All about Gouache
All About Gouache
You may have seen it on social media while looking up new artists. This extremely vibrant and fully opaque paint that almost looks velvety when it’s dry.
There are several brands that carry this type of paint, but Wallack’s carries the world’s most popular brand, Holbein Gouache and Holbein Acryla Gouche. We also carry M. Graham Gouache, which is velvety and beautiful as well.
There seems to be a growing number of artists who are exploring this paint, and there’s good reason for it too.
Gouache [pronounced gwash] is a lesser-known paint that many artists are adding to their paint rosters. So, what is it about this paint that convinces so many artists to drop their regular mediums and make the great switch?
Let’s get into it.
What is Gouache?
The best way to simply explain gouache is to describe it as an opaque version of watercolor. But, in the opinion of many of its users, it’s much more than that.
Gouache paint is a water-soluble paint that combines pigment with gum arabic, but it has much more pigment and opacity than its watercolour cousin. Because of this, you’re able to layer gouache easily and achieve a wider range of effects that watercolour lacks. For example, it can be thinned down to give the impression of a watercolour paint, but also applied right from the tube, and it almost has the thickness of a heavy-body acrylic paint (but not quite.)
This thickness will give a great texture that is virtually impossible with watercolour.
Another quality of this paint is that it dries to a completely matte finish.
There are actually two types of gouache. Firstly, there is the traditional type of gouache that we described above. Secondly, there is an acrylic version that is still water-soluble but instead it has a polymer binder that turns permanent when dry. This can be useful if you like to add several layers without having to worry about it bleeding into the next. It will also allow you to paint on many more surfaces, similar to the way that acrylic paints will.
Acrylic gouache is a lot more flexible than regular gouache, and this is due to the polymer base that is incorporated into the pigment.
Why has it become so popular?
Its popularity has exploded because of the rise of animation-style art that has taken over social media platforms recently. Animators love this paint because of its highly matte finish, which makes it convenient and easy to photograph due to its low-light reflection.
Secondly, this medium presents its new challenges that many artists want to experiment with and explore. When gouache is dry, the surface becomes rather “toothy” meaning it gains a texture to it that makes it interesting and easy to use with dry media like coloured pencils. Once dry, it will not permanently clog up markers or pens.
If you enjoy traveling with your paints, then gouache is an excellent choice for you. The tubes are small and easy to toss into your bag with a small amount of water. You’ll only need a few colours to make a maximum impact.
Gouache is also incredible because it boasts a limited colour shift from when it’s dry. This means that the colour that you apply wet will be exactly the same to when it’s finished drying. You’ll be able to count on your chosen palette and know what to expect from your completed painting.
Lastly, gouache dries incredibly fast and is beneficial if you work quickly. It will vary how quickly it dries depending on the surface you’re working on. For example, on a water media paper, the paint will be absorbed into the surface and therefore dry rather quickly, but on a plastic surface, it will rely on the water to fully evaporate, and therefore it will take a bit longer to dry.
If you’d like to continue working with the gouache later on, then choose a sta-wet palette or tightly wrap your palette in a plastic bag. This will preserve the wetness of the material while you’re away from your project. Luckily, regular gouache can be re-wet and used over again, but the acrylic verison of gouache will remain permanently dry once it has hit that state.
How to use it
There are many ways that you can use gouache to fit within your style of art.
Gouache can be layered like acrylic, thinned just like watercolour, textured just like oil paint. It can be applied on many different surfaces, like wooden panels, canvas and paper, but it will work best on watercolour paper.
It’s best to start with a clean, wide-surface palette like a butcher tray that will allow for lots of mixing space. Then, get a big bowl of fresh water, and your paper or surface of your choice. For your brushes, you can use watercolour brushes, or a brush that is gouache-specific like these Princeton Umbria Brushes. If you’re using paper, then it’s a good idea to tape off the edges of the paper to get nice and crisp lines.
Begin by laying down your first colour, and then wait for it to dry before applying your next layer or next material. This will allow you to build up a lot of nice textures and dimensions.
It’s best to work with two wet colours at once to ensure the smoothest transition between the two. The key for this technique is to work quickly, blending between two different colours, so that you get the most seamless blend.
Alternatively, you can mix the in-between colour on your palette and apply that between the two original colours. This technique won’t be as smooth, but there will still be a stylized transition between the two original colours.
For Building Texture:
There are a few ways that you can achieve a textured look. Some artists will like there to be a physical texture on the surface, and to do this, you can just pick up a lot of paint with your brush and apply it, creating peaks and valleys in the paint in whichever way the brush dictates.
If you’d like to apply texture using different materials, then a great way to do this is to use coloured pencil or markers using a light texture, which allows these materials to pick up on the pattern of the paper, like the image below.
Gouache is an excellent medium to try and explore. It’s easy and affordable to use, and you can begin by just picking up a few new tubes. We recommend choosing a palette of at least 5 of your favourite colours, and then adding more as you learn more about the medium. A little bit goes a long way! Plus, you’ll be able to use brushes that you may already have from using watercolour in the past.
Try out a few techniques that we suggested, and you’ll be quick to fall in love with this paint like the artists who already have!