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  • Writer's pictureKOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH

The Magic of Tempera Paints

For someone, it's just an ordinary technique you remember from art lessons. For others, it's a favorite art medium with specific characteristics.

We talk about tempera paints which almost every one of us has encountered. Are you interested in the history of this medium, and would you like to know the formula for egg tempera? Immerse yourself in the following article.

There's hardly anyone who has never worked with tempera paints. Whether in art classes at elementary school or at least encountering them in any of our stores. Tempera paints are one of the favorite and most used art techniques regarding painting. And there's no wonder. It's easy to use them, their colors enchant children and adults, and they're available in all Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth stores. But do you know how this painting technique came about?

The term comes from the Latin word "al tempera,” which in translation means “mix.” Among the characteristics of this technique belong high covering power, fast drying, and matt color appearance. It's also a water-soluble paint that can be further diluted even after drying. A little disadvantage could be a change of hues after the paint is entirely dry, but you can work with that. You can paint with them on almost anything, from ordinary cardboard to canvas, particle board, or a wall.

In addition to the surface, you'll also need a palette, ideally a wooden one, a cup of water, and brushes whose type you decide on according to the size of the canvas or motif. We leave it up to you whether you get synthetic or natural bristles. If you like experimenting, you can try painting with a spatula or other tool. Thanks to the thick consistency, tempera paints are perfect for this type of painting. But let's go back to the very beginning.


  • According to available sources, the history of tempera paints, the oldest painting technique, dates back to ancient Egypt, where their traces were found on a mummy casket. This tempera paint was far from the tempera we know today. Contemporary tempera paint consists of synthetic pigments and an emulsion with emulsifying agents such as glue, casein, or wax, which serve as a binder. In ancient Egypt, tempera paint contained natural pigments, animal glue, acacia gum, or fig milk.

  • Later, in antiquity, we first encounter the term egg tempera, which holds its position among art techniques, with exceptions, till the Middle Ages, where it takes an important position, especially regarding book illuminations and board painting. All of this changed after oil paints were developed in the period of the renaissance, gradually replacing tempera in popularity. The fact that tempera was pushed into the background does not mean it has completely disappeared. Many significant artists have created and continue creating remarkable artworks with it. Tempera became a favorite medium of, for example, William Blake, Giorgio de Chirico, and Egon Schiele.

Try with us the egg tempera technique!

An egg is one of the oldest emulsifiers used for tempera creation. Thanks to its composition, an egg is a kind of animal emulsion containing, among other things, water, lecithin, egg fat, and others. You'll need one egg for egg tempera which you can use either whole or only the yolk. Then you'll need linseed oil in about half the amount of egg and classic tempera paints in a tube. The proportions and methods of mixing ingredients differ among artists, so it's best to try and experiment. The result should be a saturated painting that will vary from classic tempera painting in its higher gloss.



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