By Matt Fussell
Tempera paint is one of the oldest mediums for painting. Some historians date its use as far back as the 4th century AD. This form of tempera is also known as egg tempera, since egg yolk is used as a binder for pigment. Egg tempera is a permanent form of paint and was used widely before the introduction of oil paint. To clarify - this is NOT the type of tempera paint used in this demonstration.
The type of paint used in this demonstration is also commonly referred to as poster paint. It is a gum-based paint that is remarkably similar to gouache - an opaque form of watercolor. This form of tempera is more viscous than gouache and can be spread over a surface with little to no mixing with water. (Although it performs best with a bit of water.)
"Common" tempera is not permanent. It dries to a chalky consistency, but can be reanimated with applications of water. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Colors can be easily blended by layering colors and using varying amounts of water. However, colors can also become muddied for the same reason.
Tempera can be applied to many different surfaces including illustration board, watercolor paper, and heavier drawing paper. When large quantities of water are used, heavier papers are recommended.
Tempera paint can be combined with many traditional drawing media including pen and ink, soft pastels, oil pastels, charcoal, conte´, and colored pencils. Once tempera is dry, these materials can be spread on top of painted areas. Tempera does affect how the drawing medium is accepted by the surface. With colored pencils, a texture is created when applied over painted areas causing areas of the color underneath the applications show through. This effect is most commonly referred to as scumbling.
Scumbled areas of colored pencils affect the value and color of the work. Subtle and more precise adjustments to the work can be made using the color pencils. Details can also be laid over the top of the painted areas to sharpen the work.
When combining tempera and colored pencils, the order in which they are applied is important. Tempera must be applied first and then allowed to dry completely before colored pencils are applied. Since colored pencils are wax-based, they will resist applications of tempera, which may lead to unexpected results.
The following video takes a look at combining tempera paint and colored pencils to create an image of an eye...