Gouache Vs Acrylic: What’s the Difference?

Sharing is caring!

Gouache VS Acrylic paint. How are these paint different? If you’re new to painting, you’re probably wondering which paint you should use? Learn more about each paint type to see which paint is the best for you.

You might also be interested in more gouache tutorials.

gouache and acrylic paint tubes

This post contains affiliate links. By purchasing an item through an affiliate link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

When I describe gouache, I like to think of it as if watercolor paint and acrylic paint had a baby and combined their properties.

They have many similarities and many differences. If you’re wondering which paint to try, I would suggest trying both and seeing what you like.

Your opinions might change as you get better at painting. When I first started painting with gouache, I preferred acrylic paint because I was more familiar with it.

My opinion has changed with time and I now find that I prefer working with gouache.

So keep experimenting and finding what you like.

You might also be learning more about the differences between watercolor and gouache.

Gouache VS Acrylic

These comparisons are for traditional gouache and regular (heavy body) artist acrylic paints. There are of course other variations of gouache and acrylic paint, which I will discuss at the end of this post.

For reference, I mainly use Liquitex or Golden acrylic paints and Holbein gouache paints.

How Are Gouache and Acrylic Paint Similar?

Opaque Paint

Gouache and acrylic are similar in that they are both considered opaque paints. While some colors have some transparency, compared to watercolor they’re both opaque.

In fact, gouache is often considered to be opaque watercolor.

This means that you can paint lighter colors over darker colors and the paint shows up. (If you tried this with watercolor, the lighter color wouldn’t show up.)

black swatches of paint with lighter colors on top of them

Since gouache reactivates with water, you have to be careful not to reactivate the layer beneath it.

Lighten With White Paint

Both mediums are lightened with white paint. (In watercolor, you add water to lighten a color.)

I find that I go through more white paint for acrylic and gouache than any other color. However, with watercolors, I almost never use my white paint.

Waterbased Paints

Both mediums are water-based. They can be diluted with water and can be cleaned with water. This also means that they dry pretty fast.

diluting teal gouache with water

Can Be Used on a Variety of Materials

Acrylic and gouache can both be used on a variety of materials, while watercolors are generally only used on watercolor paint since it requires so much water.

Although both paints can be used on watercolor paper, they can both be used on a variety of other materials as well.

Mixed media paper is great for both paint types, but you can also use them on unconventional materials like wood.

How Are Gouache and Acrylic Different?

Gouache and acrylic paints have many important differences to keep in mind.


The main difference between gouache and acrylic paint is that gouache can be reactivated with water, but acrylic is permanent once it’s dry.

This means that you can reactivate dry gouache on a painting if you’re not careful.

On the plus side though, gouache can be put in a palette and dried to reuse. Just add water!

Once acrylic paint is dry, it’s garbage.


Gouache is made with pigment and Arabic gum binder (similar to watercolor paint.)

Acrylic paint is made with pigment and an acrylic polymer emulsion for the binder. This means that it dries to a plastic finish.

Finish: Matte VS Glossy

Gouache dries to a matte finish, whereas acrylic paint dries to a shiny finish. A matte finish can be easier to photograph and scan.

smooth matte gouache swatch and textured, shiny swatch of acrylic paint in teal


Acrylic paint tends to be a bit thicker and is often used to create texture on a painting. Visible brush strokes are often used in acrylic paintings.

close up of acrylic rose painting texture

Gouache tends to be thinner and usually results in a smoother texture without visible brush strokes. Thicker coats of gouache will crack.


As mentioned above, both paints can be used on a variety of surfaces.

For the most part, though, acrylic is mainly used on canvas or canvas paper.

While gouache can be used on canvas, it feels like you’re fighting the rough texture which leads to a less than fun painting experience.

Since acrylic paint dries to a permanent finish, it can also be used on materials like glass, rocks, and even fabric.

Gouache is mainly used on paper. My favorite is mixed media or watercolor paper. It’s also great in sketchbooks.

Size of Paint Tubes and Price

Acrylic paint is available in larger quantities because it’s a bit cheaper to make than gouache. Acrylic is often used to paint large canvases, so it makes sense to buy larger quantities of the paint.

gouache and acrylic paint tubes in teal

Gouache tends to be available in smaller tubes because it’s more expensive since it contains more pigment.

Gouache is mainly used for smaller paintings.

Quality of the Paint

I notice a much larger range in quality for gouache than acrylic. Cheap gouache is awful to use, whereas cheap acrylic paint still works pretty well.

This is probably due to how much pigment gouache needs to contain.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who disagree with me, but as a beginner, this is my observation.

Drying Time

Both paints dry pretty fast since they’re water-based. Drying time can vary depending on where you live.

Acrylic paint tends to dry a little faster since you use less water with the paint than with gouache.

Application Tools

Gouache is used with paintbrushes. Acrylic can also be used with paintbrushes, but it can also be used with palette knives.

I also find that I prefer stiff brushes with acrylic paint and soft brushes with gouache.

paintbrushes and palette knives

For mixing, I usually use a plastic or ceramic palette for gouache. Since it can be re-wet, it makes sense to use something that lasts a bit longer.

For mixing acrylic, I almost always use palette paper so that I can throw away the dried paint when I’m finished.

Can You Mix Acrylic Paint and Gouache?

Yes, it is possible to mix acrylic paint and gouache.

However, keep in mind that gouache is much more expensive than acrylic paint, so it might be cheaper to buy the color you need in acrylic paint or buy matte medium to add to your acrylic paint to make it matte.

Also, keep in mind that good-quality gouache contains more pigment, so you shouldn’t need as much when mixing colors.

Other Varieties of Gouache and Acrylic Paints

There are a few paint options that make these differences even more confusing because they combine the properties of gouache and acrylic paints.

Acrylic Gouache

tubes of acryla gouache

Acrylic gouache is like normal gouache, except that it can’t be reactivated and dries to a permanent finish.

This means that you can’t put it in a palette and must use it fresh every time. But it still has that lovely matte texture.

The most popular brand is Holbein Acryla Gouache and I must admit that this is my favorite gouache to work with. It’s so creamy and I love the color choices.

Liquitex is another popular brand, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Matte Acrylic Paint

matte acrylic paint bottles

Matte acrylic paint works just like acrylic paint, but it dries with a matte finish. This paint comes in small bottles, which I love. Very convenient.

swatches of matte acrylic paint

Some of the brands have a strong smell, so keep that in mind if that’s something you are sensitive to.

You can also get a matte medium to add to regular acrylic paint.

Vinyl Flash Paint

tubes of flashe paint

This is a new-to-me find. Flashe paint is a vinyl emulsion-based paint. This paint comes in tubes and bottles. It has a velvety matte finish when it dries.

swatches of flashe paint in pink and mint green

Painting with it feels like painting with Acryla gouache. I really like using it in a sketchbook.

I love all of the different paint types available. What’s your favorite?

You Might Also Like:

Pin for Later!

tubes of acrylic paint and gouache paint

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *