Sunday, January 16, 2011

Simplify Tempera Paint

In my blog browsing recently, many bloggers have mentioned how they prefer tempera cakes over the liquid form. I've used the cakes before but MUCH prefer to use the liquid - here's why...

For me, liquid tempera provides a more visceral experience during direct painting projects. Pushing around the thick paint has a very different 'feel' than paint in solid form with water added.

In most cases, I prefer my students mix colors directly on the paper so they get all the nuances between mixed hues. In a current 2nd grade project based on George Rodrique's Blue Dog, my kids are mixing warm colors for the background to contrast with the cool colors of the dog.

I've developed a storage routine that minimizes waste while saving time.

I prefer to use clear plastic trays that were donated to my room (but I've also used soda/pop cardboard trays or copy paper box lids) along with small plastic cups purchased at Costco.

Trays are set up before class with brushes, paint cups and water containers.

After class, paint cups are put into one tray and are 'refreshed' - messy/mixed up cups are cleaned (lay a piece of dry paper towel on surface and lift off) and more paint added to be ready for the next time we paint.

Next - a plastic bag. I have 2 boxes of these T-bags I got for free at Treasures 4 Teachers last fall - but any plastic bag will work...

Put the tray in the bag and fold the extra under. I store the bagged trays in my project drawers between classes.

The paints will stay moist for a l-o-n-g time - when we returned from Christmas break, paints were still good to go! Sometimes I will spritz a light mist of water with my spray bottle before wrapping up the bag...

What tricks do you use to stretch your materials?


  1. Yes! I agree while heartedly. My tempera block have been dry all year. They aren't as much fun!

  2. Great technique! I have been looking for those little plastic cups everywhere- our Costco doesn't have them.
    How do you organize cleaning brushes and rinsing out water cups? I only have one sink so I usually just collect them myself and wash them later. Sink chaos is one of my biggest pet peeves with teaching art!

  3. Brushes go into a plastic container w/soapy water to soak until I have time to wash them. Water containers get emptied, rinsed & stacked (NOT washed) by table helpers. With only 1 sink, try designating a student from each class to do the job - better yet, the SAME student during painting projects...Sorry you don't have a ready supply of cups. Try your cafeteria manager or new, young mothers at your school who buy those plastic baby food containers...

  4. I use those same cups, purchased from School Specialty. You can get lids, too, and I use them and save the paints like you do. I agree with you about using liquid tempera - there's something so wondefully tactile about the consistency of thick tempera paint. Yummy!!

  5. Thanks bunches for sharing, I like the plastic bag idea (and your tip for lifting off other paint colors before storing).


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