Egg Tempera Paint (like 1000+ Years Ago)




About: Crafty mama and wifey.

What can you find in the old world-famous paintings like the ones of Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and other geniuses? Talent, great composition, vivid colors.. eggs? That's right - although eggs do not have the longest shelf life in your kitchen, egg tempera paintings are long lasting (oldest examples dating as far as 1st century CE!) and egg tempera was widely used until 1500. Egg tempera paintings also do not change color over time like oil paintings do.

It sounds unbelievable but it is also unbelievably easy to make your own egg tempera paint!

This can be a great activity for kids or a real artistic challenge for adults. Read more about the history of egg tempera painting on Wikipedia and/or start making!


  • 1-2 eggs (egg yolks) - you can start with 1 to see how much paint you get and need
  • Few colored sidewalk chalks
  • ~ 1 tablespoon of water
  • Scissors or a fist-sized rock
  • Bowl
  • Muffin tray or small bowls/lids for holding paint
  • Fork
  • Tablespoon

Teacher Notes

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Step 1: Get the Yolk

Separate one egg yolk in a bowl. (Set aside the white and use in cooking later if you don't want to waste food.)

Step 2: Add Water

Add 1 tablespoon of water and mix with a fork until everything blends together. Put aside.

Step 3: Scrape or Crush the Chalk

Crush chalks with a rock or scrape with scissors into the muffin tray, small bowls or lids - try not to leave big chunks of chalk, the result should be a powdered chalk.

Step 4: Mix!

Add the egg-water mixture to the chalk few drops at a time and mix - start with a small amount and you will see how just a few drops will soak up pretty much chalk. If you got too excited and added too much yolk - scrape some more chalk into the bowl/tray. Different recipes ask for different proportions and it is really up to you - see how thick or runny you want your tempera to be.

I have made three paint samples with different yolk/chalk proportions so you could see the difference.

Step 5: Paint!

You are ready to paint! Notice how the ready made paint is way brighter than the chalk! Here you can see how the amount of yolk/chalk affects the paint.

  • Pink-ish one has literally only a few drops of yolk (and water) - the paint is thick, almost puffy and textured. It will also dry faster.
  • Orange one in the middle has more yolk - easier to spread if you are painting bigger areas.
  • Green paint has the most yolk - the paint is runny, dries slower and feels more like watercolor. As the layer of paint is thinner, you can see the small pieces of powdered chalk.

Some more facts

  • Egg tempera dries fast, so you may need to adjust the amount of water and yolk after a while.
  • Keep in mind that egg tempera is not flexible and will crack if used on canvas - use a stiff board if you want to make it long lasting.
  • If you love experimenting - add a little oil no more than a 1:1 ratio with the egg yolk to make "tempera grassa" like Leonardo da Vinci and see how it changes the paint!

Happy painting and let me know what you made! :)

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    7 Discussions


    Question 6 weeks ago

    Firstly congrats on being a finalist secondly are these paints wash Off?

    1 answer

    Answer 6 weeks ago

    Thank you!
    Mhmm, I haven't tested myself, so I've only read about it.
    I've read on wikipeadia that the paint is water-resistant to some degree but not waterproof. So if you would be painting on wood for example, you'd maybe need some kind of varnish to make it waterproof. Although this site ( speaks about egg tempera drying and ending up very hard and also waterproof after about 6 months.
    I think few drops won't do harm, but that surely isn't a paint for outside use.


    8 weeks ago

    Wow! I didn't realize that Tempura paint was made from such few ingredients. I remember as a kid growing up on ARMY bases in Germany, and having large white plastic containers of tempura paints for art class! Thank you for sharing and showing how to make the colours.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    That could be something similar - commercially made paint must be made with another binder (not egg) as it wouldn't store very well. Wikipedia says this "A paint consisting of pigment and binder commonly used in the United States as poster paint is also often referred to as "tempera paint," although the binders in this paint are different from traditional tempera paint."
    I myself have two bottles labeled "ready tempera paint" on a shelf in front of me, I guess that is the poster paint mentioned above. Names are confusing. :)


    2 months ago

    I have never seen this before but it looks like a lot of fun :D

    1 reply

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    It really is! Now I only need a ton of talent to paint something with it. :D