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There is often a confusion between gouache paint and watercolor paints. Although they may look similar and both contain a water-soluble binder, the main difference is the thickness of gouache vs watercolor. This paint medium is often used for illustration purposes or fine detail drawings as it is thick enough that it will wet and change your page’s consistency. In this article, we will discuss gouache brands and techniques as well as the benefits of using such a medium.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is Gouache Paint?
- 2 What Would You Use Gouache For?
- 3 Creating Your Gouache Palette
- 4 The Best Brushes for Gouache
- 5 Protecting a Gouache Painting
- 6 Best Gouache Paint: Arteza Gouache Paint
- 7 Best Gouache for Beginners: Winsor & Newton Gouache
- 8 Best Gouache Paints for Students: Reeves Gouache Review
- 9 Most Recommended: M. Graham Gouache Paints
- 10 Frequently Asked Questions
What is Gouache Paint?
As stated above, this medium is very similar to watercolor paints although thicker. It could also be compared to having an acrylic-like texture with a water base. The opacity of gouache paints is obtained by adding white pigment or chalk combined with the colored pigment powders which makes it less transparent on your canvas. These natural color pigments are very similar to the ones used in the making of watercolor. Though the particle sizes within your gouache paint are larger than watercolor, which is the main difference between the two and what gives it a thicker texture. It is helpful to know before using gouache that it has a tendency for darker colors to dry lighter and lighter colors coming up darker. A bonus is that it does dry quickly and will allow you to illustrate tiny details and paint more solidly than watercolor would.
If you are familiar with watercolor paints, then gouache should be a very easy transition. You can use it on the same surfaces or papers that you would regular watercolor and you can also use the same paintbrushes as gouache will not harm them like harsher paint mediums. This medium is very easy to use and is also washable and easy to clean up because of its water base. Gouache paints can also be mixed with watercolors or plain water to enhance and build up your art pieces. The biggest concern when transitioning from watercolor is that artists then tend to use this medium in the same way. Adding too much water to your gouache or artwork will cause your paint to be thin and run. Too little water can cause your painting to crack after a while. The consistency needs to be balanced and gouache paint should be creamy and flowing on your page.
Like we mentioned before, just because it works the same way, does not mean it will show up the same on paper. The main difference when using a gouache paint aside from its thickness is the blending capabilities and matte finish. This paint can be manipulated and worked on differently than what a transparent watercolor could as it sits on the surface of your page rather than being absorbed into it.
If you want to learn more about using gouache paint, our in-depth tutorial on how to use gouache paint might help you.
Now that we are familiar with what the medium is, we will discuss what it is used for as well as some different techniques you may find helpful.
What Would You Use Gouache For?
Because of the fine detail work achieved when using gouache, it is mostly used for designing illustrations, comics, and poster boards. Gouache has also been for concepts, layouts, and backgrounds on film sets for years. Having the best attributes of both watercolor and acrylic, gouache can be layered dark to light, unlike thinner mediums which will hide those lighter foundations. A gouache paint set is reasonably priced too, making this one of the most underrated painting medium options out there. Below we will look at some tools and basic techniques when wanting to start working with gouache.
Staining with Gouache
The term staining when using gouache is really just another term for underpainting. This can be done using some water to wet the tip of your brush and then using a thin coat of paint as a background or first layer. This will create the base of your gouache painting from which to work off and build up with color. The added water makes your paint more workable and even once dry on your paper, it can easily be wet again and reworked or layered with other colors. Make sure to let your gouache dry between layers, as each new layer will affect and wet the one underneath, which can cause unwanted colors mixing. Staining can be especially useful in painting fields, skies, and other vast landscapes.
Glazing with Gouache
Similar to the staining effect although done with different elements of your painting. Because gouache paint dries so quickly and can mimic watercolor in its transparency, glazing is an easy style to achieve or master. This is simply layering a wet brush with a small dab of color over previously painted areas. This will create an effect where your fresh layer of color gives a transparent sheen to the dry one underneath.
The more layers you add the more of your original color will be hidden or changed by the new one. This technique is useful for shadows and shading darker areas. By experimenting with your paint and water ratios you will be surprised at the effects you can achieve with this medium.
This is the term used for abstract pieces with irregular areas of color that have bled into one another. Gouache is the perfect paint with which to achieve this effect, as even though it can be made watery, its large pigments will assist in better absorption onto the page. The way to best achieve this style is to really wet your brush so it holds in all the moisture, then add a tiny blob of paint to start with. Using a soft hand, gently blot your brush on the paper and watch your abstract blooms start to form. Keep working and moving the elements on your page until you reach your desired effect.
Layering with Gouache
Much like using acrylic, gouache paint is great for overlapping tones and hiding layers underneath. It has a very vibrant quality about it and can create a nice texture when using short, rough strokes. Another term for this would be dry brushing. This method is used to add color layers full of texture. The idea is to add paint to the brush and let it dry out by using rapid strokes and no water. It is a light touch technique that will add a rough effect. Also knows as opaque layering, this style would be used for elements like clouds and foliage.
Blending with Gouache
Due to its water base, gouache can be wet and reworked until you are happy with the outcome. This can even be days or weeks after it has fully dried. For best results, wet your brush and lightly go over your colored area to soften it. You can then pull colors from surrounding areas or add fresh paint mixed with your water to soften and smooth lines. Another technique used when blending is known as the blurred stroke effect. This is when you blend your gouache directly on your surface not on a palette beforehand. Start by applying one color and let it sit for a minute or two, then you can blend in a contrary color or a darker one over sections of it. This technique is useful when adding darker layers or even highlights to certain components of your art piece. It can also assist in blending colors and changing them.
Creating Your Gouache Palette
As with any paint or art medium, there are multiple decisions to be made and research to be done before you can start. For this reason, it can be helpful to see what others are doing and the products they are using. Gouache brands are no different as there are many reputable suppliers to choose from. The trick is finding the right gouache paint set for your needs. When first starting you do not need to go large. Start with a smaller range of colors if need be and then build up your gouache palette as you go along.
When using gouache, it is beneficial to use a paint palette or mixing tray. This is to get the best blending capabilities and color mixes out of your work. A good tip to remember about gouache paint is that some brands are known to stain plastic paint palettes. An easy solution would be to use clay or glazed containers that will not retain the strong color pigments as the plastic does.
Once your gouache paint is left for a while, you may notice it is incredibly dry or crumbly. Do not be alarmed, this is perfectly normal due to the neutral agents within the paint. Adding a little water to these the next time you want to use them, will revive their color and texture. Other paints often contain a plastering agent that keeps them moist and flexible, so they do not dry out this way.
The Best Brushes for Gouache
Contrary to popular belief, natural brushes are not always the best to use. When working with gouache we know one of the key factors is the consistency of your paint. Natural hair paintbrushes will hold more water than a synthetic brush will, making your paint thinner and more transparent. Synthetic brushes will give you better control of your medium and prevent streaks. The shape of your brushes is not as important as it would be in acrylic and oil paints. The only thing to remember is to keep them wet during your painting process for the best results and workability.
When looking for a good brush to use with gouache paint, the best option would be your watercolor paintbrushes. Because these paints are also water-based, they will not damage your brushes and will hold the medium well.
Gouache Specific Paintbrushes: Transon Artist Paint Brush Set
One highly recommended gouache brush set is this beautiful one by Transon. It includes 12 different brush shapes and can be used with other mediums such as oils and acrylic paints. This set includes paintbrushes of various shapes and sizes such as filbert, angle, flat and round so you can get the best effects with your artwork. Transon brushes are handmade using superior quality nylon which makes them tougher and able to handle different mediums. Whether you are an amateur or a pro, Transon brushes are a brilliant choice.
- 12 pieces of art brushes, including flat, filbert, angle, round, liner.
- Suitable for different media such as watercolors, acrylics, gouaches, oil, tempera, etc.
- 5-layer smooth paint finished handles, secured in double-crimped aluminum ferrules.
Most Affordable Gouache Brushes: HIMI Watercolor and Gouache Brush Set
If you have a thing for colorful brushes, HIMI has created this watercolor paintbrush set which is also perfect for gouache art. These sets of five come in pink, green, yellow, and blue. They also include a wide brush, a liner brush, and three fan brushes to cater to all your needs. Being made of synthetic fibers, HIMI paintbrushes will also retain more water for better results with your gouache techniques. These are easily cleaned with soapy water. With HIMI being such an affordable option, you could get a set in each color and have a beautiful collection of quality gouache brushes in no time!
- A Set of 5 Pieces Brushes: 1 wide brush, 3 fan brush and 1 liner brush
- Versatile High-Quality Brush, apply to all most any surface
- Pull-out design, easy to take, adsorb peculiar smell and send out fragrance
Protecting a Gouache Painting
As we have learned, gouache is water-based and highly reactive to any liquid. Therefore, you will need to properly protect your painting for the best durability. Some like to use fixatives or spray sealants to do this while placing it in a nice frame with protective glass will do the job just fine. Knowing what materials to use can also be tricky when starting a new medium. Here we will emphasize four of the most popular gouache brands that you can choose from, and what makes each worth trying. This way you are one step closer to finding the best gouache paint.
Best Gouache Paint: Arteza Gouache Paint
This set of 60 rich colors is loaded with pigment creating a thick opaque texture and a clean, matte finish. The consistency of Arteza Gouache allows for maximum surface coverage area, so a little bit will go a long way. These paints also have a quick dry time but can be reactivated and adjusted by using some water. Arteza’s paints are non-toxic and are fun and easy to use. This gouache paint set also includes ten metallic colors to add some pearly effects to your paintings. The other colors included in this set are a selection of earth tones and pastel shades. Arteza Gouache paint also comes with a color chart for easy reference and identification. Being so confident in their gouache paint quality, Arteza does offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee for any delivery mishaps or unhappy customers.
Best Gouache for Beginners: Winsor & Newton Gouache
The great thing about this gouache brand is that they offer individual tube purchases as well as gouache paint sets. This set, in particular, is easy for beginners as it contains the four primary colors as well as black and white for mixing. With six basic colors to start your gouache palette, you can build up your collection slowly and top up your colors when you run out. This designer’s range of gouache paint was developed with a few enhancements to their original recipe, making it more opaque, smoother upon application, and brighter than before. Windsor and Newton have been producing paints since 1935, it is no wonder they are part of our top three gouache paint brands list!
- Opaque Water Colors renowned for their color brilliance & matt finish
- Introductory set ideal for designers
- Includes 6 primary colors in 14 ml (0.47 oz.) tubes
Best Gouache Paints for Students: Reeves Gouache Review
This set of Reeves Gouache paint comes in a pack of 24 bold and mixable colors. It is highly pigmented and provides excellent coverage of your paintings, paper gouache art, or even watercolor boards. They pride themselves on creating paints with a vibrant matt finish that will last for years to come. Reeves gouache is safe and easily cleaned with water. Because their colors blend so well, many use Reeves gouache paints for calligraphy inks and designs. It is also a helpful medium when you are first learning to mix and blend your colors. This gouache paint set comes in packs of 12 or 18 too so you can get the option that best fits your needs. The only trouble with this brand is it is currently hard to find, which is a downside to our Reeves gouache review.
Most Recommended: M. Graham Gouache Paints
Graham is another favorite for art supplies for more experienced artists. This professional artist paint set contains 5 colors, yellow, red, and blue, as well as your black and white mixers. By using pure blackberry honey in their gouache paints, they are able to achieve denser pigments with a much bolder color. M.Graham uses the same lightfast, high-quality pigments for all their paints including oils and acrylics. These gouache paints also free of chalks and other harmful ingredients. M.Graham paints provide a beautiful matte finish with rich colors popping of your page. A bonus is, they also offer single tubes of gouache to purchase, which makes it easier to top up your collection while sticking with the same brand.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Gouache Paint?
This medium is often compared to watercolor as it is also water-based. The two are however quite different. Gouache paint is made with a chalk additive that gives it a thicker, more opaque result when used. This also results in larger particles within the paint’s pigments making it more workable and easily reactive to water.
How is Gouache different from Watercolor and Acrylic?
Gouache has a thickness similar to that of acrylic, and a water base just like watercolor. Some may say it is a combination of the two. However, when looking closer there are a few differences that make this paint unique. Gouache dries faster than acrylic and is highly receptive to water, so much so that a dry painting can be revived if adding a small amount of water and reworking the areas. Unlike watercolor, gouache has larger particle pigments and therefore, results in a darker and more opaque, matte finish.
Who Are Some Famous Gouache Artists?
Gouache first became known in France during the 18th century. Some famous painters that favored this medium were Salvador Dalí, Boris Kustodiev, Marc Chagall, and Valentin Serov.
We hope you found our guide to gouache painting useful and feel confident enough to now explore this medium on your own. Happy painting!