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How To Use Gouache Paint

How To Use Gouache Paint

Have you ever wondered what gives certain paintings and illustrations their unique matte, velvety look? Chances are it’s a medium called gouache paint. Gouache (pronounced “gwash”) offers beginners and professionals alike a fun way to create vibrant, opaque artworks.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know about how to use gouache paint, from basic techniques to step-by-step tutorials. Let’s dive in!

Gouache Paint Basics

What Is Gouache Paint?

Gouache is an opaque water-based paint made from pigment, gum arabic as a binder, and sometimes chalk to add texture. Unlike transparent watercolor, gouache covers surfaces completely, drying to a matte finish. It can be rewetted after drying, making it a very forgiving medium. Gouache offers bright, saturated colors perfect for illustration or graphic art.

How Does Gouache Differ from Other Paints?

Gouache differs from acrylics and oils in its quick-drying time and thinner consistency. It can be used for techniques similar to watercolor but with greater vibrancy and coverage. Here’s how gouache compares:

  • Gouache vs. Acrylics – Acrylics are water-resistant when dry, while gouache can be reactivated. Acrylics have more texture.
  • Gouache vs. Watercolors – Gouache is more opaque and vibrant. Watercolors stain paper more than gouache.

Best Surfaces for Gouache

Gouache works best on absorbent surfaces like watercolor paper, illustration board, or heavyweight mixed media paper. Canvas can sometimes repel gouache, so paper is preferred.

Popular gouache brands include Winsor & Newton, Holbein, and Daler-Rowney. Try starter sets to sample colors!

Necessary Art Supplies

To start painting with gouache, you’ll need:

  • Gouache paints – Start with primary colors plus black and white.
  • Brushes – Synthetic or natural hair brushes work well. Have a few sizes.
  • Paper – Watercolor or mixed media paper is ideal. 140lb or higher.
  • Palette – For mixing paints. Can be ceramic, plastic, or disposable pads.
  • Water cups – For diluting and rinsing brushes.
  • Rags – For cleaning up spills. Paper towels also work.

That’s the basic gear! Now let’s look at some gouache techniques.

Gouache Painting Techniques

Gouache’s flexibility makes it perfect for a range of creative techniques. Here are some to try:

Washes and Staining

Dilute gouache into light washes to stain and layer colors across your surface. Build from dark to light for atmospheric backgrounds.

Wet-on-Wet and Wet-on-Dry

Wet-on-wet blends colors softly like watercolor. Wet-on-dry gives crisper edges. Master both!

Layering and Glazing

Let layers dry fully between applications to increase depth and shift colors. Glazing adds transparent layers.

Textures and Effects

Try dry brushing, sponging, splattering and spraying gouache for interesting organic textures.

Blending and Gradients

Blend wet gouache directly on paper for smooth gradients. Let imagination guide your color flow!

Opaque Layers

Thicker gouache makes vibrant top layers over dried washes to make subjects pop.

Linework and Details

Once dry, gouache’s matte finish is perfect for inking intricate details and outlines without bleeding.

Lifting and Reworking

Gouache can be rewetted to soften edges or lift away mistakes with a damp brush or sponge.

Mixed Media

Combine gouache with watercolors, acrylics, pastels or inks. The possibilities are endless!

Now that you know some techniques, let’s create a painting from start to finish.

Step-by-Step Gouache Painting Tutorial

Follow along as we walk through the process of creating a simple gouache painting:

Setting Up Your Workspace

Cover your work surface with an old sheet or newspaper. Gather your paints, brushes, paper, and water cup. Have paper towels or a rag handy just in case. Get your materials ready before starting.

Planning Your Composition

Lightly sketch your design with a pencil first. Simple landscapes or silhouetted objects work well. Consider where you want your focal point to be.

Mixing and Preparing Paints

Squeeze out a small amount of the gouache colors you plan to use onto a palette. Dilute them with water to reach a creamy consistency. Mix colors as desired.

Applying Base Layers and Background

Use thinned paint to apply a first layer of color across your paper, like a colorful sky. Let this fully dry before adding more layers.

Building Up Foreground Details

Once dry, begin laying down thicker paint with less water for bolder elements like trees, buildings or figures in the foreground.

Shading and Textures

Add visual interest by incorporating shading, textures and details like dry brushing for foliage or glazing for depth.

Finishing With Linework

Outline key elements with clean black lines once the piece is dry. Sign your name with pride!

Allowing to Dry Fully

Give your painting several hours to dry completely before evaluating the final piece. Colors may shift slightly.

Fixing Mistakes

Rewet areas to soften edges or lift away errors. Let dry again fully between adjustments.

Once satisfied, mount and frame your art to protect and display it in all its gouache glory!

Tips for Working With Gouache

As you grow your gouache painting skills, keep these tips in mind:

  • Rinse brushes thoroughly between colors. Clean brushes make blending easier.
  • Mist palette paints with water to prevent drying. Don’t let gouache turn to bricks!
  • Avoid thick or excessive layers to reduce cracking. Light and medium applications are best.
  • Practice techniques on scrap paper first to perfect your gouache approach.
  • Let layers dry fully before adding more paint. Prevent muddy colors!
  • If mistakes occur, rewet and lift away paint within reason. Some staining may remain.
  • Add water slowly when thinning gouache. Too much water can ruin consistency.

Mastering these tips will give you creative confidence with gouache painting!

Common Gouache Painting Ideas

Unsure what to paint? Gouache is highly versatile for:

  • Landscapes – Capture nature’s beauty through gouache skies, mountains, trees and rivers.
  • Portraits – The matte finish and blendability makes gouache wonderful for depicting skin and features.
  • Abstract Art – Manipulate colors and textures for non-objective pieces.
  • Florals – Build up gouache layers into lively blooms and bouquets.
  • Architecture – Illustrate buildings and cityscapes accurately with gouache’s opacity.
  • Comics and Cartoons – Bring characters and stories to life with vibrant panels.
  • Calligraphy – Gouache’s consistency is ideal for brush lettering.
  • Book Illustrations – Pack visual storytelling potential between pages with gouache imagery.

Let loose your inner visionary! Gouache’s expressiveness can enhance any creative endeavor.


We’ve only scratched the surface of gouache painting in this guide. From fundamental techniques to imaginative applications, gouache offers beginners to professionals endless artistry. Its forgiving nature, matte finish and bold colors empower your inner artist.

As with any new skill, be patient with yourself while learning. Follow fundamental techniques, but don’t be afraid to experiment. Mastering gouache requires practice, but the joys of creating are unlimited.

Expand your artistic horizons with the dynamic world of gouache painting! If this guide provided value on your artistic journey, share it with fellow creators and let your passion flourish.