What is Gouache Paint? Plus 20 Gouache Painting Ideas

I’ve recently become a big fan of gouache (pronounced “gwash”) paintings and have been on the search for beautiful gouache painting tutorials and references.

What is Gouache?

Unlike watercolor paint which comes in different forms such as pans and tubes, gouache paint will typically come in tubes.

To work with gouache, you need the same tools that you would use to watercolor paint. Those tools are paint, water, and watercolor paper.

gouache purple and pink skies
Artist Credit: 5aemio_
daisy painting
Artist Credit: art__contemporary

As you may know, with watercolor, you work from light to dark. However, gouache allows you to work from dark to light or light to dark because gouache is opaque (not see-through) paint.

Additionally, you can rewet gouache with water if you would like to make changes to your work.

starfish beach painting
Artist Credit: artbykshamaa
blue flowers
Artist Credit: beckyamelia_art

When using gouache paint, keep in mind that gouache dries faster than watercolor paint and also dries matte.

Getting Started with Gouache Part 1

Getting started with gouache is pretty simple. All you need is gouache paint, brushes, a painting surface, water, and a mixing palette.

Gouache paint – There are many gouache paints on the market. Some are student quality while others are artist quality. The main difference between the two is the pigment load.

plants and flowers
Artist Credit: cedarandsaltcreativestudio
gouache leaf tutorial
Artist Credit: dearannart

Student quality paints have a lower pigment load, which means they don’t have as much color pigment in them. This makes them less expensive but also less vibrant.

Artist quality gouache paints have a higher pigment load, making them more expensive but also more vibrant and intense.

hummingbird painting
Artist Credit: anjelinakhudoyarova
flower doodles
Artist Credit: fox_m.b

Getting Started with Gouache Part 2

Brushes – When it comes to brushes, you’ll want to use ones that are specifically designed for watercolor or gouache paint.

These brushes are usually made with synthetic bristles and have a firm yet flexible head.

Natural hair brushes can be used for gouache, but they tend to absorb more water, so keep that in mind.

beautiful sky gouache painting
Artist Credit: infinetties
gouache painting tutorial
Artist Credit: dearannart

Painting Surface – Watercolor paper and canvas are both good surfaces to use for gouache.

Watercolor paper is my personal favorite because it’s absorbent and won’t buckle when wet. Canvas can be used, but you’ll need to prime it first with a gesso or acrylic primer.

flower gouache painting
Artist Credit: komals_doodle_diary
gouache painting with hand and butterfly
Artist Credit: infinetties

Getting Started with Gouache Part 3

Water – This is a must-have when it comes to gouache. You have to use water to adjust the consistency of your gouache paint and to clean your brushes.

Mixing Palette – When it comes to mixing gouache paint, I highly recommend using a mixing palette. I like to mix my paint on a palette because it’s organized and less messy.

girl wear converse shoes
Artist Credit: sketchbook_rj
gouache sky painting
Artist Credit: infinetties

With Gouache You Can Sketch First

Because gouache dries opaque, you can sketch your drawing out before going over it with paint.

Even though gouache paint is not see-through, it’s still recommended that you sketch lightly for the best results.

gouache strawberry tutorial
Artist Credit: dearannart
rainbow with rain drops
Artist Credit: spotlightart2021

Once your sketch is complete, you can start painting over it with gouache. I find that it’s best to start with the lightest colors first and then move on to the darker colors. This will help you avoid any accidental mistakes.

beetle car with rainbow
Artist Credit: alicetheprinter
gouache sky painting cute
Artist Credit: 5aemio_

With Gouache You Can Go Light to Dark or Dark to Light

One of the things I love most about gouache paint is that you can go from light to dark or dark to light with your artwork.

Again, this is because gouache paint is opaque. For some artists, this is one of the biggest benefits of gouache.

pastel night sky
Artist Credit: infinetties
gouache space paintings
Artist Credit: 5aemio_

Once you’ve got the hang of painting with gouache, feel free to experiment with different techniques. You can create some really beautiful artwork using this medium.

Matte Finish

Gouache paints dry quickly, and they dry matte. Additionally, gouache has more pigment than watercolor, which means it produces rich and vibrant colors.

gouache flower tutorial
Artist Credit: dearannart

So if you like the matte finish and want more control over your colors, then gouache paint might be the perfect painting medium for you.

While watercolor and gouache paint are similar in some ways, they are also quite different. I hope I was able to clarify what gouache paint is and the benefits of using it.

For more painting ideas, make sure you check out some of my watercolor posts mentioned below.

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