Tempera vs Acrylic Paint

Tempera-vs-Acrylic-paints-Image

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!


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  • Suzi Wilson

    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!

  • vivisoesanty@gmail.com

    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.

  • Taryn

    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!

  • Shanam

    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!!

    • Patty

      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.

  • paul hill

    i’m a retired draftsman. having spent my career in black and white technical dwgs. now, I go to a senior center, enjoy doing watercolor and acrylic seascapes etc. great social value.

  • Kim G

    Acrylic paints are not washable out of children’s clothing once dry. Tempera paint washes off . I painted a mural with tempera paint on my son’s walls and washed it away with a wash cloth years later! Acrylic paint is permanent on rocks… Tempera washes away in the rain. Very significant differences. I was an Interior Designer for 10 years and now an Elementary Art teacher for 14 years.

  • Masha

    Have you ever made tempera paints from scratch?

  • Marsha

    I want to paint candy canes and mistletoe on my store windows for Christmas. Will this paint work?

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