Gouache Paint Explained

What is gouache paint and best gouache paint brands

I have been painting natural inspired patterns in a combination of real gold, handmade pigments and gouache paints. I previously dabbled with water and oil colours, but painting with gouache is my favourite. There is something about the intensity of the colours that draws me in and it fits perfectly with my Islamic illumination work.

Gouache is not a new type of paint. It has been used for centuries, but then everyone was obsessed with watercolour and oil-colour and forgot about it. Later on Acrylic paint came and took precedence in the market because of its cheapens and ease of use.

How do you pronounce gouache?

I get asked sometimes on how it is pronounced differently depending on the English language accent the person has. It is wildly pronounced as Ga ( G like Gold) wua SH (Sh like Shoe) "| Gwäsh. The origin of the word is French.

What is Gouache?

Gouache paint is a derivative of watercolours. However, gouache is thicker, more opaque and has chalk, white pigment or calcium along with gum Arabic in the mix. It gives a stronger affect with the deeper colours. It has a clean finish and it photographs well.

Gouache paint is believed to be rooted in the art of Persia and dates back to the 9th century. The similarity is perhaps due to the intensity of the single pigment that is mixed with a binder and chalk. It made an appearance again during the Renaissance in Europe in the 18th century.

Contemporary traditional artists use gouache for its various qualities namely its intensity.

Painting with white gouache

Painting with white gouache

Difference between gouache and watercolour

Watercolour is also a water based paint, but the ingredients of it are lighter and it is more translucent or see through. Since Gouache is highly pigmented and opaque, you do not need as much water to mix. In fact, I mix very little water with gouache. I even add my water with a dropper and mostly add two drops for the colour to move. I add more water as I work because it dries up, but I am very careful with it.

The paper is less absorbent of the gouache and it is more like a surface paint unlike watercolour that get drunk up by the fabric in the paper.

If you want to make gouache translucent and give it a similar watercolour affect then all you have to do is add more water, which should work fine. Although, one of the nice qualities of gouache is the opaqueness of it.

Difference between gouache and acrylic

Acrylic is a petroleum based paint and although it washes away with water it tends to dry much quicker than gouache and it is also hard to layer up and shade. It is also not very eco friendly. I haven’t used acrylic, so my experience with it is very limited and from what I heard I am happy to stick with gouache.

Painting pattern in gouache

Gouache Paint Set

If you are new to gouache painting and want to test out various colours, it might be easier to purchase a basic set. However, I hate waste and I believe in buying one or two tubes only to start with to see if you will actually like the medium first. If you have done that and you like it then let us talk about gouache paint sets.

A lot of the gouache paint brands provide a student or an academic range that is more affordable and great when you are learning and another professional, designer range that is for serious artists who are selling their artwork.

Ps. affiliates links below meaning I would get a commission if you make a purchase with no extra cost to you and that helps support me to bring you more free and useful content!

I will stat with the most affordable set up to the best gouache set you could get.

Reeves Gouache Paint

Reeves the cheapest gouache paint set that you would find. It is very cheap, so do not expect a miracle from the paint and please do not sell work painted with it! It is a great set to get started especially when you are not sure about painting with gouache or if you are doing it like once a year.

It can be an introduction set for young painters if your children or young relatives want to paint with you.

Reeves has three types of sets: five colour set, 12 colour set and 24 colour set. I have the 24 colours just to experiment with their colour range. Most colours are as you would expect, but some are weirdly grainy and don’t mix well. The weird thing about this set is that adding white to lighten colours make some florescent, which might not be what you want.

If you rather not shop with Amazon and want to support an art supply store, you can find this set or similar in Jackson art here.

Talens Gouache

The first time I saw the Talens Gouache brand was in an art store in Turkey and the paints I got came in little glass jars, but you can get them as tubes too. A lot of the Turkish illuminators I know of use the Talens gouache as their main brand for painting artwork and commissions.

It is a good reliable brand with a nice range of rich colours and if you happen to be in Turkey, the price of it is really affordable.

Daler Rowney Gouache

Daler Rowney gouache paint is one of the first brands I tried because they sold it in my university art shop. For some reason, I didn’t connect with the paint. There is nothing wrong with it, but I just didn’t enjoy it and passed on the set to my mother. She had fun painting with it though. Art preferences are so personal and you will get that once you get seriously into painting.

There are a few introductory and basics sets for learners. They also offer professional designer sets.

If you rather not shop with Amazon and want to support an art supply store, you can find this set or similar in Jackson art here.

Winsor and Newton Gouache

The gouache set made by Winsor & Newton was introduced in 1935 and have been improving ever since. It is a very high quality brand and I highly recommend it. This is what I use for most of my work and a lot of the colours turn out nicely on their own or after being mixed.

They are compatible with other Winsor & Newton watercolours too. I sometimes use watercolour to shade on top of the gouache and it’s great!

There are two Winsor and Newton gouache sets: the primary colour set of six and the introductory colour set of ten.

If you rather not shop with Amazon and want to support an art supply store, you can find this set or similar in Jackson art here.

Schmincke Gouache

Schmincke gouache is a German brand it is high end with a selection of very nice colours. They are the right intensity, but they are expensive. I was very happy to find a few large tube on sale in Cass Art a few years ago and I still use them now. The ultramarine is my students’ favourite and at least two students would paint with it. Their Akademie range is the cheaper option for learners.

The Horadam is the beautiful professional range and I have a few 20ml tubes that I have been using for nearly 5 years now.

If you rather not shop with Amazon and want to support an art supply store, you can find this set or similar in Jackson art here.

Make your own gouache paint set

Instead of buying a ready chosen paint set, you can choose your own paint tubes with colours you usually use or enjoy. That is what I do. I buy the colours I want and add them into my painting box. I usually buy the 14ml tubes and honestly they last for YEARS! All you need is the smallest drop. I find it SHOCKING when students take the tube and squeeze half of it in the palette! That is why I personally go around and squeeze the paint in their palettes.

It is also fun to try new brands. I usually get a few brands that I haven’t tried during travel to try them and compare the results. Best thing to do as an artist is trial!

Gouache Paint Brands

Gouache Brushes

I wrote a post last year about the best Islamic illumination brushes and if the size of your brush matters. All the brushes I recommended will work great as gouache brushes. I usually pick the ones used for watercolour and there are two types: natural sable hair brush and a synthetic brush.

Both are good and it depends on your own preference. I know brushes can get pricey, so get one of each type and test them with your work until it works nicely for you.

My main tip to using any kind of brush is please do not leave it soaking in the water or the tip will be ruined.

Gouache Painting Tips

How to paint with gouache?

Getting started with painting in gouache is fun! After you choose the paint set or the tubes you want to buy, the best thing is to get started with them right away!

  • Squeeze a very small amount of the tube into your palette

  • Add only two or maximum three drops of water. You want a creamy consistency nothing too watery or too thick that the brush won’t move.

  • When you are testing a gouache colours, wait until they dry to determine the shade you want.

  • You can layer the colours on top of each other to add details and shading, but make sure that the layer is fully dry before painting another one on top.

  • Detailing is a very cool thing to do on top of gouache paint and you can do that with another gouache colour or you can use ink. I enjoy doing both.

  • You can leave the paint to dry in the palette and you can reconstitute it again with adding two drops of water to it and you can carry on painting.

  • Gouache paints can be mixed and new colours can be made just like watercolour all you need to know is basic colour theory for that.

  • Keep painting! Practice is key and the more you do the better you will become.

Useful books about Gouache Painting

I hope you found this guide beneficial and I hope you enjoy all the gouache painting you are planning to do!

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