we help adults teach art to kids

Tempera vs Acrylic Paint


I avoided acrylic paint for a long time. I was happy with my liquid tempera and watercolor paints and didn’t see the allure of acrylics.

Now, for my own art, nothing beats acrylics. But who wants to mess around with tubes with 30 kids?

This was my mindset for a long time.

When I learned about acrylic paints that were meant for an elementary classroom, I was excited to give them a try. I order some Blick acrylic paints and experimented with a few projects.

Everything that was said about acrylic paints was true…they were smooth, beautiful and had a lovely finish.

Then I made the BIG mistakes that only experienced art teachers know not to do: I cleaned my plastic muffin-palette filled with acrylic paints in the sink. Two days later, my sink was clogged.

Here’s the thing. Acrylic paints dry to a hard plastic. And when your pour them down your drain, they will stick to your pipes.

And if you don’t clean your brushes well, then the same hard plastic will adhere to the bristles.

So that had me swearing off acrylics for  along time.

Cut to this summer….

I was creating art with my 3-year old niece in Canada. I needed supplies so I went to the closest store. They carried a few craft acrylics but not much else. So I bought a smock, grabbed some primary colors and prepared to cover my niece so she wouldn’t ruin her clothes.

Turns out that the acrylic I bought was very (very!) similar to regular liquid tempera paint. It even washed away like tempera. It didn’t even dry to a hard plastic finish. I was amazed. And surprised.

Here’s a video that shows how craft acrylic paints are just like liquid tempera paints. Maybe they will work for you!

Save time and effort with a done-for-you artist curriculum, art training, art lesson downloads and a supportive, engaged community within The Members’ Club. Don’t miss the next enrollment…



  1. I have loved the acrylics and found some good tips that worked well. To avoid the pipes issue I have used plastic deli lids as our palettes, we leave them out to dry and just peel off the paint, much better for the environment. Putting a package of paper plates on the student supply list made clean up easier too without adding to the art budget.

    Love your ideas!

    Suzi Wilson

    September 5, 2016

  2. Thank you for the video. I have a hard time looking for tempera paints here (Australia). Will try to find Craft acrylics at craft store here.


    September 6, 2016

  3. Just a comment in regard to sourcing tempera paint in Australia- ( & I could be wrong about this!)- but I think it is just named differently here and mostly gets called poster paint instead of tempera. I noticed recently that Modern Teaching Aids educational supplies do actually have paints branded as “Super Tempera” and they describe them as high-grade, wash off poster paint.
    I personally love acrylic- like the shine & great for painting papier mache projects- but they aren’t as clothes, drain or paintbrush friendly that’s for sure!


    September 8, 2016

  4. Where do you drain the acrylic paint water? I don’t have a craft room, I clean at my home sink and maybe I’m clogging my sink!!


    May 25, 2017

    • I don’t find there is a problem with the water. But I use paper plates, wax paper or something similar for the palettes. Then the palettes go in the trash.


      May 25, 2017

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *