Tempra Resist Technique

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Setup and Tempra Painting Steps

  1. Tape down watercolor paper onto a drawing board.
  2. Add a still life CONTOUR drawing onto the paper with pencil. NO VALUE.
  3. Decide which areas in the painting you want to protect from the ink (tempera is the resist). These are the areas you will want to paint with watercolor.
  4. Pour out a bit of Tempera into a lid or small container and start to paint with tempera leaving the drawn lines untouched.
  5. When using a THIN LAYER OF TEMPRA some of the ink will seep through to the paper below and give you a slight toned area.
  6. Using a thicker layer of tempera gives the paper a whiter cleaner look and the ink resists that area.
  7. These are the areas you want to keep clean for the watercolor painting technique.

Adding the India Ink

  1. Use a flat larger brush.
  2. With as few slightly overlapping strokes as possible, cover the entire sheet quickly.
  3. Do not disturb the tempera paint underneath.
  4. Fill the brush with A LOT of ink.
  5. Begin at the top of paper with light, quick sweeps of the ink across the paper and overlap it just a bit for each stroke.
  6. With each stroke refill the brush with ink otherwise you may get streaks.
  7. Should you get streaks, quickly touch them up carefully.
  8. Continue until the painting is completely covered and then set aside to dry.
  9. The India ink will sink into the paper where there is no tempera layer to protect it.


  1. Once ink is completely bone dry bring painting to the sink and gently, run WARM tap water in the sink and lightly rub off the TEMPRA with your fingers.
  2. The tempera will dissolve, leaving the ink outlines intact.
  3. You may need to rub off more before blotting it on a towel.
  4. Lift paper from sink every now and then to allow dirty water to run off the paper.

If you have streaks it is either due to

  • tempera was too watery
  • didn't apply enough tempera
  • when applying ink you overlapped each stroke too much/not enough
  • ink thickened in the bottle and was not diluted enough

Once dry you are ready to use watercolors to finish the painting.

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