Is Tempera Paint The Same As Gouache

In the realm of art, it is not uncommon for artists to encounter confusion when differentiating between tempera paint and gouache. While these two mediums share some similarities, such as their water-based composition, their individual properties set them apart. Understanding the distinctions between tempera paint and gouache is essential for artists seeking to achieve specific effects and convey their artistic visions accurately. By examining their characteristics and applications, we can shed light on the question, “Is tempera paint the same as gouache?”

Is Tempera Paint The Same As Gouache

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Overview of Tempera Paint and Gouache

Tempera paint and gouache are both popular mediums used in the world of art. While they may appear similar at first glance, there are significant differences between the two. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of tempera paint and gouache, detailing their composition, differences, similarities, historical significance, uses, common brands, and tips for working with them.


Tempera Paint Composition

Tempera paint is a water-based medium that is traditionally made with a mixture of pigment, egg yolk, and water. The egg yolk acts as the binder, ensuring that the pigment is properly adhered to the painting surface. This type of paint has been used for centuries and is known for its quick-drying properties.

Gouache Composition

Gouache, on the other hand, is also a water-based medium but is made with a mixture of pigment, water, and a binding agent such as gum arabic. The addition of the binding agent gives gouache a thicker consistency and higher pigment concentration compared to tempera paint. This results in a more opaque and vivid finish.

Differences between Tempera Paint and Gouache


One of the main differences between tempera paint and gouache is their opacity. Tempera paint has a more translucent quality, allowing the underlying layers to show through to some extent. Gouache, on the other hand, has a high level of opacity, providing a solid and vibrant color that effectively covers any underlying layers.


When it comes to application, tempera paint is typically applied in thin layers due to its more fluid consistency. It is often used in a more controlled manner, allowing for fine details and intricate brushwork. Gouache, on the other hand, is thicker and can be applied in either thin or thick layers. Its versatility allows for more expressive brushstrokes and impasto techniques.

Drying Time

Another significant difference between tempera paint and gouache is their drying time. Tempera paint dries relatively quickly, making it suitable for artists who prefer to work in layers or build up their paintings gradually. Gouache, on the other hand, has a slower drying time, allowing for more time to blend and manipulate the paint on the canvas.


Due to their differing properties, tempera paint and gouache exhibit different layering characteristics. With tempera paint, subsequent layers can be applied on top of dried layers, creating a build-up of colors and textures. Gouache, on the other hand, can be reactivated with water even after drying, allowing for the possibility of blending and reworking areas of the painting.

Color Range

In terms of color range, both tempera paint and gouache offer a wide variety of shades and hues. However, gouache tends to have a more intense and vibrant range due to its high pigment concentration. Tempera paint, on the other hand, may appear slightly more muted but still provides a rich color palette.

Similarities between Tempera Paint and Gouache

While tempera paint and gouache have their differences, they also share certain similarities.

Water Solubility

Both tempera paint and gouache are water-soluble mediums. This means that they can be easily diluted with water for thinning, blending, and washing out. Additionally, the water-soluble nature of these paints allows for easy clean-up and removal of mistakes.

Painting Techniques

Artists can employ similar painting techniques with both tempera paint and gouache. These include brushwork, layering, glazing, and creating texture. The versatility of these mediums allows artists to explore various techniques and styles, depending on their artistic vision.


Another similarity between tempera paint and gouache is their removability. Since they are water-based, both can be easily removed from the painting surface, either partially or entirely, with the help of water. This makes them ideal for artists who want to make corrections or adjustments to their artwork.

Is Tempera Paint The Same As Gouache

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Historical Significance

Tempera Paint’s Historical Significance

Tempera paint has a long-standing history and has been used by artists for centuries. It was widely popular during the Renaissance period, with artists such as Botticelli, Fra Angelico, and Leonardo da Vinci utilizing this medium in their masterpieces. Tempera paint was highly valued for its smooth finish, luminosity, and ability to create intricate details.

Gouache’s Historical Significance

Gouache, although not as ancient as tempera paint, also has a significant historical background. It gained popularity during the Rococo and Romantic eras, where artists like Francisco Goya and J.M.W. Turner embraced its opaque and vibrant qualities. Gouache continued to be used by many renowned artists throughout the years, proving its enduring significance in the art world.

Uses of Tempera Paint and Gouache

Tempera paint and gouache are versatile mediums that can be used for various artistic purposes.

Tempera paint is commonly used for fresco paintings, murals, icons, and illuminated manuscripts. Its quick-drying nature and ability to create fine details make it suitable for meticulous work. It is also an excellent medium for artists who prefer a more traditional approach to painting.

Gouache, on the other hand, is often utilized for illustrations, graphic design, poster art, and fashion design. Its vibrant colors and opaque finish make it an ideal choice for creating bold and eye-catching images. Gouache is highly favored by many contemporary artists due to its versatility and ability to produce a flat, matte surface.

Is Tempera Paint The Same As Gouache

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Contemporary Artists Who Use Tempera Paint or Gouache

In the contemporary art scene, many artists continue to explore the possibilities presented by tempera paint and gouache.

Some notable artists who work with tempera paint include Kehinde Wiley, who incorporates the medium into his vibrant and intricate portraits, and Nicole Eisenman, known for her expressive and thought-provoking figurative paintings. These artists demonstrate the versatility of tempera paint, showcasing its ability to capture light, texture, and intricate details.

Gouache has also gained popularity among contemporary artists. Olivia Kemp creates intricate landscape paintings with gouache, combining elements of reality and imagination. Kenton Nelson uses gouache to depict scenes of everyday life with a nostalgic charm. These artists demonstrate the versatility of gouache, showcasing its ability to create powerful and evocative imagery.

Common Brands of Tempera Paint and Gouache

Popular Brands of Tempera Paint

Some popular brands of tempera paint that artists often turn to include:

  1. Sennelier Tempera Paint
  2. Winsor & Newton Designers’ Gouache
  3. Holbein Acryla Gouache
  4. Golden Artist Colors gouache
  5. M. Graham & Co. Gouache

These brands offer a wide range of colors, quality pigments, and varying levels of opacity to suit the preferences of different artists.

Is Tempera Paint The Same As Gouache

Tips for Working with Tempera Paint and Gouache

Preparation and Application Tips

Before working with tempera paint or gouache, it is essential to prepare the painting surface adequately. Ensure that the surface is clean, dry, and free from any contaminants that may affect the adhesion of the paint.

When applying tempera paint, it is advisable to work in thin layers and allow each layer to dry before moving on to the next. This ensures better adhesion and prevents cracking or flaking.

With gouache, experiment with different consistencies by adjusting the water-to-paint ratio. Thicker mixtures will yield more opaque results, while thinner mixtures can create transparent washes. Allow ample drying time between layers to prevent smudging or blending of previously applied paint.

Maintenance and Storage Tips

Proper maintenance and storage of tempera paint and gouache are crucial for their longevity. After each painting session, clean brushes and palettes with water, ensuring that all paint residues are removed. Store tempera paint in airtight containers to prevent drying or spoilage of the paint.

Gouache, being a water-based medium, should also be stored in airtight containers to prevent the paint from drying out. Additionally, it is essential to mix fresh gouache for each painting session to maintain the vibrancy and consistency of the paint.


In conclusion, tempera paint and gouache are two distinct mediums that offer artists a range of possibilities in their artwork. Understanding their composition, differences, and similarities can help artists make informed decisions when selecting the appropriate medium for their projects. Whether creating traditional or contemporary artwork, tempera paint and gouache are valuable tools that allow for the expression of creativity and artistic vision.

Is Tempera Paint The Same As Gouache

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