What Is Gouache Paint, And How To Paint With It

What Is Gouache Paint, And How To Paint With It

While we all know the main three types of paint, acrylic, oil and watercolour, there is a fourth that both beginner painters and professional artists love to use… gouache paint! Gouache paint is easy to use, comes in all your favourite colours and is readily available from all art and craft stores, including right here at Spotlight.

But what are gouache paints, and how do they handle compared to other kinds of paint? Don't worry, we'll dive into all your gouache paint questions, as well as highlight how you can use it at home. So read on, and let's learn about gouache paint together!

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What Is Gouache Painting?

Gouache painting involves creating art using gouache paint. But what are gouache paints themselves? Gouache paint is often referred to as an 'opaque watercolour', and this accurately describes how it looks and handles. Gouache paint is a water-based paint that contains pigment, water, a binding agent like gum arabic and then a filler like chalk. This filler is what turns what would normally be a watercolour paint into a thick and opaque paint, even when diluted with water. Gouache paint has a matte finish and the colours tend to dry lighter than they seem when they are wet, so artists need to keep this in mind when choosing the colours they want to use.

How Gouache Compares

Let's go through how gouache compares to all the other kinds of paints you can find.

Acrylic vs gouache paint

Here are some of the main points in the acrylic vs gouache paint debate:

  • Gouache paint dries thin and matte, while acrylic dries thick and glossy.
  • Acrylic is resistant to water once dry, while gouache is not and can be continually reworked with water.
  • Acrylic paint can be used on almost any surface (wood, canvas, paper, glass, fabric etc), while gouache is only suitable for paper and specially prepared boards.
  • Gouache dries to a lighter colour, while professional acrylics will stay the same colour throughout the whole process.
  • Gouache paint is difficult to layer, as the water in it can reactivate old layers. Acrylic paint is waterproof once dry, and so can be easily layered to add texture to your artwork.

Gouache vs watercolour paint

These paints are the most similar out of all, but there are still a few important differences to note:

  • Gouache is almost fully opaque, while watercolour is transparent.
  • Watercolour has a luminous quality, while gouache is matte.
  • Gouache can be used to carefully create opaque layers, while watercolour's transparency means layers will usually show what is underneath them.

Gouache vs oil paint

These two paints are very different from each other!

  • Gouache paint is almost completely odourless, while oil paint (and the solvents used with it) have a very distinctive and sometimes strong smell.
  • Gouache paint rinses off brushes and clothes with water, while oil paint must be cleaned off clothes and brushes using harsh solvents.
  • Gouache dries quite quickly, while oil paint can take days, weeks or even months (for thick layers) to completely dry.
  • Oil paint is blended with linseed oil, while gouache paint has its pigments suspended in water.
  • Oil paint allows for texture and even peaks to be created thanks to its thickness, while gouache paints will always remain flat on the page.

How To Paint With Gouache - Tips & Tricks

Are you ready to paint with gouache? First, let's get everything you need.

How To Paint With Gouache - Tips & Tricks

Gouache painting supplies

Tips & tricks on how to use gouache paint

We won't tell you what to paint (although flowers are always a great place to start!), but here are some handy tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your gouache paints:

  • While it cleans up easily, we still recommend laying down a tarp or scrap paper on your table, desk or whatever other surface you will be painting on top of.
  • Because it is opaque you can lightly sketch the bones of what you plan to create on your paper or board using a pencil. When you paint over them the lines will not show through - unlike with watercolours.
  • Thin gouache with water and thicken again with gum arabic if needed.
  • Keep your paints moist in the palette by misting them with a spray bottle. Avoid just adding extra water, as this may dilute them more than you want.
  • You can alter dried gouache paint by wetting it to reactivate it, or remove it entirely by dabbing at the mistake with rags or a towel until the colour lifts from the page.
  • Protect your finished piece with the right varnish or glass panel. Because it reactivates with water, leaving your finished piece unprotected is dangerous!
  • Gouache can crack if applied too thickly or in too many layers, so be careful when applying layers that they are as thin as possible.

Now that you know how to use gouache, what can you actually use this medium for?

What Is Gouache Paint Used For?

You can use gouache paint to create gorgeous illustrations, as its bright colours and matte finish are perfect for photography and display. So you will often see hand-painted gouache art used for posters, comic books and other commercial illustrations.

If you like to paint more traditional artworks like landscapes, portraits or still-lifes, gouache works great for this as well! It works well on specialised paint and boards, although less so on canvas, and its sensitivity to water means it's also not always suitable for plein air painting.

What Is Gouache Paint Used For?

Enjoy Gouache Painting With Spotlight

Are you ready to start painting with gouache? Discover the range of painting supplies online or in-store at Spotlight and begin creating gorgeous artworks today! Use your new gouache paints in some of our amazing painting projects, like our Hexagon Wall Art project, our Francheville Abstract Wall Art project and our Fruit Wall Art project.

Not sure how to choose the right art supplies? Read our paint and painting mediums and paintbrush buying guides to make sure you are making the best purchase every time!




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