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From your description, I gather you're making a floor cloth? When you make those, you can use regular latex paint (wall paint) and a clear sealer like polyurethane. You could probably use arcylic decorator paints, as well, if you're looking for smaller quantities. You could also use the samples they sell at Benjamin Moore (I think) for about $2. They're supposed to paint something like 2 square feet on your wall so you can gauge colors.

I'm not sure about using a sheet, though. It seems like it wouldn't have the body you'd want. Normally, people use artists' canvas or (a cheaper solution) a canvas drop cloth from the hardware store. You can get either in pretty large sizes.

So, if you get a drop cloth for about $5, use a quart of wall paint for the background and a couple of little tubes of acrylic for the details, I'd think you could keep it between $15 and $20. You could really do well if you have some old wall paint lying around or grab something from the "oops" rack at the paint store.

Tempra doesn't have the bendy quality of latex or acrylic. I would think it would flake.
 
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