What is Gouache Paint?

May 05, 2021 7 min read

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What is Gouache Paint?

Gouache Paint

Gouache is a highly versatile, water-soluble paint for artists. It has a very similar pigment structure to watercolour paint; a finely ground pigment with a Gum Arabic binder.  However, Gouache paint contains opacifiers such as chalk/white pigment which gives the paint a matte and more velvety opaque finish once dried. Other unique characteristics are its colour brightness, clarity of saturation and it dries with an excellent uniformity.

Gouache paint has been and is used by Fine Artists, Landscape Artists, Graphic Novel Illustrators, Graphic Designers, and is also a suitable medium for Fashion, Children's Book, Botanical Illustration and more... Gouache paint is suitable for all kinds of styles and genres!

Throughout history many watercolour artists used Gouache either in conjunction with watercolours or separately as its own painting medium. Many 20th Century artists such as John Singer Sargent, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Klee and Marc Chagall used gouache in their painting and drawings, in creative and inspiring ways; such as creating a gouache painted layer first, then using oil or chalk pastels on top. They also experimented on various textured surfaces such as cardboard, canvas or wooden panel.

Checking pigment longevity.

Like their Watercolour paints, Winsor & Newton Gouache pigments are categorised in terms of their permanency; AA, A, B and C. The colours marked AA are extremely permanent and those marked with a C are less permanent. These are known as fugitive pigments where fugitive means transient and not stable.

Daler-Rowney Aquafine Gouache has a 1 to 4 star lightfast rating. 4 being 'Permanent', 3 being 'Normally Permanent', 2 being 'Moderately Permanent' and 1 being 'Fugitive'.

Always check other brands to see pigment categorisation, especially if your artwork is going to be framed and displayed. You should preferably use an anti-glare glass frame which will protect the surface from pollutants and moisture. Also, choose glass with a UV filter, this offers added protection from fading.

 

Famous Gouache Paintings

Boy with a dog' 1905 by Artist: Pablo Picasso

Famous paintings such as 'Boy with a dog' 1905 by Artist: Pablo Picasso was painted on cardboard with Gouache. 

 

'Miss Rubel, sitting in front of a screen' Artist:  John Singer Sargent Painting 1885 34.9x25.1cm gouache and Watercolour on paper .

'Miss Rubel, sitting in front of a screen' Artist: John Singer Sargent Painting 1885 34.9x25.1cm gouache and Watercolour on paper . 

  

'Portrait of Maruska, the artist's wife. by Artist: Alfonse Mucha 1905 50.7x32.1cm Gouache painting on Board

'Portrait of Maruska, the artist's wife. by Artist: Alfonse Mucha 1905 50.7x32.1cm Gouache painting on Board

 

Gouache Painting and Painting with Gouache!

Differences and similarities between Traditional Gouache paint and Watercolor paint.

Watercolou-gouache-comparison

Differences between Gouache and Watercolour paint;

  • Gouache pigments can dry lighter or darker than watercolour paints depending on the hue.
  • You can work dark to light or light to dark.
  • White Gouache can be used to create tints and highlights.
  • You can blend colours to create new tones, shades and tints.
  • Gouache paint is quicker to dry than watercolour paint.
  • Very little colour shift once dried.
  • Dries opaque not transparent.
  • Needs to be mixed on the palette to obtain the correct colour.
  • Colours can be applied in layers but you must let each layer dry completely between applications. This is a different technique to applying thin diluted layers of hues on the paper as used in watercolor glazing techniques.
  • Gouache paint does not let the luminosity of the paper shine through the pigment. Each layer is opaque. Excellent medium for painting over mistakes or edits.
  • Gouache paint has larger pigment particles so is slightly more denser when diluting with water, it has a creamier consistency and provides a solid colour.
  • Unlike Watercolour, Gouache can not be watered down to create translucent hues, however you can create a stain with a diluted gouache.
  • Opaque vibrant colours akin to chalk or oil pastels.
  • Does not have a granulating characteristic like some watercolour pigments do.

Similarities gouache has to Watercolour paint;

  • Both are a water-soluble and water-based pigment with Gum Arabic binder.
  • Similar to watercolour paint, gouache dries flat and smooth on whatever substrate you are using.
  • Watercolour and Gouache need to be used on a porous substrate; watercolour paper, watercolour board, primed canvas or wooden panel and will need to be mounted behind glass or spray varnished to create a waterproof barrier for longevity. (Acrylic gouache dries waterproof)
  • Gouache paints are available in a variety of vibrant, pigment rich colours, similar to watercolours.
  • Gouache can be re-wetted and re-worked similar to watercolours if changes need to be made.
  • Quick to dry.
  • Can use similar watercolour techniques for example dry brushing, to add texture. Can use wet on wet to create soft and blurred edges.
  • The technique called 'graffito' can be used; scraping the top layer of paint to expose the colours or paper underneath.
  • Can be used with a rigger brush to create a precision line.
  • Can provide full, flat colour coverage and crisp edges.
  • Can be photographed or scanned for reproductions because of the clarity in colour.
  • Can be used as a stain to draft out your composition first before laying on thicker paint.
  • Can be used for drawing illustrations or compositions or for fine details.
  • Gouache sometimes know as a 'body colour' can be used in conjunction with watercolour paints.
  • Can be re-wetted on the paper or palette similar to watercolour paints.
  • Easy to clean, and will not harm surfaces, or your brushes.
  • Gouache can be applied with watercolour brushes, synthetic or sable.
     

Acrylic Gouache - an alternative to traditional gouache.

Acrylic Gouache is a highly versatile painting medium, similar to gouache in that it is highly pigmented and opaque and dries to a smooth velvety matte finish. The difference between them is that the acrylic resin binder which renders the paint waterproof once it has dried.

The dried Acrylic Gouache pigment is more flexible than traditional Gum Arabic Gouache, more robust and maintains usually no colour shift once dry. Acrylic Gouache can also be applied to more surfaces than traditional Gouache as it does not need a semi or absorbent substrate. You are free to paint layer upon layer with out re-activating the layer or layers underneath.

Acrylic gouache can spark your creative streak as it is compatible to work with acrylics as well as traditional gouache and can be used  with wet and dry mediums such as; fine liners, acrylic paint pens, oil and chalk pastels, graphite, and other acrylic mediums. This enables lots of free experimentation and investigation in both traditional and inventive techniques; to blend colours and create a plethora of textures, layers and details. Acrylic gouache is also excellent to use with stencils for the creative crafter.

Liquitex Acrylic Gouache

Liquitex Acrylic gouache.

 

List of available Gouache paints, Acrylic Gouache and various brands;

Winsor & Newton have been developing pigments and producing paint since 1935 and have developed a highly pigment range of 91 Designer gouache paints.

Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache

A selection of 10 x 14ml tubes. Makes an ideal starter set. Colours Included: Primary Yellow, Permanent Yellow Deep, Spectrum Red, Primary Red, Primary Blue, Ultramarine, Permanent Green Middle, Yellow Ochre, Ivory Black, Zinc White.

Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache Introductory Set

The Primary Colour set contains an ideal selection of colours suitable for the beginner who is interested in mixing colours. These 6 colours combine to provide an ideal selection for understanding colour relationship. Colours included: Primary Yellow, Primary Red, Primary Blue, Permanent Green Middle, Ivory Black, Zinc White

Winsor & Newton Primary Gouache Set

Low cost introductory set, ideal for beginners, 12ml tubes, 12 tubes in the set.

Daler Rowney Simply Gouache beginners Set.

The ideal introduction to the range, these Aquafine gouache colours are made from a selection of modern high-quality pigments milled to perfection. This starter set offers a range of twelve colours in 15ml tubes. Often referred to as 'opaque watercolour', bridging modern and tradition, gouache is ideal for mixed media as well as traditional techniques. Colours included: Cadmium Yellow Hue, Cadmium Red Hue, Permanent Rose, Portrait Pink, Ultramarine Blue Dark, Cobalt Blue Hue, Cerulean Blue Hue, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Ivory Black, Titanium White.

Daler-Rowney Aquafine Gouache 12x15ml Set

An introduction to Liquitex Acrylic Gouache - With a flat matt finish, intense colours, it won't crack and there's no need to dilute. This set brings together a selection of core colours to help you build your base palette. Superb fluidity and application: all with a permanent, water-resistant finish when dry. Professional quality, opaque or semi-opaque colours. Colours included: Primary Yellow, Primary Red, Primary Blue, Emerald Green, Titanium White, Mars Black, Viridian Hue, Ultramarine Blue, Dioxazine Purple, Scarlet, Yellow Oxide and Burnt Sienna. 12 x 22ml.

Liquitex Acrylic Gouache

  • Sennelier Gouache Extra Fine, 21ml tubes.

These Artists quality pigments are colour fast and have a soft consistency and are available in a 59 colour range, can be mixed with watercolours and inks.

  • Pebeo T7 Gouache, 20ml tubes.

Pebeo's T7 Gouache is an extra fine pigmented gouache. It is rich in organic and mineral pigments. This Gouache painting medium is both smooth and creamy, pliant and adherent. The range includes 74 bright, very opaque and light-resistant colours, which can be used on any painting surface.

Want to paint with Gouache? Other materials to get you started.

  • Book 'The Art of gouache: An inspiring and Practical Guide to Painting with this exciting medium' by Artist Jeremy Ford
  • Gouache paints, for creating your masterpiece!.
  • Little water spray bottle to lightly mist over your gouache once decanted onto your palette, as they can dry out and crack very quickly.
  • Thick or Heavy Watercolour paper over 200gsm/90lbs to prevent distortion, gummed watercolor pad, or watercolor board, Bristol board. Watercolour sketchbook.
  • Paper tissue for mopping up.
  • Watercolor brushes, Natural hair brush or synthetic brushes will work well as they are soft and will prevent streaking or leaving harsh brush marks. Soft brushes will also help to blend and mix your paints effortlessly.
  • Palettes, either a large palette with a good sized mixing area or several small palettes.
  • Two transparent Water pots, one to clean brushes and one to dilute pigment, change frequently to keep your pigments vibrant.
  • Sized and primed wooden panel if feeling adventurous. (you will also need to give your panel a layer of watercolour gesso before painting)
  • Table easel will help you to paint more freely and accurately. Paintings can easily become out of perspective if you paint on a flat surface.
  • HB or H pencils for drafting out your composition with a light touch.
  • Pebeo Gouache Varnish 400ml Spray to enhance the sheen of the colours and to ensure your works of art stay completely fade resistant. 

Now you have your materials you can begin your gouache adventure!

Ellie Jakeman
Ellie Jakeman

I have had a strong interest in the visual and creative arts since a very early age. I completed with great success ‘A’ level Fine Art, Textile and Embroidery City and Guilds, Foundation Diploma in Fine Art, (BA hons) Degree in Embroidery and Textiles from Manchester Metropolitan University and a PGCE from the University of Huddersfield. I have taught Art and Design, Fashion and Textiles, Textile design and Fine Art print and Illustration for over 20 years. I have also instigated and program managed many projects for the local community. Before teaching I was a freelance artist and illustrator and decided 4 years ago I would return to freelance and commissioned work. I have created many domestic and commercial murals for hospitals and hospices. I work part time for Artdiscount as a content creator and product tester.


1 Response

Keith Powell
Keith Powell

May 11, 2021

I have worked in Gouache, as well as other mediums oils, acrylics etc for many years, I find them excellent for tiny details especially in painting miniatures. If I wish to frame them without glass I spray the picture with matt acrylic medium through an airbrush, this then gives me a waterproof
coating over the gouache.To see some amazing work in gouache look up the wildlife paintings of artist Carl Brenders or Denis Mayer Jr. they both
use gouache as their main painting medium and produce some amazing paintings.

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