Gouache: What It Is and How to Use it

You have probably heard of Gouache before but may not know any more about it (other than it’s strange name!). We were the same when we first found it, but now we know what is and how to use it, we thought we would share our knowledge on all things Gouache.

What is Gouache?

Gouache is a type of watercolour. It falls between acrylic and watercolour, which is probably why I haven’t mastered it yet. I am so used to building my layers up that working with flat opaque colours goes against what I have learned.

It is pronounced “gwash” but don’t worry too much about that.

This paint has dry pigments of transparent watercolour with a binder of Gum Arabic ( the base of all watercolours) it has a greater proportion of binder to pigment and becaouse of this, the paint is thicker and heavier than normal watercolours. Gouache is opaque and is used for flat illustrations and paintings. It isn’t that great for washes because it is not transparent and buildable.

An illustrators favourite

The main reason it is so popular among artists is it is easy to reproduce. I am only just beginning to paint with gouache but I am in the process of learning all about it. When you turn a painting into prints you want the colours and layers to be exact. Sometimes with traditional watercolours, you struggle to achieve this. You will often find traditional illustrators who produce prints use a very smooth watercolour hot pressed paper and gouache paints.

Gouache has the strange property of luminance and opacity together which is why it is often used for landscapes.

Artists quality paints have a higher proportion of dry pigment. Lesser quality paints use an inert white pigment such as blanc fixe or precipitated chalk that makes the gouache opaque and increases its smoothness and brightness. Higher quality gouache paints achieve their opaque quality by the high proportion of pigment.

My Journey with Gouache

Watercolour is one of my favourite mediums and I am just getting into gouache now. What I love most about watercolour is that it is not wasteful. If I am using tubes I squeeze out the smallest amount of paint into my palette and then I use it until I have used it up. If I like a paint colour I will never clean my palette. I will just use it for weeks or months until I use up. Gouache is the same. You can keep using it even if it’s dry. Just add some water and they are great to use. I am just beginning my path with gouache.

I have to admit that a tube of white gouache has always haunted my palette, especially when I am working back into a watercolour painting. It’s a firm favourite, that and white ink!

Gouache deserves a bit more attention than I currently give it so that is my goal for 2020.

How to use it

Like all paints, a palette is really useful, where you use a traditional plastic one, enamel one or even throw away sheet.

You layout the colours and then with clean brush mix your paints in a secondary spot.

If you pretend your paint, no matter what the colours are laid in the first row, you never mix these together. Quite frankly it’s a waste of paint. Instead, you mix them in a secondary spot and can make as many colours as you like. You always mix the lightest colour first then add a small amount of the darker colours. This means you can always deepen the colour. Like watercolour you rarely need black and normally other colours will surface.

Simple rules of painting

Just like with watercolours you need to really get to know how the paints work and how to blend the right colours but a few rules will help you.

Your brush should always be clean!

If your water gets dirty straight away that generally means that you have too much paint on your brush.

You don’t need to press down hard on your brush

If you brush sounds scratchy on the paper you need more water

Try it

If you are just getting started with gouache then the Royal and Langnickel Starter Set is a really good place to start. Just remember, you don’t need many colours!

I love exploring new mediums and the more I learn about gouache the more I like it. It is really vibrant so for bold artworks. it is a quick fix. Watercolours will always be my prefered medium but I definitely know that gouache has a place reserved in my art box in future

Do you use gouache? What are your tips for this versatile medium?

Comments are closed here.