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Introduction to Gouache Paint

Gouache paint, an historically significant yet lesser-known medium, has been utilised for centuries. With origins in manuscript embellishment around 800 years ago, gouache is an opaque watercolour similar to acrylic paint. This versatile medium, characterised by its high pigment concentration and rich, velvety texture, produces a matte finish without reflecting light. As a water-based paint with a binding agent, gouache sets itself apart from watercolour, acrylic, and oil paints. Its fast-drying properties and reworkable nature provide flexibility for artists, making it an engaging medium to explore in a variety of art styles and techniques.

Characteristics of Gouache Paint

Opacity and matte finish

One of the most notable features of gouache paint is its opacity, which allows artists to create vibrant, solid colours on their canvas. This high level of pigment concentration results in a matte finish, making gouache an ideal choice for artwork that doesn't require light reflection.

Water-soluble nature

Like watercolour, gouache is water-soluble, meaning it can be easily mixed with water to create various consistencies and effects. This characteristic also allows for easy cleanup and makes it possible to reactivate dried paint on the palette or canvas with water.

Fast-drying properties

Gouache dries relatively quickly compared to oil and acrylic paints, allowing artists to work at a faster pace. This feature is particularly useful when working on multiple layers or when time constraints are a factor.

Re-wettable and reworkable

Unlike acrylics, which become permanent once dry, gouache can be re-wetted and reworked even after it has dried on the canvas. This unique property provides artists with the flexibility to make changes and fine-tune their artwork as needed, making gouache a forgiving medium for both beginners and experienced artists alike.


What Makes Gouache Paint Different?

Composed of colour pigments, a solid white pigment like chalk, and gum arabic as a binding agent, gouache paint shares similarities with watercolour in that it is typically diluted with water before application. However, gouache distinguishes itself by its opacity and matte finish, while watercolour exhibits a translucent and slightly washed-out appearance. With gouache, artists can paint over dried layers without disturbing the colours beneath.

Gouache is well-suited for both detailed painting and covering broad surfaces. It can also be reactivated even after years of drying, making it crucial to varnish or protect the finished artwork with glass to avoid damage. Historically, gouache was frequently used in poster art, comic illustrations, and advertising posters due to its unique properties.

Gouache paint is an excellent choice for beginners, offering numerous advantages as an all-purpose medium:


  1. It possesses a watercolour-like application but dries with an opaque finish.
  2. It shares acrylic paint's water solubility without causing brushes to dry and cake.
  3. It accommodates various techniques such as washes, blending, or dry brushing.
  4. Cleanup is simpler compared to other paint types.
  5. Photographing finished artworks is easier due to the absence of light reflection or glare.


Materials for Gouache Painting

Gouache paint selection

When choosing gouache paint, consider factors such as quality, colour range, and personal preferences. High-quality paints typically have better pigmentation and consistency, resulting in a more satisfying painting experience.

Paper or surface choices

Gouache can be applied to various surfaces, with watercolour paper being a popular choice due to its texture and absorbency. Heavyweight paper or illustration boards are also suitable options, as they can withstand the moisture without warping.

Brushes and tools

A variety of brushes can be used with gouache paint, including synthetic or natural bristle brushes. Round, flat, or filbert shapes work well, depending on the desired effects. Other tools like palette knives, sponges, or even fingers can be utilised for different techniques.

Palette and water container

A mixing palette is essential for blending colours and controlling paint consistency. Choose a palette with ample space for mixing and easy cleanup. Additionally, a water container is necessary for diluting paint and cleaning brushes throughout the painting process.

Gouache Painting Techniques

Because you can paint over gouache once it has dried, it opens you up to endless possibilities and painting techniques. Here are a few ways you can paint with gouache:


Mixing gouache with water

Dilute gouache paint with water to achieve various consistencies and effects. Experiment with different ratios to find the desired opacity and flow for your artwork.

Layering and blending techniques

Gouache allows for layering and blending colours, both wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry. Experiment with these techniques to create smooth transitions, depth, and dimension in your artwork.

Scumbling or dry brushing
To achieve a rougher texture in your artwork, scumbling is an excellent technique. Also known as "dry brushing," scumbling involves applying a thin layer of opaque paint with small gaps to create texture and a coarse appearance. Using a large, flat brush, apply the paint without water and gently drag the brush across the canvas for the desired effect.


Creating gradients and textures

Utilise various brush strokes, tools, and paint consistencies to produce gradients and textures in your gouache paintings. Experiment with stippling, hatching, or glazing to achieve a range of effects.

Working with light and shadow

Gouache's opacity enabled artists to play with light and shadow in their work. Use lighter and darker shades to create contrast, form, and depth, enhancing the overall composition.

Applying as a wash

Similar to watercolour, gouache can be applied as a wash by diluting the paint with water. This technique is useful for creating a base layer, adding atmospheric effects, or generating soft colour transitions.

To achieve a watercolour-like application with gouache, dilute the paint with water and apply it as a wash. Alternatively, experiment by applying a thicker layer of paint and allowing it to dry before splashing or spritzing water onto it. Then, use a brush to blur and soften the edges, creating a feathery texture that can be incorporated into various painting styles.


Tips for Gouache Painting Success

To achieve success in gouache painting, consider the following tips.

How to paint with gouache

Gouache paints offer versatility and are ideal for quick sketches or drawings due to their fast-drying nature. When painting with gouache, remember that colours appear darker when wet and lighter when dry. Diluting gouache with water can achieve detailed applications similar to watercolours, while using it as a dry brush is suitable for layering colours or working on larger canvases. Experiment with different techniques to discover the full potential of gouache paints.

Canvas for gouache paint

Gouache paint can be used on various surfaces, such as stretched canvas, canvas board, or watercolour paper. Begin by priming the surface with a layer of paint for better adhesion. To achieve an ideal texture, adjust the gouache paint consistency to resemble mayonnaise or yoghurt.

Brushes for gouache paint

When choosing brushes for gouache paint, there are no strict rules. Due to gouache's consistency and easy application, any brush type can be used effectively with this medium.


However, brushes designed for watercolour painting are often a good choice because of their similarities. These brushes can have synthetic or natural fibres and come in various sizes and shapes, allowing for flexibility and experimentation in your artwork.

Proper paint-to-water ratio

Mastering the right paint-to-water ratio is crucial for achieving the desired consistency and opacity. Experiment with various ratios to find what works best for your artwork, and remember that more water will result in greater transparency.


Managing drying time

Gouache dries quickly, which can be both an advantage and a challenge. Be mindful of drying times when working with layers or blending colours. If needed, use a spray bottle to lightly mist the surface and maintain workability.


Gouache Painting Ideas and Inspiration

Gouache painting offers a wide range of ideas and inspiration for artists. Nature scenes, including landscapes, flowers, and animals, can be beautifully captured using gouache's vibrant colours and ability to create fine details

Landscape painting

Capture the beauty of nature by painting scenic landscapes, seascapes, or cityscapes using gouache's unique properties for layering and blending.


Create expressive portraits with gouache, using its opacity and versatility to depict facial features, skin tones, and emotions effectively.

Abstract art

Explore the world of abstract art with gouache, experimenting with colours, shapes, and textures to create visually engaging pieces.

Illustration and design

Utilise gouache in illustration and design projects, from book covers and editorial illustrations to posters and concept art, taking advantage of its vibrant colours and adaptability

Gouache paint's versatility makes it an exciting medium for artists of all skill levels to explore and experiment with. From landscapes and portraits to abstract art and illustration, gouache offers endless possibilities for creativity. Embrace the unique characteristics of this medium, and don't be afraid to push its boundaries as you discover new techniques and applications.


Discover The Fun And Versatility Of Gouache Paint Today


Discount Art N Craft supplies a range of gouache paint and accessories, for beginners all the way through to professional artists. For those starting out, the Winsor & Newton Primary Set provides the perfect introduction to gouache paint; including six primary colours, a visual diary, and a paintbrush.

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Don't forget to check out our whole range of gouache paints here!

FAQ Gouache Paint

Q: What is gouache paint?

A: Gouache paint is a water-based medium consisting of pigment, a binding agent (usually gum arabic), and water. It is known for its vibrant colours and matte finish when dry.

Q: How is gouache paint different from other types of paint?

A: Gouache paint differs from other types of paint, such as watercolour or acrylic, in its opacity. Gouache is more opaque, allowing for layering and covering mistakes more easily. It also dries to a matte finish, unlike the transparent nature of watercolour or the glossy finish of acrylic.


Q: What are the characteristics of gouache paint?

A: Gouache paint has several key characteristics. It is highly pigmented, providing intense and vibrant colours. It can be rewetted and reworked even after it dries, making it flexible for modifications. Gouache can be used both in transparent washes and opaque layers, and it dries quickly compared to oil paint.


Q: How do you use gouache paint?

A: Gouache paint can be used by diluting it with water to create transparent washes or applied directly for opaque layers. It can be used with various techniques, including brushwork, stippling, dry brushing, or layering. Gouache can be mixed on a palette to create custom colours.


Q: Can gouache paint be mixed with other types of paint?

A: Gouache paint can be mixed with other water-based paints, such as watercolour or acrylic, to create unique effects. However, it's important to note that gouache's opacity may affect the transparency of the other paints. It's advisable to test the compatibility and desired result on a separate surface.


Q: What surfaces can gouache paint be used on?

A: Gouache paint can be used on various surfaces, including watercolour paper, illustration boards, mixed media paper, or specially designed gouache paper. It can also be used on primed canvas or surfaces suitable for water-based paints.


Q: Are there any special techniques or considerations when using gouache paint?

A: When using gouache paint, it's important to work in thin layers and allow each layer to dry before adding more paint to avoid cracking. Gouache can be rewetted and reactivated with water, so careful brush handling is necessary to prevent lifting or muddying previous layers.


Q: How long does gouache paint take to dry?

A: Gouache paint generally dries quickly, usually within minutes to hours, depending on the thickness of the layers. Thicker applications may take longer to dry. It's recommended to allow sufficient drying time before applying additional layers or making modifications.


Q: Can gouache paint be reactivated or reworked after it dries?

A: Yes, gouache paint can be reactivated or reworked after it dries. By adding water to the dried paint, it can be rewetted and manipulated. This feature allows for corrections, blending, and making adjustments even after the paint has dried.


Q: Are there any tips for beginners using gouache paint?

A: For beginners using gouache paint, it's helpful to start with a limited colour palette and gradually explore different colours. Practise layering techniques to understand the opacity and coverage of gouache. Experiment with water-to-paint ratios to achieve the desired transparency or opacity. Additionally, using high-quality brushes and paper can enhance the painting experience and results.