Tempera paints have been around for thousands of years -- long before oils.
Most of us are familiar with tempera in its modern form, having played with it in kindergarten and elementary school. We might have called it poster paint.
What It Is
Tempera is an emulsion of oil and water. The pigments are mixed with a binder derived from a natural protein -- traditionally, egg. Renaissance artists used egg tempera for fresco painting and hardboard painting. Today's egg tempera is available in artist quality, and is similar to that used by the old painting masters.
Temperas go on wet and shiny but dry flat and matte. Specialty brands (ie Jazz) dry glossy and shiny like enamel. These paints are safe, economical,and clean up with soap and water.
Care and Use
Since the binder protein is organic and biodegradable, the product may spoil and develop an odor. Tempera paints should be used quickly once the bottle has been opened.
To extend the life of this medium, always keep the bottles tightly sealed, and avoid dipping a brush directly into the bottle. Store the product in its original containers, but do not return the paint to the bottle once you have been working with it.
Tempera paints are available in liquid, powder, or cake form. They are available in many colors, including metallics.
Using Tempera Paints in Altered Books
Tempera, like all water-based paint, is likely to cause warping and buckling when applied to a book's page. Therefore, many ABers prefer using tempera to create background papers. When dry, affix the background pages to your book, or use as embellishments. Sealing the page afterwards is advised, since tempera can become powdery.
Tempera paints are also used in "blotto painting" -- a technique that lends itself well to book altering. You cover one side of a paper with tempera, then blot another sheet of paper onto it while still wet. The result is a satisfying smear that makes a good background paper or embellishment.
The resistance technique lends itself to tempera paints. Make a crayon design on a page. Cover it with tempera (or other water-based paint). The paint will not adhere to the crayon markings. White crayon on white paper, with colored tempera, gives an interesting effect. To eliminate the waxy residue from the crayon, heat it with a heat gun.
Where To Get It
Brand names include Rich Art, Crayola, Prang, Dick Blick, Alphacolor and Sennelllier (egg tempera).
MisterArt.com sells many types of this paint, as does Dick Blick.
Color Mixing Bible: All You'll Ever Need to Know About Mixing Pigments in Oil, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Soft Pastel, Pencil, and Ink
Return to Altered Book Home Page when finished with tempera paints.