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Can You Use Tempera Paint on Canvas, Wood, and Glass?

can you use tempera paint on canvas

Tempera paint is a good medium of paint. It is quite easy to make, and it is quite flexible to use. But can you use tempera paint on canvas? How about on wood? Does it also work in glass?

Tempera paint uses ground pigment mixed with a water-soluble binder, usually egg yolk. Other painters also use egg whites or the entire eggs, and sometimes even mix them with other liquids such as linseed oil. However, as long as the color pigments are mixed with a water-miscible substance, the paint is considered tempera.

Today, any part of an egg is not the common binder for a tempera paint. But modern tempera paint uses other organic proteins and non-toxic preservatives as the binder.

Can You Use Tempera Paint on Canvas?

Tempera paint is not the same as other paints. Therefore, it does not have the same properties as other paints. And because it does not have the same characteristics as other paints, it is not necessarily good for the same painting surfaces.

For example, canvas works well with oil and acrylic paints – but that does not mean that canvas is a good painting surface for other mediums like tempera.

Tempera can be used on canvas, but it is not ideal. Unlike oil and acrylic, and like fluid acrylic, tempera paint is not thick. The most probable outcome of tempera paint on canvas is that it will likely drip.

Furthermore, tempera paint does not age well like oil does. Over time, it loses clarity due to its impermanence. In my opinion, canvas is a surface too good for something as non-archival as tempera paint.

However, you can seal tempera paint on canvas. Simply by spraying a water-proofing liquid or a weather-proofing compound over your canvas, the tempera paint will not be as heavily affected by water spills. A thick primer does the trick.

Then, after painting, you can use a sealant on top of the paint. I recommend a high-quality wood sealant. Many people don’t realize how well tempera paint and wood sealant go together.

To maximize the efficacy of the sealant, it should be in direct contact with the paint. Wood sealant adheres to tempera paint and keeps it sealed and protected. It prevents water from getting to the paint and helps preserve the quality of the paint.

Can You Use Tempera Paint on Wood?

can you use tempera paint on wood

Painting on wood is mostly for decorative reasons. And most of the time, painted pieces of wood are placed outside the home. If that is the case, tempera paint is not a good medium for painting wood.

Tempera paint does not have a high water resistance. If it is painted on wood and the wood is placed outside, the paint will easily vanish due to water exposure. But if the tempera painted wood stays indoors, the paint may last longer. But then again, tempera paint is not meant for longevity.

But like with canvas, you can seal tempera paint on wood. I don’t see the point of using a primer when painting tempera on wood because tempera sticks nicely on wood. But I see the need for a sealant after the painting is done.

Just like with canvas, I prefer using a high-quality wood sealant for tempera on wood.

Can You Use Tempera Paint on Glass?

Tempera paint works best on non-greasy and absorbent surfaces such as paper or cardboard. Glass is not absorbent – so painting it with tempera is not easy. But, yes, you can use tempera paint on glass.

Tempera paint will likely peel off more easily than acrylic. The problem with tempera paint on glass is that tempera is washable and easily removed. But with the non-washable variety of tempera paint, you can make interesting art on glass using tempera paint.

What Surfaces is Tempera Paint Good For?

You can use tempera paint canvas, wood, and glass, sure. But they really are not the perfect surfaces just because tempera paint is not the highest-quality medium out there. In my opinion, a painting surface as expensive as canvas deserves a really good kind of paint – a paint that will last lifetimes – such as oil.
But there are surfaces on which I like using tempera paint. These surfaces include:

  • Paper
  • Newspaper print
  • Poster boards (tempera is so good with poster boards that it is sometimes called poster board paint)
  • Cardboard
  • Finger painting
  • Sponge painting
  • Papier mache

As you can see, I like using tempera paint on cheap projects. This does not mean that tempera paint is a lower class of paint. It can still achieve great artistic pictures within the right hands.

Final Thoughts

Tempera paint is a good medium to practice with, and that’s about it. I only use tempera paint on inexpensive surfaces.

Can you use tempera paint on canvas? Can you use tempera paint on wood? How about glass, is tempera paint good for it? Yes, and no. Tempera paint produces good results on those surfaces, but it will take more effort to preserve the paint on those expensive surface

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