Glossary Term: Tempera Paint

  • 13 May 2009 05:36
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Hans Memling's "Madonna of Martin Nieuwenhoven"Tempera or "egg tempera" is a type of paint made by mixing powered pigments with egg yolks. Tempera pigments usually came from natural sources such as minerals, wood, plants or clay. Because tempera dried right away, artists had to apply it quickly with small brushstrokes. Rapid drying also made it difficult to change or correct the painting later.

Tempera is the oldest paint known. It was used in wall paintings of ancient Egypt, Babylonia and Greece. Tempera remained popular, especially in early Renaissance Italy, until the 15th century, when oil paints were developed.

Today's tempera paints are very different than tempera paints of the past. The "tempera" paints many of us use in school are not made by grinding pigments and cracking eggs. Bottled "tempera" paints are popular paints for elementary students and above because of their bright, washable colors.


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Holly Becker By, Holly Becker
Holly Becker is a commerce editor for Sanford ArtEdventures. She has years of experience testing products and writing about them, with the aim of helping people to improve their homes. Holly loves anything that makes her house look better, and she's excited to share her findings with others who want to do the same.
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