint has a creamy consistency. That is why, it gives a smooth and matte finish. On the other hand, acrylic paints are generally glossier, and have a smooth texture. Acrylic varnish is frequently accessible in gloss, satin, and matte finishes.

Frequently Asked Questions (fAQs)

Get Your Answers Here

1. How to make tempera paint into acrylic?

Answer: If we can add different layers of tempera paint into acrylic then it is possible. However, the result might come out cheesy and bumpy. It depends upon the brands. You have to blend it properly to get the best result. 

2. Can you mix tempera paint with acrylic?

Answer: Yes, tempera paint can easily be mixed with acrylic paint. Acrylic dries into a stiff texture that can be built upon. However, in terms of mixing capability, both tempera and acrylic mix well. Both mix color perfectly. 

3. Do artists use tempera paint?

Answer: Yes, professional artists use tempera paint. Artists generally make their own egg tempera paints. However, some artists use it because it dries up quickly. The painting also becomes attractive. 


This is all about the differences between tempera and acrylic paint. We are sure that you have liked this article on tempera vs acrylic paint.

People often think that the two are the same. We have discussed almost all the important differences between these two. We hope that all your doubts have been cleared.

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