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Gouache Mistakes What Not To Do With Gouache

Gouache Mistakes: What Not To Do With Gouache

When learning any new medium, technique, or skill, you’re bound to stumble upon a few mistakes and mishaps along the way.

This is totally normal and expected, but before we get disappointed, it’s a good idea to check up on a few factors or ideas to gain more knowledge on the medium you’re working with.

Getting familiar with gouache was a new challenge and an exciting task for me. The more I dug into this medium, the more I discovered some valuable tips that are groundbreaking.

For all you gouache lovers, even though this is a delightful medium, there are a few pitfalls to be aware of that will help you avoid serious mistakes that usually lead to frustration and an unsuccessful painting.

In this article, I plan to share with you precisely what not to do with gouache so that you can avoid these common gouache mistakes. 

Once you become familiar with these mistakes, painting with gouache will be a much better experience.

Let’s get right into it!

The Don’ts of Gouache: Mistakes To Avoid

Mistake #1: Water Control

Water is one of the most essential factors you’ll have to learn to control when using gouache. Using too little or too much water could interfere with the pigments and the desired consistency of the paint.

Here’s what you can do to find that sweet spot: Grab your color and start working in a little bit of water at a time.

mixing colors with gouache

Gradually increase the amount of water to find the consistency you’re looking for.

You could also remove excess water from a brush with a paper towel or cloth before dipping into the paint.

It just takes some experimenting to get it right, so don’t give up. I’m sure you’re almost there already! 

Mistake #2: Overworking Layers

With gouache, the key to a successful painting is controlling the layers of paint.

Depending on your technique and style of painting, you’ll want to give enough time between each layer for the wet paint to dry before you add the next.

This will avoid a messy and muddy mix or the layers appearing cloudy.

gouache layers

Another common mistake one could make with gouache is applying thin layers over dark colors.

This could lead to a streaky finish.

What I like to do is start off with a thin layer that is similar to watercolor (or just a bit thicker) as the underpainting and then build up from there into a more milky consistency with the final highlights done in thicker paint and very little water.

See also: 6 Main Differences Between Gouache and Watercolor Paint

Or you could begin with a more loose consistency that isn’t too thin or watery.

The good news is that gouache does dry fast, so you don’t have to wait that long for each layer to dry.

You’ll also want to keep the number of layers to a minimum. The sweet spot is anywhere between 3 and 4, and the maximum is around 5 layers.

The only tricky part of gouache is that it can easily be reactivated but with time and experience, you’ll get the hang of it.

If you’re really struggling with layers reactivating, consider acrylic gouache instead.

Mistake #3: Using Poor Quality Paper

Another mistake when using gouache is painting on cheap-quality paper that bends, buckles, warps, or bleeds through.

Really cheap paper will make it difficult to achieve a satisfying artwork, and this could trick you into thinking you’re not as good as you thought you were!

Having the right supplies for a painting can definitely improve the chances of a better painting experience and quality of work.

I recommend going with a quality-weight paper that is acid-free and durable.

Watercolor paper is a great painting surface for gouache, but you could look at other mediums such as canvas, wood, or illustration board.

Whichever one is in keeping with your budget and techniques.

See also: How To Use Gouache On Wood (Tips For Beginners)

Mistake #4: Not Beginning With A Plan

Going into a painting spontaneously can be a fun experience; however, there might be a few times when doing a quick value sketch or some careful planning before beginning a new project is a good move. 

Gouache tends to dry quite quickly and there’s only a limited number of layers to work with. If you add too many thick layers, the gouache will crack.

A quick, handy tip:
If you find that gouache keeps drying out on the palette, grab a cloth or paper towel and mist it with water. Then squeeze out your paint onto the wet cloth. Spray the palette whenever needed to keep the gouache wet.

Before you begin your painting, grab a sketchbook and sketch out the key points you’d like to include or show in the painting.

gouache mistakes

You can also work out a tough subject beforehand, and this solves most of the problems you’re bound to encounter.

Planning beforehand just makes things way easier when you’re working with gouache.

Mistake #5: Not Experimenting With The Paint

When you’re making art, there should be no shackles holding you down from creating work that speaks to you and portrays your vision.

Gouache is a beautiful medium to explore different styles, techniques, and ideas and not taking advantage of this could hold you back from discovering your untapped potential.

Set aside time during the day or a few times a week to paint new studies in a totally different style from your current one, mix new unconventional colors, try a new brush technique, or embrace a different way of starting a painting.

One thing I’ve learned the most from this exercise is that you can really end up surprising yourself!

You’ll only really learn through trial and error.

See also: Can Anyone Learn To Paint? Here’s How I Did.

Mistake #6: Displaying or Storing Artwork In Direct Light

A big mistake for storing or displaying your fresh new gouache paintings is placing them in direct sunlight where the UV rays can degrade the pigments.

This can lead to your work fading and losing its luster and vibrancy. 

To counter this, use a varnish that works well with gouache or use a UV-resistant glass or frame. This should combat the problem.

Mistake #7: Not Storing Paint Correctly

Gouache can dry out fast, and would you like to know what’s the worst thing that could happen with gouache? Paint drying out inside the tube!

If you want to maintain the freshness of the gouache paint in tubes, it’s best to close the lids properly.

As an extra precaution, grab an airtight jar and store your gouache paint tubes in it. This will definitely keep your paint fresh and wet for years!

With other types of gouache (such as jelly gouache), you may encounter a situation where the gouache has dried out completely and cracked.

Now, it might shock you if you’ve never seen this before, but there’s a quick and easy remedy to this.

To reactive dried gouache, grab a spray bottle and spray the gouache with water until it gets wet again.

You can then go in with a clean toothpick or stick and give it a good mix.

You might have to do this every month to keep the paint clean and fresh.

beginner gouache mistakes

Closing Thoughts 

As you can see, these gouache mistakes may seem small and trivial, but they can have a great impact on the outcome of your artwork and painting experience.

Finding the right paint-to-water ratio, using a durable and stable painting surface, and investing in quality tubes of gouache paint are the best things you can do.

Gouache is a great medium and if you’ve been struggling with it lately, it will be a shame to give it up before you learn how to avoid these issues.

I hope you’ve found these ideas on what not to do with gouache helpful and enlightening.

If you’re having any specific issues or questions you’d like to know about gouache, feel free to leave them below.

Now it’s time to get back to painting!

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Painting With Gouache: Everything You Need To Know

How To Clean Paint Brushes (Acrylic, Oils, Watercolor) Like A Pro

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