Tempera Pigments for Artists - Wide Range & High Quality

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How to Select Pigments for Tempera Painting 

Icon Painting of Egg Tempera Icon Painting of Egg Tempera
Icon Painting of Egg Tempera

Tempera refers to water-soluble paint, although its usage throughout history is mainly confined to egg tempera—specifically, paint made with egg yolk. The term tempera is derived from the Italian dipingere a tempera (“paint in distemper”) from the Late Latin distemperare (“mix thoroughly”). You mix pigments with water and a binder.

Almost all pigments are suitable for egg tempera. This category lists all pigments suitable for egg tempera, gum tempera, and distemper or paint made with hide glue. Only alkali-resistant pigments, such as those suitable for fresco painting, are suitable for casein tempera, primarily when lime or other strong alkalies are used to make the casein binder, and the resulting casein solution is alkaline. For casein tempera that is strongly alkaline, see the pigments listed under Fresco Pigments

Natural Pigments especially makes Rublev Colours® pigments for artists. Always select the paint category to choose pigments best suited for that painting medium.

Rublev Colours dry powder and aqueous dispersion pigments are made by Natural Pigments. Please read our description of Rublev Colours Pigments for more information. For information about the permanence and composition of Rublev Colours Pigments, visit Pigments Composition and Permanence.

Visit our Swatch and Pigment guide for details on Rublev Colours Pigments images and where to find pigment information.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a pigment and what is its function?

A pigment is a substance that imparts color to a material. Pigments can be found in many materials, including plants, animals, and human-made products such as paints and dyes. The function of a pigment is to add color or other visual effects to the material in which it is found.

What are the primary types of pigments used in paint?

There are several types of pigments that are commonly used in paint. These include:

  1. Inorganic pigments: These pigments are derived from minerals and include compounds such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and iron oxide. They are known for their durability and high tinting strength.
  2. Organic pigments: These are derived from carbon-based compounds and include alizarin, cadmium, and phthalocyanine. They are known for their vibrant colors and high colorfastness.
  3. Natural pigments: These pigments are derived from natural sources such as plants and minerals. Examples include ochre, sienna, and umber. They are known for their unique color variations and historical significance.
  4. Synthetic pigments: These pigments are manufactured and include pigments such as azo and quinacridone. They are known for their bright colors and high tinting strength.
  5. Special effect pigments: These pigments are used to create unique visual effects in paint, such as iridescence or metallic appearance. Examples include mica, bismuth oxychloride, and aluminum.

Many modern paints use a mixture of pigments for various reasons, such as to achieve specific colors, to improve the paint's performance (such as its durability or resistance to fading), and to reduce costs.

What is the purpose of tempera?

Tempera is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium, traditionally egg yolk. It's known for its vibrant colors and matte finish, used for centuries in fine art paintings.

What's the difference between tempera paint and acrylic?

Tempera paint is traditionally made with egg yolk as a binder, dries quickly to a matte finish, and is water-soluble. Acrylic paint, on the other hand, is made with a synthetic resin as a binder, dries to a glossy finish, and becomes water-resistant once dry.

What are tempera paints made of pigments mixed with?

Tempera paints are made by mixing pigments with a binder, typically egg yolk, which acts as a natural emulsifier, providing a durable and fast-drying medium.

What are the 4 ingredients of tempera paint?

Although some artists believe that 4 ingredients are necessary for tempera painting, in reality, only three are needed. The three main ingredients of tempera paint are pigment, water, and binder. Egg yolk serves as a traditional binder that holds the pigment particles together and attaches them to the painting surface. Other binders include animal collagen glue (hide glue), gum arabic, and casein protein. The fourth ingredient some may use in tempera painting is white vinegar or wine to preserve the mixture. However, these last ingredients may adversely affect some pigments, such as acetic acid in vinegar on ultramarine blue pigment. Read the next two answers below for more details.

Can I make my own tempera paint?

Yes, you can make your own tempera paint by mixing dry pigment with egg yolk and a little water to achieve the desired consistency. This allows for customization of colors and texture.

What are the ingredients to make traditional tempera paint?

Traditional tempera paint is made with four ingredients: pigment, egg yolk (as a binder), water (to thin the paint), and the occasional addition of a small amount of preservative to prevent mold. Some artists use vinegar or wine as a preservative, but these are not recommended as they may increase the acidity of the paint, which is deleterious to some pigments, such as ultramarine blue.

What does tempera paint have as its binder?

Traditional tempera paint typically uses egg yolk as its binder, which helps in mixing the pigment and water and creates a durable coating when dried. Other binders include animal collagen glue (hide glue), gum arabic, and casein protein.

Do artists still use tempera today?

Yes, artists still use tempera today, especially those who appreciate its unique matte finish and the depth of color it provides. Tempera is popular among both amateur and professional artists for its quick drying time and durability.

Why do artists use tempera?

Artists use tempera for its brilliant, long-lasting colors and its ability to create fine details. It's a preferred medium for works requiring precision and a delicate touch. The quick-drying property also allows for rapid layering without long waits.

Do professionals use tempera paint?

Yes, professionals use tempera paint, especially in disciplines that value the medium's specific characteristics, such as icon painting, restoration works, and in cases where the artist seeks the unique effects that tempera provides.

Is egg tempera permanent?

Egg tempera is known for its excellent permanence and durability. When applied correctly on a properly prepared surface, it can last for centuries without fading or cracking, as evidenced by many historical works that have survived to this day.

Do tempera pigments use egg as a binding agent?

Yes, egg yolk is commonly used as a binding agent in tempera pigments, creating egg tempera paint. The yolk acts as an emulsifier, allowing the pigment to mix with water and adhere to the painting surface.

How do you make tempera paint with eggs?

To make tempera paint with eggs, mix pure pigment with egg yolk and a little water. The basic ratio is one part egg yolk to one part water, adjusted to the desired consistency. This mixture can then be applied to a prepared surface.

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