Oil vs Tempera: Which Paint Gives Better Results?

Oil paint had a longer drying time and allowed for more subtle color variations and depth compared to tempera paint. Oil painting also offered greater flexibility and durability in the long run.

Oil painting has become one of the most popular mediums for artists since the 15th century. It overtook tempera paint, which was the dominant medium used by artists in the middle ages, for several reasons. Oil paint allowed artists to create more depth and complexity in their works because of its slow drying time.

With oil paint, artists could blend and layer colors more easily, producing more subtle hues. The resulting paintings had a luminosity that could not be achieved with tempera paints. Additionally, oil paint was more flexible and durable, which meant that paintings made in this medium would last longer. european painters like leonardo da vinci, titian, and rembrandt used oil paints in their famous paintings, and this practice continues to this day.

Oil vs Tempera: Which Paint Gives Better Results?

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Understanding Oil Paint

Oil paint is one of the most popular and versatile mediums used in painting. It has been used for centuries by artists to create beautiful, timeless masterpieces. In this section, we will explore the rich history of oil paint, its composition and characteristics, the advantages and disadvantages of using oil paint, and some examples of famous oil paintings.

Composition And Characteristics Of Oil Paint

Oil paint consists of three basic components – pigment, binder, and solvent. Here are the key characteristics of each component:

  • Pigment: The pigment is the colored substance used to create the color of the paint. It is made from natural minerals or synthetic compounds and is finely ground to a powder.
  • Binder: The binder is the medium used to hold the pigment particles together and to adhere the paint to the painting surface. Oil paint uses linseed oil, poppy oil, safflower oil, or walnut oil as a binder. These oils are mixed with the pigment powder to create a thick, creamy paste.
  • Solvent: The solvent is used to thin the paint and to clean the brushes used for painting. Oil paint uses turpentine or mineral spirits as a solvent.

Oil paint has several unique characteristics that make it a popular medium for artists. It dries slowly, allowing artists to work on a painting over a long period of time, making subtle changes to the painting as they go. Oil paint’s slow drying time also allows artists to create layered painting, mixing colors and blending them together.

Additionally, oil paint has a lustrous finish that creates a rich, vibrant painting.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Using Oil Paint

Like any other medium, oil paint has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some key points to consider:


  • Oil paints dry slowly, allowing artists to work for extended periods on a painting, making corrections, and creating layered colors.
  • Oil paint’s slow drying time also means that artists have time to blend colors and create a smooth transition.
  • Oil paint has a lustrous finish that creates a rich, vibrant painting.
  • Oil paint is durable and resistant to cracking over time.


  • Oil paint has a strong odor, which may cause respiratory issues if proper precautions are not taken.
  • Oil paint is difficult to clean up because it requires solvents to clean brushes and other painting materials.
  • Oil paint dries slowly, which can be frustrating for artists who want to finish a painting quickly.
  • Oil paint is more expensive than other painting mediums.

Examples Of Famous Oil Paintings

Oil paint has been used to create some of the most famous and iconic paintings in history. Here are some examples:

  • “the mona lisa” by leonardo da vinci
  • “starry night” by vincent van gogh
  • “the scream” by edvard munch
  • “guernica” by pablo picasso
  • “girl with a pearl earring” by johannes vermeer

These paintings showcase the versatility of oil paint and the incredible works that artists can create using this medium.

Understanding the composition and characteristics of oil paint, as well as its advantages, disadvantages, and examples of famous paintings can help you appreciate this painting medium better.

Understanding Tempera Paint

Tempera paint is a popular medium in painting, and it has been in use for centuries. It is made by mixing powdered pigments with egg yolks, water, and a binding agent. The egg yolk acts as the emulsifier that binds the pigment with the water and the binding agent.

The result is a paint that dries quickly, is opaque, and has a matte finish.

Composition And Characteristics Of Tempera Paint

  • Tempera paint is made by mixing pigments with egg yolk, water, and a binding agent.
  • The paint dries quickly, is opaque, and has a matte finish.
  • It has a smooth and buttery consistency, and it can be applied to a variety of surfaces, such as wood, canvas, and paper.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Using Tempera Paint


  • Economical: Tempera paint is relatively inexpensive and readily available.
  • Durable: It has high resistance to water and moisture, and it does not crack or fade easily.
  • Non-hazardous: It is non-toxic and safe for artists of all ages to use.


  • Limited color range: The pigments used in tempera paint are limited, which restricts the available color range.
  • Difficult to blend: It dries quickly, making it difficult to blend colors together.
  • Prone to cracking: If applied in thick layers, tempera paint can crack over time.

Examples Of Famous Tempera Paintings

  • “madonna and child” by sandro botticelli
  • “the birth of venus” by sandro botticelli
  • “the last supper” by andrea del castagno
  • “the flagellation of christ” by piero della francesca

Tempera paint has been a popular medium in painting for centuries. It has unique characteristics and advantages and disadvantages when compared to other types of paints. Famous paintings like “madonna and child” and “the birth of venus” serve as examples of the beauty that can be achieved with tempera paint.

Comparison Of Oil And Tempera Paint

Choosing between oil and tempera paint is an essential aspect of creating your artwork. Although both have fundamental similarities, including color richness and long-lasting ability, they differ concerning application, texture, and finish. Here are some of the differences between oil and tempera paint.

Differences In Application, Texture, And Finish

  • Oil paints have a slower drying rate compared to tempera paint, which makes it possible to blend colors and rework the paint for a more extended period. Because they take longer to dry, oil paints tend to be thicker and have a more impasto-like texture, which creates a unique look and feel.
  • Tempera paint dries quickly, making it easier to work with and allowing for layering and glazing techniques. Tempera paint has a smooth texture, creating a polished look that is still vibrant in color. It also has a matte finish, which is different from the glossy look of oil paintings.

Which Paint Works Best For Different Painting Styles And Techniques?

  • Oil paints’ blending quality suits realistic and figurative painting styles, including portraits, landscapes, and still-life. That is because it allows an artist to easily adjust the colors and texture until the desired outcome is achieved.
  • Since tempera paints are quick to dry and have a smooth texture, they are ideal for flat or graphic paintings that require crisp lines and details. It is also well suited for fresco techniques and egg tempera paintings that require a precise and fine stroke.

Pros And Cons Of Using Oil Versus Tempera Paint

  • Oil paints’ rich colors and unique textures make for stunning artwork that can last for generations. They also provide flexibility in paint layering and blending. However, they are more expensive, take longer to dry, and require solvents such as turpentine for cleaning.
  • Tempera paints have a faster drying time, allowing artists to layer and glaze with precision. They also cost less, are washable with water, and don’t require solvents for cleaning. However, tempera paints are less flexible when it comes to layering and blending, which can make them challenging to work with.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Between Oil And Tempera Paint

  • Paint quality, including the pigment concentration, binder, and consistency.
  • Drying time and whether you prefer a slower or faster rate of drying.
  • The finish and texture that you want to achieve in your artwork.
  • Style and technique that you are adopting in creating your artwork.
  • The cleaning technique required for each paint.

Both oil and tempera paint offer unique advantages and disadvantages. Consider your preferred painting styles, techniques, and the factors highlighted above when selecting your paint. Experiment with different paint options to decide what works best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions On What Was The Benefit Of Using Oil Versus Tempera Paint

What Is Oil Paint Made Of?

Oil paint is made from pigment particles mixed with a drying oil, such as linseed oil.

Why Is Oil Paint Better Than Tempera?

Oil paint allows for more versatility in color and texture, as well as a longer drying time for blending and layering.

How Does Using Oil Paint Affect The Finished Artwork?

Oil paint creates a deeper and more luminous finish, with the ability to create subtle variations in texture and color.

Can Tempera Paint Achieve The Same Effects As Oil Paint?

Tempera paint is limited in texture and color range, and doesn’t have the same luminosity as oil paint.

Is Oil Paint Easier Or Harder To Work With Than Tempera?

Oil paint can be more challenging due to the longer drying time, but also allows for more flexibility and blending possibilities.

How Should Oil Paint Be Stored And Handled?

Oil paint should be stored in a cool, dry place and kept away from direct sunlight. Brushes and tools should be cleaned with solvent.

Are There Any Health Concerns When Using Oil Paint?

Solvents used to clean brushes or thin the paint can be harmful if not used in a well-ventilated area. Gloves should be worn during handling.

Can Oil Paint Be Used On Any Surface?

Oil paint can be used on a variety of surfaces, including canvas, wood, and metal, but may require a primer or preparation for certain materials.


The benefits of using oil versus tempera paint are clear. Oil paint provides richer and more vibrant color, better blending, and longer drying time. Moreover, it allows artists to experiment with different techniques such as impasto and glazing. While tempera paint has its own unique advantages, it is not as versatile as oil paint.

When it comes to fine art, oil paint has been the go-to medium for centuries. The texture, depth, and luminosity it provides cannot be replicated by any other medium. Additionally, due to the longevity and durability of oil paint, artworks created with this medium can last for generations.

While both oil paint and tempera paint have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, oil paint has proven to be the superior choice for artists looking to create timeless and lasting works of art.

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