Can You Add a Spray to Your Tempera Painting?

Tempera paint, known for its rich history in art, has captured the imagination of artists for centuries. Its unique characteristics, however, have traditionally limited its use on canvas. In this article, we explore the intriguing possibility of adding a spray technique to your tempera painting, expanding the horizons of this ancient medium.

Understanding Tempera Paint

Composition and Characteristics

Tempera paint consists of pigment, binder, and water. The binder, often egg yolk, gives it a distinctive texture and luminosity. It is renowned for its fast drying time.

Traditional Use in Art

Tempera has deep roots in art history, notably in Byzantine and Renaissance paintings. It was favored for its vivid colors and durability but was primarily used on wood panels.

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Challenges with Tempera Paint on Canvas

Adhesion Issues

Tempera doesn’t naturally adhere well to canvas fibers, making it prone to flaking and detachment.

Limited Flexibility

Canvas, being a flexible surface, can pose challenges for tempera’s rigid paint film.

Vulnerability to Cracking

The brittleness of tempera can lead to cracking, especially on flexible surfaces like canvas.

Introducing Spraying Techniques

Benefits of Spraying

Spraying tempera on canvas can address adhesion issues and offer greater control over texture and layering.

Types of Sprayers

Explore the various sprayer options, from airbrushes to spray guns, each offering distinct advantages for tempera application.

Preparing the Canvas

Surface Priming

Properly prime the canvas surface with gesso or an appropriate primer to enhance adhesion.

Proper Drying Time

Ensure the canvas is completely dry before applying tempera to prevent issues like paint lifting or bleeding.

Spraying Tempera Paint on Canvas

Thin Layer Application

Apply tempera in thin layers to prevent excessive buildup and cracking.

Spray Distance and Angles

Master the art of spray distance and angles for controlled and even application.

Layering and Blending

Learn techniques for layering and blending to achieve your desired effects, from smooth gradients to impasto textures.

Achieving Desired Effects

Texture and Transparency

Explore how spraying techniques can enhance texture and transparency in your tempera painting.

Creating Fine Details

Discover how sprayers can help you achieve intricate details and fine lines.

Safety Measures

Ventilation and Respiratory Protection

Ensure adequate ventilation and consider respiratory protection, such as a mask, when working with sprayers.

Skin and Eye Protection

Protect your skin and eyes from potential contact with paint or solvents during spraying.

Post-Spraying Considerations

Drying and Curing

Allow your tempera painting to dry and cure properly, which may take several weeks, before varnishing or framing.

Varnishing and Preservation

Consider varnishing your tempera painting to protect it from environmental factors and enhance its longevity.


Incorporating a spray technique into your tempera painting on canvas is a creative journey that embraces tradition while exploring new possibilities.

By understanding the unique challenges and benefits, preparing your canvas diligently, and mastering spraying techniques, you can unlock a world of texture, transparency, and fine detail in your tempera masterpieces.

While precautions and post-spraying care are essential, this innovative approach allows you to breathe new life into this time-honored medium, expanding the horizons of tempera painting.

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