Painting With Gouache: Everything You Need To Know

painting with gouache tips for beginners
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You might have come across this popular painting medium and curious to start painting with gouache after seeing so many fantastic artworks being produced.

I can’t tell you the number of times I got inspired by seeing an artwork done in gouache that made me want to begin immediately with this medium.

You might be the same. Before you rush ahead to grab your set of gouache paints, here’s a guide that may answer some of your questions and make you aware of things you might not have known about gouache.

This guide will hopefully show you the ropes around gouache and things you need to be aware of.

Before we begin, let’s answer the one main question that may be sitting on your mind.

1. Is Gouache Good For Beginners?

Every painting medium has its own challenges but that doesn’t necessarily mean its a bad thing.

Gouache is only challenging at first when you’re not accustomed to using this material and haven’t quite managed to nail down its techniques.

So, is it a good medium for beginners? Absolutely. Gouache is a fast-drying medium and has the ability to reactivate, this gives the beginner sufficient time to learn the skill of layering and leaves you with a beautiful matte finish without any streaks.

Since gouache is sort of a mix between watercolor and acrylics, it may be an easier medium to use and one of the best for beginner artists who are looking to learn and experiment.

For instance, with acrylics, once a layer is dried, it’s dried.

There’s no way to reactivate that layer however with gouache, there is a period where you can reactivate previous layers if you discover any mistakes or you would like to rework a particular area of the painting.

gouache tips for beginners

One of the challenging factors when working with watercolors is that you have to work from light to dark and save your darks since it’s very difficult to make something dark light again.

Using gouache, you can bring back the lights which are a huge benefit if you’re been working with watercolors for some time now.

Gouache is definitely a medium worth trying out but may require some time and practice to truly experience its greatness.

2. Brushes You Will Need When Painting With Gouache

So, you finally have the Gouache paint on hand but you’re probably left wondering, what kind of brushes do you need? It’s simple really.

Depending on the size of your painting, you will need the basic brushes (synthetic or natural hair) but synthetic watercolour brushes are preferred when using gouache.

gouache paint brushes, painting with gouache, gouache tips

It’s soft texture will help with easy applications and allow the paint to flow more smoothly.

Also, if you need to do finer details, it will make your life so much better if you have fine liner brushes! Take my word for it.

However, the usual brushes you will need are : round, flat, liner, filbert but you can make do with what you already have.

3. Recommended Gouache Brands To Try

  • Winsor & Newton *Artist Grade
  • Hime Jelly Gouache
  • Royal Talens
  • Reeves

4. How To Paint With Gouache

Here comes the fun part, learning to paint with Gouache. Even though this is thrilling and exciting, to a certain extent you may start to feel a bit nervous.

I mean, starting any new medium you’ve never handled before can be stressful but if you manage to get these few basics down, using gouache will be a walk in the park.

Get Familiar With This Medium

Painting with any new medium can be challenging at first. When receiving my gouache for the first time, it was strange because it’s neither acrylic nor watercolor yet still a mix between the two.

See also: 6 Main Differences Between Gouache and Watercolor Paint

The key to painting with gouache is getting the right consistency and you have to be careful with the amount of water you use when mixing the paint. The texture should not be too watery or too thick but a milk-like consistency is perfect to use.

It may take some time and practice for you to find what works for you but keep experimenting and eventually, you’ll find the right consistency.

Type of Paper To Use

With watercolors, you have to use a good textured paper that is strong enough for the water to hold and when painting with gouache, a watercolor paper of at least 300 gsm is the perfect surface for you to use especially if you plan to use light washes.

However, with gouache, you can easily paint on just about any surface as long as the paper is thick enough to hold the paint and won’t lead to tearing when applying thick layers of paint.

Gouache can also be used on wood as long as the wood surface is primed with gesso or acrylic paint.

Techniques To Try

Now that you have the basics down, it’s a good idea to know some familiar techniques when painting with gouache that will make your experience easier. Here’s a few easy tips for you to try:

Start with something small

If this is your first time painting with gouache, try painting something small like fruits or a basic round ball. This will help you be more familiar with how to layer colors to make it into a 3D shape with the use of colors.

Let layers fully dry in between

As we know, gouache has the ability to reactivate when water is introduced however, if you find it challenging to apply multiple layers, it’s best to allow the layers to fully dry before applying another application. This way, you won’t have to deal with muddy colors.

Use Color Charts And Swatches

Buying expensive painting supplies can make you feel really nervous to waste the paint but one thing I’ve noticed is that when mixing specific colors, it’s so easy to go wrong and you end up scrapping the paint.

painting with gouache, gouache tips for beginners

The best thing you can do as a beginner artist is to learn color mixing and have ready swatches of your paints available so you’re never clueless before starting.

With the more experience you have with color mixing theory, you’ll be able to save more paint. I highly recommend purchasing a cheap gouache set and learning to mix colors with that before diving into the more expensive artist grade paints.

Gouache Dries Differently

Unlike other paints, with gouache, the darks will dry lighter and the lights will dry dark. So, keep that in mind when painting your lights and shadows or large flat areas.

Also, during humid and hot weather, gouache dries almost instantly, so you will have to keep spraying with water to keep the paint wet.

5. Taking Care of Your Brushes

I know how tempting it is after finishing a painting and you feel like you’ve reached that peak and the last thing you want to do is clean all those brushes but in order to prolong the life of your brushes, it’s really important to take care of them

Just by doing these few things, you can easily make sure that even cheap brushes will last longer.

Here are a few tips you can follow when cleaning your brushes (whether that’s for gouache, acrylic or watercolor) that won’t ruin them:

  • Make sure to never leave your brushes sitting in water as this can loosen the glue that binds the bristles to the handle.
  • Use a brush cleaner or soap to wash off the excess paint as soon as you finish painting.
  • Run them back and forth lightly on your hand using the soap and rinse with water.
  • Use a paper towel to wipe off access water and allow them to dry horizontally.

6. Practice Continuously

From my own personal experience, the one thing I’ve noticed that made a huge difference in the way the current paintings turn out has a lot to do with how often I practice and paint.

Painting more often and trying new things can greatly help you to make drastic improvements because the more you do something, you can easily pick up on past mistakes and continue to make progress.

Also, learning from online sources and tutorials will give you a new insight into how specific things are done by other artists that will make you more knowledgable when you’re painting.

Learning these tips and tricks from others will only be beneficial to you and help you make further progress.

Keep practicing and don’t give up even when a painting doesn’t turn out the way you would have liked. You’re just one bad painting away from a great one!

Other Questions You May Have

Can I mix acrylic with gouache?

Yes, you can! However, do keep in mind that since you will be adding acrylic paints, this will now make is water resistant which means you cannot reactivate a previous layer and it dries instantly.

The texture of the paint and piece will be different as well however, there is acrylic gouache which is available that will give you what you’re looking for.

Should you varnish gouache?

It depends. It’s not typically recommended to varnish gouache since this can affect the matte finish as well as the overall colors of the painting. You could simply frame the painting to ensure it stays protected.

How long does gouache take to dry?

Wet gouache can take anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes to dry or even longer to full dry but it typically dries as soon as the water evaporates. If you’re in a humid country, it will dry much faster but you can use a hair dryer to speed up the process.

Why is my gouache streaky?

If your gouache looks streaky, this usually means the paint is too dry. Add a bit more water to get the right consistency but be aware that adding too much water could lead to it looking transparent like watercolors.

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