A light weight paint made of pigment mixed into size, water and chalk–usually for lime plaster finished walls and ceiling, but also for floors and any wood where a light, matte, quickly ageing or even dusty finish is required.
Distemper allows the wall beneath to breathe and is highly recommended for all adobe and cob walls; it naturally washes or brushes off (on your clothes!), so in the past walls were yearly re-painted as part of an annual maintenance programme.
The lime (chalk) content is repellent to insects, making it suitable for farm cottages, and especially kitchen walls and ceilings. In hot countries, the lower halves of trees are very often painted with lime distemper to prevent insect damage, with the added advantage that trunks reflect both artificial and moon light.
A light coat of distemper over fabric, particularly a cotton duck or artist’s canvas, prepares it for stencilled decoration or wall murals or it can be used as a light finish to stiffen cloth for flat furnishings such as screens and blinds.