DISTEMPER, (from the French, detremper, to temper or dilute.) in painting, the working up of colours with some thing besides mere water or oil, If colours be prepared with water, the painting is called /ifiting ; and if with oil, it is called painting in oil, or simply painting.
If the colours be mixed with size, whites of eggs, or any such prilper glutinous or unctuous substance, and not with oil, they then say it is done in distemper ; as those of the admirable cartoons, formerly at Hampton Court, and as all ancient pictures are said to have been before the year 1410.
In distemper, the white colour or base generally used is the finest whiting. which is prepared in large quantities by various mantniicturers. The colours most commonly mixed with it for producing the various tints are as follows :—Straw colour may be made with white and masticot, or Dutch pink ; fine grays, with white and refiner's verditer; an infe rior gray may be compounded with blue black or bone black, and damp blue or indigo ; pea-greens, with French green, Olympian green ; and fawn colour, with burnt sienna or burnt umber and white, and so of any intermediate tint. All the colours used in distemper, should either be ground very fine, or washed over so as to ensure the most minute division of their particles. In general, the size made of common glue is used with a proper quantity of water to render the colour liquid, hut where the work will atlbrd it, parchment-size will be found greatly superior.
It will not require less than two coats of any of the fore going colours, in order to cover the plaster,. and bear out with an unifbrm appearance. When old plastering has be come discoloured with stains, and it be desired to have it painted in distemper, it is advisable to give the old plaster, when properly cleaned off and prepared, one coat at least of white-lead ground in oil, and used with spirits of turpentine, which will generally cover all old stains, and, when quite dry, will take the water-colours very kindly.
The best methods of compounding the colours with thd' vehicles, is to mix the size in water, then to levigate the col ours in part of it, and afterwards to put each kind into a proper pot, adding as much more of the nicked size as will bring it to a due consistence, and mixing the whole well together in it pot with a brush or wooden spatula. Warm water may be afterwards added, it' necessary, for grinding the col ours, or for working. The pots must be covered with blad ders, and tied. This method of painting is chiefly confined to scenes and grosser works, where the effect depends more upon the perspective and opposition of the colours, than upon their brightness.