The main difference between tempera and gouache is their composition; tempera is a fast-drying paint consisting of coloured pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium like egg yolk while gouache is a kind of opaque watermedia paint that consists of natural pigment, water and a binding agent such as arabic gum or dextrin.
Gouache and tempera are two painting mediums that are not as well as known as watercolour or oil paint, but they are just as interesting and have a long history.
Key Areas Covered
Gouache, Tempera, Paint
What is Tempera
Tempera is a painting medium in which pigment is mixed with water-soluble glutinous materials like egg yolk. Tempera can also refer to the technique of painting using tempera paints as well as paintings done in this medium. This paint medium is semi-opaque, fast-drying and long-lasting. It was a popular painting medium in the past, and examples of work from the first century AD still exist. Tempera is most commonly associated with frescoes and icon painting from the Byzantine and Renaissance time periods. In fact, egg tempera was a major method of painting until the discovery of oil painting in the 1500s.
Although tempera is known for its excellent lightfastness (permanence of a pigment is its resistance to change on exposure to light), it is not very flexible and can only be applied on rigid surfaces (in order to avoid cracking of the paint). Traditionally, artists used tempera on rigid supports such as wood panels.
When the binder in tempera is egg yolk, the paint dries very fast. Egg tempera is the most popular tempera in the market. However, some tempera paints also have artificial emulsion using gum or glue.
What is Gouache
Gouache is a water media paint that consists of natural pigment, water and a binding agent such as gum arabic or dextrin. Gouache can also refer to the technique of painting using gouache paints as well as paintings done in this medium. This paint is somewhat similar to watercolours, but they are opaque; especially, in comparison to watercolours. Traditionally, the binding agent of gouache has been gum arabic, but some modern varieties use dextrin as the binding agent.
The earliest known use of gouache medium dates back to 9th century Persia. Persian and Mughal miniatures are mostly examples of gouache. Today, gouache is mostly used by commercial artists for illustrations, poster, comics and other design work.
It’s also important to note that traditional gouache is not the same as acrylic gouache. These are two different products. Traditional gouache is opaque and rewettable while acrylic gouache is waterproof once it becomes dry.
Difference Between Tempera and Gouache
Tempera is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of coloured pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium, typically glutinous material such as egg yolk. In contrast, gouache is a water media paint that consists of natural pigment, water and a binding agent like gum arabic or dextrin.
Traditionally, egg yolk is the binder in tempera while gum arabic is the binder of gouache.
While tempera is semi-opaque, gouache is opaque.
Tempera is not rewettable, but gouache is rewettable. This means, once gouache is dry, you can reactivate it again with a drop or two of water.
Tempera is a fast-drying paint consisting of coloured pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium like egg yolk. In contrast, gouache is a kind of opaque watermedia paint that consists of natural pigment, water and a binding agent such as arabic gum or dextrin. While tempera is semi-opaque, gouache is opaque. Thus, this is the difference between tempera and gouache.
1. “Niccolò Semitecolo – Two Christians before the Judges” – Alessandro Giua (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Jacob Philipp Hackert – Lago d’Averno – WGA11023” – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia