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Gouache paint is becoming an increasingly popular medium with artists of varying levels of skill and experience. Whether you are new to the art scene or have your name beneath artworks in galleries worldwide, we bet you would love gouache paint. If you have not tried it yet, here is a breakdown of what it is, the best products on the market today, and some nifty tips and tricks to help you along the way.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Gouache Paint?
- 2 Our Top Three Gouache Paint Sets
- 3 How to Use Gouache Paint
- 4 Handy Tips and Tricks When Using Gouache Paint
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Gouache Paint?
Gouache is an opaque, water-based paint used by artists with various experience levels all over the world. The medium consists of natural or synthetic pigments mixed with water and gum arabic that act as a binding agent. Some cheaper gouache paints will have dextrin as a binding agent instead. This type of paint is known for offering vibrant, opaque colors the excellent advantage of being reworkable at any time, even after the completion of your project. Gouache paint is a great go-to for artists looking for a product with a matte finish to deliver beautiful, full-bodied end results.
Pros and Cons of Gouache Paint
As with all paint types, there are definite pros and cons to gouache paint. Consider these factors carefully before you start and keep them in mind when using your product. This will help you to maximize the pros and counter or prevent the cons.
Our Top Three Gouache Paint Sets
When it comes to choosing your product, you should first think about what exactly it is that you want from your paint. Even if you are still a beginner, it is often worth spending a little more on good-quality brands instead of buying cheaper paints. You still want a beautiful end result, and some paints just will not cut it. Here are some of our favorite gouache brands on the market in 2021.
Best Brand for Beginners on a Budget: REEVES Gouache Color Tube Set
This gouache paint by Reeves is an excellent choice for beginners who want to give gouache painting a go without paying a fortune. The paint is highly pigmented, and leaves a bold, opaque color with a matte finish and great coverage. The colors can be mixed with each other and will work well on paper and watercolor boards. You also will not have to worry about cleaning up when you use these paints, as they can be cleaned easily with water.
Best Premium Brand for Professionals: WINSOR & NEWTON Designers’ Primary Color Gouache Paint Set
This set by the renowned Winsor and Newton brand includes six primary colors of 14ml each, each of which is exceptionally bright and packed with pigment. These opaque water colors are the ideal gouache paints for designers and illustrators wanting to create a bright and bold piece of art.
Best Value for Money: ARTEZA Gouache Paint Set of 60 Colors
This full-scale set includes 60 tubes of 12 ml each and comes with a storage box too. The colors in this set are rich and densely pigmented, meaning that you only need a small amount at a time. The paints will leave an opaque, matte finish that offers great coverage. Arteza’s gouache paints dry quickly, but can easily be reactivated by adding a little water. You can expect excellent value for money from this product, making it ideal for beginners and professionals alike.
How to Use Gouache Paint
Now that you are all set with your brand new paint, it is time to get busy! Of course, every artist has their own unique methods and ways of doing things, but we recommend following these guidelines if you are unsure of how to go forward and would like to have some steps handy. If you are new to using your gouache paint palette, have a read before you get started.
Choose Your Surface
The best surface option for gouache paint is watercolor paper, but a thick, good-quality drawing paper can also be used. A rough or coarser paper is best as it provides a better surface for the paint to adhere to. Using gouache on canvas is not generally recommended unless you are using acrylic gouache. Some artists do in fact use gesso-primed canvases, but remember to avoid painting in high humidity or over-stretching the canvas because even though gouache is more robust than watercolor paints, it is of course still less so than oil paints. Alternatively, you can also use an illustration board or a Bristol board.
Some artists move away from paper, board, and canvas completely by painting on rocks or other natural surfaces. This should still work well, but keep in mind that if your background color is not white, it will affect the visual result of your paint colors.
Choose Your Colors
It is good to have at least an idea of the colors you want to use before you start. A gouache palette is handy, so you can mix colors easily and have only the ones you want open instead of rummaging through your tube sets while painting.
If you are new to painting, do some research on which colors work well for the mood, atmosphere, and type of end result you are after. Keep in mind that the colors might look a little different when dry than they do when wet. Darker colors often tend to look lighter when they are dry, so if you want dark colors, choose your paints a shade darker than you ultimately want when starting.
Experiment with blending colors before you start to see how your specific brand’s colors behave. It is also useful to mix some colors, leave them to try and reactivate them later with water to see exactly how the paint behaves before you begin. Remember to seal your tubes or cases properly when not using the paints so that they last longer.
Choose Your Brushes
You can use the same brushes that you do for watercolor painting – both natural and synthetic fibers will work well. Typically, synthetic brushes are best as they offer a “springy” effect while being durable and maintaining their shape well. Keep your brushes wet for a smoother stroke and to spread your paint around the paper more easily. For more texture and raw effects, opt for stiffer brushes. Softer brushes can be used for smoother strokes and are good for color blending.
Choose Your Technique
Plan the technique you want to use for your painting so that you have a clear picture of how to go about your project. For example, many artists enjoy staining, which means you cover your paper with a layer of paint that will be the background. You will need to factor in the time it needs to dry before you can paint over it. Look into other techniques such as dry brushing and blooms for ideas.
Dry brushing refers to putting paint on your brush and then rubbing it against another surface to get most of it off again for multi-tonal effects and textures. Simply dip your brush in the paint and rub it on the palette or a scrap paper or paper towel. Then use the brush again directly on your surface. Et voila!
Blooms involve making a small puddle of water on your surface, and then dropping or blotting paint from the brush into the puddle. The paint will slowly spread and create its own unique shape. You can get creative by using different colors in the same water puddle.
You can also use gouache and watercolor paints together, or just add more water to your gouache to achieve a similar transparency to that of watercolor. You can also paint on damp paper for spreading or feathering effects.
Go For It and Have Fun!
As with any art project, the aim is to enjoy it. Whether you do it as a hobby or a career, the same mentality goes: Give it all you’ve got! Especially for beginners, it is important to remember that it might not turn out exactly as you had envisioned it. That is okay too.
Painting can be wonderfully therapeutic if you let it. It can be something that conveys a message and expresses an experience or emotion. Or it can also simply be something you make for the pure sake of making it!
Give your creativity free reign – there is no wrong in art.
You will get more comfortable with the process as you go along, and the idea is not to beat yourself up if your end result is not exactly what you planned it to be. The learning and growing is part of the wonderful experience of painting. Just have fun!
Handy Tips and Tricks When Using Gouache Paint
Before you get started, have a look at these useful bits of advice. For beginners, it might be helpful to gather some extra knowledge from those who have been doing it for years. If you are at a designer level, feel free to skip over these.
Consider a Product’s Longevity
Of course, it is lovely to have a variety of colors, and if you are checking your budget, it is wise to make sure that you get the most for your money. However, it is equally important to check the durability of the paint. Gouache is known to last for around five years, which is not extremely long. Therefore, be sure to invest in brands that are known for their longevity and will not get sticky or dry out in the tube before it is finished.
Pans versus Tubes
Paint sets usually come in the form of either pans or tubes. Pans contain the different colors arranged in square or round cakes, like a palette in a box. The pans can be likened to an eyeshadow makeup set, where you simply decide which type of set you prefer. With tubes, you might not be able to get out every last drop, but you can seal your paint properly. With pans, your paint is more exposed and the palette takes up more space, so it might not travel conveniently.
You Want Creamy Paint
Look for a product that is creamy and smooth, even if you are after a matte effect. A creamy paint is easier to apply on most surfaces and makes for a more consistent and full-bodied picture. It also usually means that your colors are brighter and will not have unwanted streaks or spots of different color tones.
If your paint brand seems powdery or flaky, it could indicate a poor-quality brand. You are not likely to get good end results. Most gouache brands will claim to be creamy, but you will only really know from experience. If you want the opacity of gouache but a glossier finish rather than a matte one, you might consider opting for acrylic gouache.
Avoid Reactivating Your Paint
Gouache is a water-based paint, so keep in mind that it will be reactivated if it comes in contact with water or a wet paintbrush. Use light coats to avoid unwanted blending and make sure that it is completely dry before applying additional layers. Avoid using too much water on your brush, as it could result in your paint running on your surface. If you are worried about reactivating your paint by accident, it could be a good idea to consider using acrylic gouache instead, which is water-resistant.
In conclusion, it comes down to personal preference, like it does with all art forms. Many artists work with various different paint types depending on the project, so do not feel that you have to stick with just one medium. Gouache paint can be exceptionally fun to work with and can deliver incredibly beautiful end results. The important thing is to do your research beforehand, give it a try, and then decide whether this medium is for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Makes Gouache Different from Watercolor?
The biggest, most noticeable difference between the two mediums is the opacity. However, both gouache and watercolor paints have the same pigments used for color and usually the same wetting agents or preserving agents, like glycerine or honey. Watercolor is known to be more see-through, whereas gouache paint is completely opaque. Gouache gets its opacity from a white pigment that is added with the colored pigment and binder to ensure that it is not transparent. Gouache is also thicker and not as fluid as watercolor. Because gouache gives a solid color, layering will not have the same effect that it does with watercolor.
What Makes Gouache Different from Acrylic?
Gouache cannot be applied too thickly, as it will crack when it dries, unlike acrylics. It is difficult to create texture with gouache, as you will need to paint your strokes as evenly and smoothly as possible. Most artists familiar with acrylic paint will also know how stubborn it can be when you cannot achieve that perfect water-paint ratio. The solution to this viscosity problem is to use a flow improver or acrylic medium, which will help to make the paint blend and flow better. Gouache, having more natural flowing properties, does not suffer from such a problem. This means there is no need for any supplemental flow medium. However, this does not mean a flow medium does not have its uses – when used with gouache it can actually enhance the transparent properties for certain effects.
Do You Need a Special Brush for Gouache Paint?
You do not need specific brushes for gouache. Synthetic watercolor brushes work perfectly for this product. The general consensus is that gouache paint can mask brushstrokes, allowing for a more primal, flat, or firm color to match certain artistic styles. We recommend using a variety of smaller and larger brushes, depending on your project in order to make sure that your artistic arsenal is equipped for obtaining the widest range of detail and textures. Keeping a broader brush handy will also assist in creating consistent backgrounds such as far-reaching landscapes or open skies. The choice of brush and hair thickness will decide what textures and brush-strokes will show through the gouache layers, and can help steer an art piece in any direction the artist chooses.
What Makes Beginner Sets Different from Designer Sets?
It is generally assumed that more experienced artists or those who paint professionally like designers, illustrators, and commercial artists might want to invest more in better-quality paint, and so designer sets are usually top-end, durable, smooth, and vibrant for the very best results. Beginners or those who want to experiment with gouache as a hobby, might not want to spend a lot of money on their first set, so those sets are typically of a slightly lower quality. Beginner sets also sometimes have less color variety, because beginners are mostly advised to experiment with a few primary colors to see how gouache behaves and how to mix and match these staple colors for different tones and effects.
Exactly How Long Does Gouache Take to Dry?
Perhaps the main reason gouache is equated to watercolor or acrylic is its drying time. Patience is a virtue, and with art, it is no less true. Depending of the amount of water being mixed, drying times can be significantly affected. Being a water-based paint, gouache can dry in about 30 to 40 minutes, which is a short enough time span to complete a work of art in a day. However, there is some care that needs to be taken when dealing with multiple layers, as the dryer the base coat, the more opaque the next layer will be – much like watercolor. If you had to paint over a slightly wet layer, the topcoat would appear more transparent, since it would pick up some color from its base. All in all, it still beats the 24-hour minimum drying time that oil paints bring to the table.