Can I use Tempera Paint on Fabric? A Complete Guide

Tempera paint is also known as poster paint. It is a water-based paint mixed with a chemical binding agent. Teachers often use tempera paint to teach children how to mix colors and paint. Children can use it for classroom projects, posters, color mixing exercises, painting windows, and most craft projects. Tempera performs best on paper, cardboard, poster board, or several types of absorbent surfaces. But what about other surfaces? Can I use tempera paint on the fabric?

You need to know tempera paint is not fabric paint. If you use good fabric paint, you will get better results with fabric.

In this article, we will cover different queries on using tempera paint for fabric. You can also check the recommended tempera paints at the end.

Can I use Tempera Paint on Fabric?

Can I Use Tempera Paint on Fabric?

You can apply tempera paint on most fabrics, it will crack or flake off over time as the fabric bends and stretches. Tempera paint is not waterproof and flexible. So, it is not suitable for painting on fabrics or clothing.

There are paints specially designed to use on fabrics. You can mix fabric mediums and acrylic paint to get better results on fabrics. These fabric paints can be washed in the washing machine on a gentle cycle. They will remain flexible as well. Some of these fabric paints require you to heat-set the item first with an iron. So they hold up better in the wash without cracking or peeling off. Other brands do not require heat settings.

Does Tempera Paint Work on Fabric?

You can apply the paint to the fabric using a brush in the design you prefer. But tempera paint is not permanent paint. It is water-based paint and the pigment will bleed if it comes in contact with water. You can even face the same issue with the high-quality tempera paint products available on the market now. Because these paints have not been designed for washable fabrics.

People use tempera paint just to entertain their children with artwork on fabric as it is often temporary. For long-term artwork on fabric, we recommend using good fabric paint for better results.

Can Tempera Paint on Fabric Wash Off?

Tempera paint can easily wash off most fabric types. If you get tempera paint on your clothes accidentally, using warm water and soap can easily wash off the stain. On the other hand, some people want to use tempera paint on fabric as long-term artwork. They need to be careful. Tempera paint will transfer the pigment to the fabric. Even a small amount of liquid can make the pigment flow and ruin your design.

Embellishing your kid’s clothes with tempera paint to entertain them can be a possible issue. Your kids may spill water, juice, or any other liquid on themselves. This can cause the paint to run on the fabric.

How to Seal Tempera Paint on Fabric?

To make your tempera paint stay on fabric, apply it as required. It is a must to dry the paint before applying the sealing agent. Otherwise, you will face issues as the sealant will fail to work. It is a common problem with most sealants in the case of tempera paint. The sealant often peels off when the paint flakes. It leaves areas on the fabric which allow liquid to get to the tempera paint and cause it to run.

Mod podge is an easy, quick, and cheap solution. It allows you to seal the tempera paint. You do need to worry about flaking. It is a PVA glue mixed with a sealant that can even hold the parts flaking off. But the fabric becomes rigid and difficult to move.

Does Tempera Paint Dry Fast?

Tempera paint takes about 5 to 10 minutes to dry. It dries when the water evaporates from the paint. The drying times can be affected by temperature, air circulation, and humidity levels. So, the drying process of tempera paint depends on the following factors:

  • Weather conditions
  • Thickness of paint
  • Absorbency of surface

Water-based paints take less time in low humidity environments. While high humidity can cause the paint to dry slower. Cooler environments can also cause the paint to dry slower as compared to warmer environments.

The paint dries faster due to the wind or indoor air currents. You can also paint near a fan or window for fast drying. Using a hairdryer can also help.

The drying time of tempera paint also depends on how absorbent the surface is that you are painting on. It dries quicker on more absorbent surfaces. A more solid surface can take more time for the paint to dry.

Can I Mix Tempera Paint and Acrylic Paint?

You can mix tempera paint and acrylic paint, but it is not recommendable. Both paints have different ingredients. Even both of them are water-based, you may not get the desired consistences. You also need to consider that when both paints dry, they will appear different too.

Tempera Paint Vs. Acrylic Paint

  • Acrylic Paint is permanent. You need to make sure you are painting on a surface you do not want to spoil. On the other hand, regular tempera paint is not permanent, however, It is not easy to wash off. You can get washable tempera paint instead.
  • Acrylic paints tend to be very lightfast. They are not likely to discolor if exposed to sunlight. It will look as rich as the day you used it. Washable tempera paint may not be as good in lightfast as regular tempera paint.
  • Acrylic paints are available in opaque. They can also be used as transparent colors. Tempera paints are mostly opaque.
  • Acrylic paints have a thick consistency. While tempera paint has a creamy consistency. You can apply thick layers of acrylic paint without worrying about the cracking problem. Tempera paints crack easily when you apply thick layers of paint.
  • Acrylic paint feels more plastic. It dries to a stiff texture. Tempera paint is liquid and thinner than acrylic paint.
  • Acrylic paint gives a glossy to semi-glossy look. Tempera paint always looks matte after it dries.
  • Acrylic paints last longer. They have a shelf life of 10-15 years. But, tempera paint can last for 2-5 years.

Tempera paint is used by school children, and for different art and craft projects. Whereas, professional painters and students use acrylic paint. The user gets a lot of options of textures, blending, and glazing using acrylic paint.

Tempera paint is best to use on:

  • Cardboard
  • Posterboard
  • Paper
  • Paper mache
  • Newspaper print

Acrylic paint is best to use on:

  • Paper
  • Fabric
  • Canvas
  • Wood
  • Metal
  • Ceramic

Is Tempera Paint Toxic?

Tempera paints are generally certified as non-toxic. That’s why they are the best option for parents and teachers. Make sure to read the label as there are toxic tempera paints available. You can check if your paint is artist-grade or craft paints. The majority of artist-grade paints contain toxic ingredients. Usually, these paints are used by people mature enough not to swallow them or use them for finger painting. However, craft paints are made for young children to older adults. They are generally non-toxic and safe for use with kids. It is a good criterion to check. Still to clear your doubt, make sure that you see the explicit non-toxic statements.

Recommended Tempera Paint for Fabric

1. Little Masters Tempera Paints Set

Little Masters Tempera Paints Set

Crayola water-based paint is designed to provide stress-free fun for the whole family.

Even the youngest artist can enjoy using the non-toxic Crayola kids paints. You can simply wash off the pigment from the walls, skin, and most washable clothing.

It features an innovative formula that offers creamy consistency, excellent adhesion, ultimate opacity, and coverage.

It dries to a matte finish that does not crack or flake off.

You can use it on a variety of absorbent surfaces such as cardboard, paper mache, and newspaper. It is a perfect option for use at home or in the classroom.

2. Colorations Washable Tempera Paint

Colorations Washable Tempera Paint

Colorations washable tempera is tested on all types of fabric, textiles, and surfaces.

Its superior washability washes fully out of fabric and skin. You can simply wash the clothes without using any pretreatment or stain remover. These high-quality pigments apply vibrantly and retain their intensity even when dry.

They do not look chalky or dull after drying like other tempera paints. Your kids will love to use all their eye-popping colors.

It is a safe, non-toxic, and AP-certified product. This tempera paint is free from latex, egg, gluten, dairy& casein, peanut & tree nut, or soy.

You can apply it on construction paper, drawing paper, cardboard, plaster cloth, and paper mache.


If you are new to painting, visiting the paint section can be overwhelming. You may find it hard to figure out what paint is suitable for your project. So to get your fabric artwork done you may ask yourself “can I use tempera paint on fabric”. We hope that we have been able to clarify what is tempera paint used for. There are other paint options that you can opt for to use on fabric. If you need the best results on fabric, you should go for the best fabric paints. Enjoy painting and level up your creativity!

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