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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Benson

Exploring Tempera Paints

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

For this exploration, I used the Prang brand fluid and cake tempera paints. I used different papers, drawing paper, mixed media paper, colored construction paper, and several sized brushes in a variety of shapes and softnesses.

I compared the cakes vs. fluid tempera paints. The first thing was the odor, both were almost nonexistent in odor. The fluid colors needed to have a quick shake before using. They came out thick and creamy. I found that the cakes were lighter and more transparent while the fluid tempera was more creamy and the colors came out more vibrant and opaque. I used a round, rough bristle brush. When I tried mixing primary colors into secondary colors, I found that both cakes and fluid became more transparent. It was important to work quickly with the cakes because the paint dried faster.

Next, I wanted to try making more colors with the colors on hand. I found that the cakes seemed to produce muddy blended colors even with a clean brush. The fluid tempera seemed to push colors instead of blending except for the yellow and orange. I tried adding white through all the colors, that was a fail.


For the tints and tones, I first applied a solid layer of a single color, then I added white on one side for the tint and added black on the other side for the tones. The cakes barely blended together, the fluid blended a little better.

My next experiment was marking making with various brushes, alternating between wet brushes and dry brushes. I found that if the cake had a pool of water on top of it and I used a dry brush, the colors came out more opaque but also more grainy. I found that the fluid paint was less forgiving with mistakes, I got some black wet paint mixed in with my yellow and I could not cover it up no matter how many layers I attempted. The brush strokes are very apparent, the overlapping layers seem to pull the paint from the under-layer.

I tried another mark-making technique. I gathered supplies from outside. Leaves, sticks, and a scrap piece of wood. I painted with the stick, stamped with the wood, and painted the leaves. With the painted leaves I used a brayer to press the leaves on white paper. I then attempted to glue down the leaves to play with white space.


I layered several pieces of colored construction paper on white mixed media paper. With black tempera, alternating between cakes and fluid, I create a floral design. Again, alternating between the cakes and the fluid, I filled in the colors. I went over the black outline again, once everything dried. The cakes did not show up very well on any of the construction paper colors. The fluid showed up a little better.


Sitting outside is a paper of both fluid and cake colors. I'll test how lightfast each color is within a few days.

Supporting Materials:

  • smocks

  • bigger water containers

  • variety of brushes

  • 80lb or heavier paper

  • table protectors

  • palettes or containers to store paint in

Safety:

Ensure the paints are non-toxic, do not allow students to put the paint in their mouths. Could have mild irritants to the skin so encourage handwashing if it gets on the skin.


Age group/Behavioral expectations:

Probably best for elementary/middle school-aged children. Older students may find tempera paint frustrating because colors dry more muted, the longevity of paintings has not been tested, so they may fade and colors do not blend as smoothly as other mediums available.

Tell students they are expected to treat materials like they belong to them. Clean brushes, change out the water often, protect table tops and only paint on the paper/material on hand.


Project Ideas:

  • Stamping found materials with tempera paint, onto paper and create a design around it.

  • create a paper wall hanging. Give students strips of paper they will paint and design patterns on, attach all strips to make a wall hanging.

  • Fill a paper with tints and tones of various colors and shapes. When it is dry, go over the paint to create a cityscape.

The following pictures were taken from the 667 class, fellow classmate's exploration work.


Artist Inspiration:





























Reference:

Hafeli, M. C. (2015). Exploring studio materials: Teaching creative art making to children. Oxford University Press. Pages 75-81

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