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These are also known as Waterpaints, Colourwash, etc. There are several different types of distemper, but all of them consist essentially of pigment such as whiting, lithopone, blanc fixe, etc., with a binder or fixative such as glue, casein, linseed oil or varnish. They are thinned with plain water or a special liquid sold as petrifying solution to make them ready for use. Correctly speaking, the term “distemper” should be applied only to those materials which have glue or gums as a binder, and whilst these are bound sufficiently not to rub off on the clothes, they are readily attacked by damp, and can be washed off with water.
Water paints or washable distemper is the correct name for those materials which have a binder such as linseed oil, casein or varnish, and as these binders are waterproof the finish can be washed when dirty. This does not mean, however, that they can be scrubbed like paint or enamel; only gentle rubbing with a sponge or soft cloth lightly moistened with water is required. Vigorous rubbing or excessive water will soften the film and spoil the surface.
Distempers can be purchased in two forms dry powder and heavy paste form; the latter is a water/oil emulsion and consequently must be protected from freezing when stored or the emulsion will be broken and the material spoiled. A common mistake when mixing up distempers is to make them too thin; best results are obtained if the distemper is used in a “round” consistency, and with good brands no difficulty will be experienced in brushing out.
Two coats are usually required to make a solid finish, and from eight to twelve hours should be allowed between coats.