Tempera is an ancient medium, having been in constant use in most of the world’s cultures until it was gradually superseded by oil paints in Europe, during the Renaissance. Tempera painting executed with pigment ground in a water-miscible medium. The word tempera originally came from the verb temper, “to bring to a desired consistency.” Dry pigments are made usable by “tempering” them with a binding and adhesive vehicle. Such painting was distinguished from fresco painting, the colours for which contained no binder.

Also known as egg tempera is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigment mixed with a water-soluble binder medium (usually a glutinous material such as egg yolk or some other size). Tempera also refers to the paintings done in this medium.

Tempera paintings are very long lasting, and examples from the 1st centuries AD still exist. Egg tempera was a primary method of painting until after 1500 when it was superseded by the invention of oil painting.

The great Byzantine tradition of tempera painting was developed in Italy in the 13th and 14th centuries by Duccio di Buoninsegna and Giotto. Their flattened picture space, generously enriched by fields and textures of gold leaf, was extended by the Renaissance depth perspectives in the paintings of Giovanni Bellini, Piero della Francesca, Carlo Crivelli, Sandro Botticelli, and Vittore Carpaccio.

The luminous gesso base of a tempera painting, combined with the cumulative effect of overlaid colour washes, produces a unique depth and intensity of colour. Tempera paints dry lighter in value, but their original tonality can be restored by subsequent waxing or varnishing. Other characteristic qualities of a tempera painting, resulting from its fast-drying property and disciplined technique, are its steely lines and crisp edges, its meticulous detail and rich linear textures, and its overall emphasis upon a decorative flat pattern of bold colour masses.

A paint consisting of pigment and glue size commonly used in the United States as poster paint is also often referred to as "tempera paint," although the binders and sizes in this paint are different from traditional tempera paint.

Artists of Uttarakhand use tempera on above methods for their creations.