Biggest Differences Explained – Tactile Hobby (2023)

Art supplies are a staple for childhood gifts. You might want to give paint to children you know to keep them entertained or maybe exercise their minds and dexterity.

The first question you have to ask yourself is this: What kind of paint is best for my child?

Acrylic is permanent, so this may not be best for a child’s first use of paint. I wouldn’t even think about giving oils to a child under 12.

Paints like tempera are nontoxic and washable, and finger paints may be the first thing you think of when considering art supplies for a child, but what’s the real difference?

What’s the difference between tempera paint and finger paint? While both tempera and finger paints are nontoxic and washable, tempera paints are generally thinner and can be used for a variety of applications. Finger paints tend to be thicker and are designed to be used solely as finger paint. Many finger paints, however, are indeed tempera paints.

If you’re curious as to what the best paint for your child may be or are wondering if one can be substituted for the other in a pinch, read on.

You’ll get an in-depth look at what the real differences are between the two types of paint, including styles of use and the advantages and disadvantages of both options.

Tempera Paint vs. Finger Paint: Differences

The similarities of tempera and finger paints are pretty apparent.

They both have a variety of colors including glow-in-the-dark shades, and they are both easy to use with nontoxic and allergy-friendly varieties available.

Let’s dive into the main differences.

Is Tempera Paint the Same as Finger Paint?

While it very much can be used as finger paint, tempera paint isn’t the same until someone decides to use it as finger paint.

For both paints, you can use a paint brush as well as sponges or other household items like towels to practice other techniques besides using your fingers.

Tempera Paint

Biggest Differences Explained – Tactile Hobby (1)

Tempera paint is versatile and generally nontoxic but less permanent than other water-based paints like acrylic. (We explain the differences between tempera and acrylics here.)


Tempera is generally nontoxic, but the package doesn’t always tell you the exact ingredients used.

Marketed or homemade finger paints may be the safer alternative since they are meant for smaller children.


Tempera is thinner paint, smooth and easily spreadable on most surfaces. It tends to dry fast and may feel more chalky on your hands.

It may be more difficult to build up thickness if that’s something you’re after. It is made for producing poster-like art and flat details.


Tempera is very versatile on the number of surfaces it can be painted on and is more permanent than some types of finger paint, but it is still short lived compared with professional paints.

Some boast that it doesn’t crack or fade, but I distinctly remember paintings I made as a kid with tempera cracking and the colors looking very faded very quickly.

So while it is versatile on the majority of surfaces, you wouldn’t want to use it for professional projects unless the cracking and peeling is a part of your plan.

While you can get fun colors like fluorescents, the colors also usually end up somewhat muted after a while, and they do not compare with high-quality pigments in professional or even student-grade acrylics as a permanent medium.


Since tempera isn’t generally permanent, it’s easy to clean up from most surfaces and fabrics with soap and water.


Tempera paint is overall more pricey than finger paints, but it is still an inexpensive paint.

You can generally expect to pay $20-$30 for a set with a variety of colors, like this 18-pack of washable paints.

U.S. Art Supply 18 Color Children's Washable...

  • A full selection of 18 unique eye-catching vibrant colors at your disposal
  • Perfect for the young aspiring artist, as these washable colors are fun, safe, and easy to use

Finger Paint

Biggest Differences Explained – Tactile Hobby (3)

Finger paint is the staple paint for getting kids interested in art for the first time.


Finger paints may be the safer alternative since they are specifically meant for small children.

Store-bought finger paints are generally safe, but you always have to double check the fine details on the label even if it states that it is nontoxic.

While finger paints are designed so that they won’t be dangerous on skin or if kids get it in their mouths, no matter how safe a paint is, it isn’t designed to be ingested.

If you’re looking for paint for small children who may put it in their mouths, play it safe.

Some forms of finger paint can be homemade using household kitchen ingredients, including instant pudding mix.

If your little ones are still in the phase of putting things in their mouths, instant pudding finger paint may be the best medium for you and your kids. You’ll find an easy recipe here.


Finger paints are typically thicker than tempera paints.

They are easily mixed to create fun color combinations, and they have a smooth texture which feels pleasant on your hands while painting.


Finger paints are mainly marketed for kids to smear around on their art books for an afternoon, but with the ability to make them with kitchen ingredients they can be used for “edible paintings” on cookies or cakes.

However, kids also aren’t always the ones finger painting. Finger paints can be used by adults who are looking for new mediums to try out.

You could reinforce varieties of them and make them more permanent with clear coats and mixed mediums as well.


Finger paints are easy to clean from most surfaces and fabrics with soap and water.


Finger paints are some of the cheapest paints available; most sets cost between $5 and $20.

Even sets that comes with foam brushes, sponges, rollers, and smocks, like this 48-piece set, are typically under $20.

Little Kids Art Set - Kids Art Supplies - 48 Piece...

  • 🎨PREMIUM NON-TOXIC, WASHABLE AND STRICT SAFETY TESTED - We include only the Highest Quality...
  • 👨🏼‍🎤COMPLETE ART SET - FREE APRON INCLUDED - Paint brushes for kids, Foam Texture...

Differences Between Tempera Paint and Finger Paint

Tempera PaintFinger Paint
Safety: 9/10Safety: 10/10
Consistency: ThinnerConsistency: Thicker
Uses: For painting on multiple surfaces, less permanentUses: For painting with hands, non permanent
Cleanup: EasyCleanup: Easy
Price: $$Price: $
Best for Ages: 4 – 12 yearsBest for Ages: 1 1/2 –5 years

Can You Use Tempera Paint as Finger Paint?

Absolutely! Sometimes companies do use tempera paint as their finger paints, and anyone can prepare tempera to be used by hands.

How To Make Finger Paint From Tempera Paint

While tempera paint could be used for finger painting, it’s a lot of fun to create your own finger paints by using just a few drops of tempera paint.

Chances are, kids will want to help mix them up, so break out the step stools and aprons, and let’s get started.

1. Pick Your Colors

Decide in advance how many colors you’d like to make, as this recipe (adapted from Preschool Express) can be either halved or doubled easily based on how much you need.

2. Combine Flour and Water

Mix 1 cup of flour with 2 cups of water, and heat for a few minutes in the microwave or on the stove until thickened. Stir every 30 seconds or so.

3. Add Tempera Paint

Separate your flour mixture into smaller containers – one for each color you’d like to make. Add a few drops of tempera paint to each cup, and stir well.

Add more color drop by drop until the desired shade is reached.


  • For some extra fun, try getting fluorescent or glow-in-the-dark colors.
  • Buy enough small jars or cups so that each painter has a container of each color.
  • Pick up some disposable water cups and hand towels for rinsing off their fingers for different colors.
  • You may also want to get some cheap clothing or aprons so there are less things to wash the paint out of later.
  • Prepare your painting area before getting started. Covering the work table with newspaper will make cleanup a breeze.
  • Paint away!

Related Questions:

Is Poster Paint the Same as Tempera?

Poster paint and tempera have different ingredients, and tempera paint tends to be higher quality, though many people dislike it because it flakes.

Both are meant to be used for poster-like art, however.

Can You Use Finger Paint With Brushes?

Finger paint can be used with a variety of brushes if so desired. In fact, many finger paint sets come with foam brushes as well as shaped sponges, stamps, rollers with cute shapes or designs, and dragging tools like rakes for exploratory play.


Both tempera and finger paints are nontoxic, washable, and recommended for children, but technically, finger paint can be any colorful mush you decide to smear around with your hands, while tempera paint is exactly what the name says.

Overall, tempera is a generally nontoxic medium for less permanent projects and perfect for slightly older children, while finger paints, especially homemade, are the safest medium and the perfect paints for a small child’s first few painting experiences.


Last update on 2023-03-08 at 09:18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Is linear better than tactile? ›

Ultimately, the choice comes down to personal preference. If you prefer a smooth, consistent, bump-free, and noiseless keystroke, linear switches might be the best option. Tactile switches are a great choice if you like an instant, tangible, yet quiet feedback with every keystroke.

What is the difference between GL tactile and GL linear and GL clicky? ›

The three main switch types, Linear vs Tactile vs Clicky: Linear: Smooth and consistent keystroke with a quiet noise. Tactile: A small bump on each keystroke with a moderate noise. Clicky: A small bump on each keystroke with a loud click noise.

What is the difference between tactile and linear? ›

Tactile switches have a bump that you can feel partway through each keypress when it registers; linear switches lack this bump. The standard linear switch—whether from Cherry, Gateron, or Kailh—is the Red switch, which requires a relatively light actuation force.

What are the most tactile keyswitches? ›

Brown switches are tactile switches and are usually the most versatile. They offer much the same feedback "feel" under your fingers as the clicky keys, but without the pronounced click (though they are generally not silent).

Why do people like linear over tactile? ›

Unlike its tactile counterparts, linear mechanical switches provide a seamless operation; pressing down creates a smooth, unimpeded glide until it reaches the keyboard. This quick and precise actuation is ideal for those users who use their mechanical keyboards for high-intensity gaming or fast-paced typing.

Should I get linear tactile or clicky? ›

Based on How You Want It to Feel

Because of its great feel and quieter sound, tactile switches make a great compromise between clicky and linear switches. That makes it suitable for typing, gaming, and general everyday use. But if you want smooth, consistent key presses, you'll want to go for linears.

Are tactile switches tiring? ›

The tactile bump can sometimes feel tiring to type on. Too much feedback can almost feel like an obstacle to get through while typing. Overall, tactiles can be used for multiple purposes, but really does shine during typing.

Is topre tactile or linear? ›

Topre switches are mechanical key switches that work differently from most others. They are electrostatic capacitive non-contact switches that use a rubber dome for feedback. Topre switches have a unique tactile bump and sound, which makes them an acquired taste. Fans of Topre switches love them for this.

What's better for gaming tactile or clicky? ›

Linear is good for games, Tactile is good for both, and Clicky is good for typing.

What is the most Thocky switch? ›

The best switch for a “thocky” keyboard. An improvement on the venerable Gateron Black Ink, the Gateron Box Ink V2 switches slightly alter the sound profile and greatly improve stability, but still benefit from switch film and lube to bring out their full potential.

Can tactile switches be Thocky? ›

Let's get this straight out of the gate: if you want one of the “thockiest” tactile switches in the market now, the Anubis easily fits the bill. It even has a deeper sound profile than the Gazzew Boba U4T Thocky, which is considered to be one of the thockiest tactile switches.

What is the smoothest tactile switch? ›

Zealios V2

The Zealios V2 has a deep, clear tactile bump that's audible without being too loud. The smooth and satisfying tactical feedback provides just the right amount for uninterrupted typing. The Zealios V2 is a great tactile switch that checks all the boxes in terms of design, feel, and performance.

What is difference between touch and tactile? ›

Touch is processed through the 'Tactile' sense. Tactile receptors identify the sensation of touch and are all over our bodies in our skin. Some areas of our skin have more tactile receptors than other areas e.g. mouth and hands.

What does early bump tactile mean? ›

Sometimes referred to as 'tactile bump'. Tactile switches have a (sometimes subtle) bump you can feel in the key press before bottoming out. This bump typically represents the actuation point.

Is tactile the same as touch? ›

The tactile system - the sense of touch; is the first sensory system to develop in the womb and is the largest sensory system in the body. There are tactile receptors not only on the outer skin but also the lining of the mouth, throat, and digestive system, inside the ear canals and so on.

Is Apple keyboard linear or tactile? ›

The typing experience on an Apple keyboard is generally top-notch. It's quiet but tactile.

What does tactile feel like? ›

Tactile switches have a small tactile bump that provides resistance which can be felt at the point of key actuation. The switch itself is practically inaudible, omitting the click sound present in clicky switches. Tactile switches are versatile performers that cope well with a variety of different typing tasks.

What is tactile behavior? ›

Tactile defensiveness is a term used to describe the reaction that occurs when someone is very sensitive to touch. Someone who experiences tactile defensiveness will be more sensitive to touch compared to others. Often their skin is more sensitive to every day things clothing textures and hair brushing.

Do gamers prefer clicky keyboards? ›

Choosing the right mechanical keyboard for your gaming needs is a personal experience. Most gamers prefer mechanical keyboards because they're more tactile, durable, and faster. At the same time, some gamers appreciate the smaller footprint, portability, and lower price points of the membrane keyboards.

Why are clicky switches so popular? ›

Clicky switches are purposely designed to be loud—mainly as added feedback when typing. The audible clicks let you know that the keys actually get pressed when you type. Most of us who like clicky switches love the feel and sound that they make.

Do you type faster with tactile switches? ›

It's widely felt that tactile switches are superior for typing, as you can rely on the switch to tell you that you've actuated a switch instead of relying on your mind several times per second; I'm personally much more accurate and quick on a rubber dome than I ever was on MX Red switches, despite having used them for ...

Are linear switches the best? ›

Linear mechanical switches are arguably the most popular bunch of the three main types of mechanical key switches. This is for good reason. They're reliable and offer a great typing experience without any extra bells and whistles.

Are tactile switches the best? ›

Tactile switches offer the best feedback out of any mechanical switch. The sound and feel when typing on them make it easier to type accurately without any misclicks. The tactile bump generated is a great indicator of when a keypress is logged without having to fully bottom out your keys.

What is tactile vs linear vs clicky for gaming? ›

The main difference between these three switches is the sound and feel. Both tactile and clicky switches have tactile bumps, while linear switches are quick and smooth. Clicky switches are the loudest of the three switches.

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