The Ultimate Tempera Paint Vs Acrylic Paint Comparison!

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Although acrylic paint is one of the most popular types of paint in the arts and crafts space, tempera paint has seen a huge spike in the number of people using it recently leading to more and more people asking for a dedicated tempera paint vs acrylic paint comparison article. As the number of people specifically reaching out and asking for a tempera vs acrylic comparison seems to be steadily increasing with each month that passes, we have decided to publish our own dedicated comparison of the two paint types.

Our goal is to try and help our readers decide if they should be going with tempera or acrylic paint for their needs and although there is a little cross over for the use cases of both paint types, they have their own unique strengths and weaknesses that make each paint type better for specific tasks. Throughout our article, we will be going over these different strengths and weaknesses for both tempera paint and acrylic paint as well as pointing out the areas where they perform at a very similar level to each other.

Due to covering so many sub-topics about the two featured paint types in this article, we have added a table of contents below. This allows you to quickly click any of the relevant sub-headers to be instantly taken to the sub-section of the article that you are interested in without having to skim the whole article. This should be able to help you save time and get the information you required about tempera paint and acrylic paint as quickly as possible.

Tempera Paint Vs Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is essentially a water-based paint that suspends its pigment in the water until applied to paper or canvas and the water evaporates leaving the pigment behind. Tempera paint is also water-based but usually contains other ingredients in addition to its pigments such as starch, cellulose, and calcium carbonate ensuring that the tempera paint is easy to wash off due to it usually being designed for use with children.

Unlike tempera paint that is really only designed for use by children or for none serious projects, acrylic paint has a huge range of paint formulas available that span over a massive range of use cases. If you are in the arts and crafts space yourself but also looking for something to keep your children entertained or get them interested in arts and crafts then acrylic paints may be the better option due to the paint formula usually being better for serious artwork too.

The vast majority of both acrylic and tempera paint formulas are certified non toxic and are free from allergens but always check the label, especially with acrylic paints. This is due to some pigments for some of the more unique colors being classified as allergens or toxic and the paint color not being possible without using that specific pigment option. If you do purchase a paint set of either of the featured paint types that has been designed for use by children then you shouldn’t have this issue though due to the colors often being basic.

What Is Tempera Paint?

Tempera paint is a water based paint formula that is essentially a better formula of poster paint. In addition to the water and pigment in the paint formula, tempera paints can also contain starch, cellulose, and calcium carbonate in various quantities. These additives are primarily there to be used as an easy to wash off binding agent for the paint once dry due to tempera paint primarily being designed for use by children.

A very common mistake that is often made with tempera paint is that it is confused with egg tempera but the two formulas are totally different. Traditional egg tempera tends to drastically underperform a modern tempera paint formula with egg tempera also containing allergens due to using an egg base. There are still many misconceptions between the two and we often see people on social media not realising that modern tempera paint sets do not contain egg.

The vast majority of the tempera paint sets on the market these days tend to be based around the three primary colors with a small number of other colors included sometimes also including a white and black paint too. This is due to children not requiring such a wide range of paint colors for their arts and crafts and helps to keep your costs down but this can hold tempera paint back for any serious artwork.

What Is Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paint is one of the most popular paint types on the plant and is extremely popular in both arts and crafts and home decoration. The paint formula is based around suspending a pigment for the required paint color in water for the storage and application process and then once applied to a surface, the water evaporates leaving the pigment behind to color the surface it was applied to.

If you are a beginner or on a budget then a cheap, high quality acrylic paint set will probably be all you need for your arts and crafts to get started. The tend to offer a much better color range than tempera paint sets making them a better option for people looking to do serious paintings or develop their painting skillset.

When it comes to acrylic paints, the possibilities really are endless and you can enhance your accessories in various ways with different brush sets, primers, and sealers to get different effects from the paint. If you are a beginner and the hobby of painting with acrylics takes hold, don’t be surprised if you quickly expand your painting kit to experiment with new techniques.

How Much Does Tempera Paint And Acrylic Paint Cost?

Entry level tempera and acrylic paint sets usually have a very similar price tag to each other with the tempera sets usually having a higher paint formula per color and the acrylic paint sets usually having a wider color range with less paint per color. Although there are some intermediate price point tempera paint sets, there are no real professional levels sets due to the nature of tempera paint but acrylic paint prices can increase as you move through the price brackets.

When it comes to individual tubes of acrylic paint and bottles of tempera paint, the acrylic paint does tend to have a higher price point due to it often having higher quality ingredients. The specific color of the acrylic paint will come into play too as some pigments naturally cost more than others and due to supply issues, some pigments spike in their costs at different times of the year.

Both tempera and acrylic paints have great modern paint formulas that usually ensure that even a cheap, entry level set of the paints should offer decent performance. If you are looking to work on serious artwork then going with some higher quality acrylic paints that are lightfast may be the better option to ensure that your artwork lasts for as long as possible but these paint formulas will often cost a little more than their non-lightfast counterparts.

Is Tempera Paint Or Acrylic Paint Good For Canvas?

Although tempera paint can be used on a canvas, acrylic paint is definitely a better paint medium for using a canvas. The consistency of tempera paint is not really suited for canvas and will often drip down if painting on an easel or soak through the canvas without a primer is painting with the canvas flat on a surface. Tempera paint can be a paint to layer or blend correctly too scoring acrylic paint more points for canvas painting.

Although there are a number of hacks that we see people reporting on social media of house hold items such as talcum powder that can be added to tempera paint in very small amounts to improve its consistency for use with canvas, this is more trouble than it is worth. Acrylic paint is often good to go right out of the tube and many acrylic paint formulas don’t actually need you to apply gesso to the canvas first although the performance will often drastically improve if you do.

This is true for both linen and cotton canvas with the problems of tempera paint being slightly worse when used on a cotton canvas. As cotton canvases tend to cost more than their linen counterparts, we usually just recommend that our readers avoid using tempera on cotton altogether and focus on using acrylic or oil paints on them instead.

What Surfaces Can Tempera Paint And Acrylic Paint Be Used On?

Tempera paint works particularly well on paper and to some extend card where as acrylic paint can work very well on a huge range of different surfaces. Acrylic paint has the additional advantage of having some unique, specialist formulas that have been optimised for less common surfaces for painting such as glass or metal too.

Although some people do use tempera paint on fabric with it offering decent performance, acrylic paint tends to offer slightly better performance with actual fabric paint being the best option in most cases for this type of painting. Other than that, the valid surfaces that you can paint on using tempera paints really are limited dropping it even more points.

If you plan to start using gesso on your surfaces prior to applying your acrylic paint to them then this really does open up what you are able to use your acrylic paint on. Although some surfaces may need a specialist paint primer rather than normal gesso, the options are there if required with this making acrylic paint the obvious option for anyone looking for a paint for home decor.

Can I Mix Acrylic And Tempera Paint?

Although you can mix acrylic paint with tempera paint if you really need too, using them as an individual paint option does tend to be the best option to take. When mixed together, the consistency of the paint tends to be a blend between the two causing a number of problems with some acrylic paint pigments having issues with the additives commonly found as binding agents in tempera paint too.

Due to most tempera paint sets having such a restricted color pallet available, it is very common for people to mix the primary colors of tempera paint to make other colors. Although this is less common for acrylic paint due to there being a much wide range of colors available, mixing acrylic paints with other acrylic paints to make your own unique colors is still very common.

A common mistake that we often see beginners make is to try and mix tempera paint with acrylic paint to achieve the best of both worlds but this almost always ends up going wrong. Just going with acrylic paints from the start is usually the better option for anything other than painting for children due to the additional versatility, better color selection, and wider range of suitable surfaces for acrylic paints.

Is Tempera Paint Or Acrylic Paint Better?

For the majority of people, acrylic paint will definitely be the best option to take due to it offering so many advantages over tempera paint. The only area where tempera paint takes the lead is if you are looking for a cheap paint that is easy to wash off for arts and crafts sessions with your children. The versatility, color selection, and better performance n most situations push acrylic paint ahead of tempera paint, especially for anyone working on serious artwork.

Thankfully, unlike around ten years ago, there are a huge number of high quality, entry level acrylic paint sets on the market these days offering you some great quality paints for your money. This has dramatically reduced the initial costs of getting involved in acrylic painting for most people making it a considerably more budget friendly hobby for beginners.

If you are specifically looking to keep your children entertained with arts and crafts then a tempera paint set can be an excellent option though. Tempera paint tends to be easier to wash off any surfaces that your children get it on when compared to acrylic paint while also being able to easily wash of skin too. Other than this very specific situation, acrylic paint will usually be the better option for the majority of people though with it being the clear winner in most situations.


That brings our ultimate tempera paint vs acrylic paint comparison article to an end and we hope that you have found it helpful. Although tempera paint is becoming more and more popular amongst the arts and crafts community, this popularity is usually based around arts and crafts sessions for small children rather than adults. If you are looking to get involved in serious painting and develop your skillset then acrylic paint is going to be the better option for the vast majority of people.