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difference between gouache and watercolors, gouache vs watercolor

6 Main Differences Between Gouache and Watercolor Paint

Starting a new medium can be fun, exciting, and a tiny bit nerve-wracking when you’re so accustomed to a specific medium. Maybe all you’re used to are watercolor paints, acrylics, or a little of both.

If you’re curious to know more about the difference between gouache and watercolor paint, the one way to describe this type of medium is that gouache is a bit of a mixture between watercolor and acrylic. In other words, if those two had a child, this would be it!

However, the main difference is that gouache paint is more opaque and less transparent than watercolors whereas, with acrylic paint, its texture is less thick and much easier to work with. Gouache paint can be applied thick or watered down depending on your desired consistency, resulting in a matte finish due to it being rich in pigments.

Sounds complicated, right? It really isn’t though. Here’s everything you need to know regarding their differences and similarities that will help you better understand these two mediums:


1. Activation

With gouache, you may need to activate the paints with a light mist of water whereas with watercolors, you have to use water to activate the paints otherwise they cannot be used, especially in the case of watercolor pans.

2. Surfaces

Gouache can also be used on any type of painting surfaces (cardboard, canvas, sketchbook paper, and watercolor paper) but best used on watercolor paper if you plan to use a diluted consistency.

With watercolors, it’s an absolute must to use watercolor paper that is at least a weight of 140lb or 300 gsm, or else you’ll find it very difficult to keep layering paint before the paint wears down the paper.

3. Lights vs Darks

Watercolor requires you to paint from lights to dark since you cannot make a dark color or patch lighter whereas, when painting with gouache, you can keep layering to create a dark to light effect.

difference between gouache and watercolors

4. Masking Fluid

When painting with watercolors, you may need to use masking fluid or take into account white spaces since you won’t be able to go back unless you use a different painting medium to create the lights.

However, with gouache, you can easily restore your lights if you go too dark like with acrylics.

5. Transparency

And this brings us back to the transparency of these paints. Watercolors on one hand are incredibly transparent and tend to sink into the paper whereas compared with gouache, it leans towards being more opaque due to its pigments and additives.

6. Drying Time

Another considerable difference between gouache and watercolor paint is in regards to timing and how fast the paint dries, you can definitely expect gouache to be the winner in this regard.

They dry much faster than watercolors do but each of them does have a time limit where you can work with that specific layer until it’s fully dry.


Now let’s compare the similarities between gouache and watercolors. As we know, both mediums are water-soluble and gouache can be used in similar techniques to watercolors.

Another thing is that both these mediums can be reactivated with water depending on the type of paper and time factor that needs to be taken into consideration.

Both paints can be used to create equally beautiful pieces with just a slight difference in effect depending on how thick or thin gouache paint is used but for creating bullet journal spreads, whichever medium is used, it’s bound to look amazing.

Which is better?

There are some that believe gouache to be a difficult medium to work with where others have noted that it’s much easier to work with than with watercolors or acrylic.

At the end of the day, every medium has its challenges and you just have to keep practicing, experimenting until you hit the right spot.

The key to gouache is that you have to find that perfect consistency that works for you just as how you would when working with watercolors.

With watercolor painting, you have to know how much or how little water to use but when it comes to figuring out which medium is better, it really depends on what you find enjoyable.

Every medium has that special quality to them and unless you try them and work with it, only then you might discover the answer to this question.

Otherwise, gouache is a fantastic medium to try and great for those who have been working with watercolors for a long time.

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