How to Paint with Gouache

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Gouache is a tricky medium to master. Today I’m sharing my gouache painting tips for beginners. Learn how to paint with gouache.

Get more tips for using gouache here.

how to paint with gouache

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.

I’ve included links to Blick where available because they often have better prices than Amazon. Plus, it’s so much fun to shop at Blick!

You might also like this comparison of gouache and watercolor paints or the difference between gouache and acrylic paint.

How to Paint with Gouache

Gouache is one of my favorite paints to paint with. It has the fluid qualities of watercolor, but the opacity of acrylic paint. What sets it apart is its lovely matte finish.

It’s easy to fall in love with gouache, but there are a few things to know first.

  • Gouache can be painted on colored papers since it’s more opaque than watercolors.
  • You can use it with watercolor paper, but it can be used on other surfaces, such as canvas, mixed media paper, and even cardstock.
gouache paint tubes

Supplies Needed for Painting with Gouache

Blick link for gouache

  1. Squeeze the tube onto a palette. You’ll need a little more paint than if it was watercolor paint.
  2. Get your brush wet and mix it with the paint.
  3. Test the consistency on scrap paper, adding water or paint until you reach the desired consistency.
  4. Your first layers of paint should be thin. Let them dry thoroughly before the next layer.
gouache paint mixed with different amounts of water

Gouache Painting Tips

  • Use less water than you think, especially if you’re used to watercolor paint. Your brush should be wet, but there shouldn’t be a puddle of water. You want the consistency of milk.
  • Don’t buy cheap paint. Nicer paint is easier to use. Read more about my favorite gouache paint.
  • Gouache is forgiving because it’s opaque. If you make a mistake, it’s easy to cover up with more paint. Just let it dry before adding the new layer.
  • You can paint from light to dark or dark to light. Light colors over dark colors may need more than one coat of paint or a thicker application.
  • If you’re going to paint in layers, the first layer should be very light so that the next layer doesn’t pick up the color under it. Since gouache is water-based, it’s easy to reactivate the color beneath it.
  • Gouache doesn’t bleed (unless it’s too wet), so you can paint next to wet areas without problems.
  • Gouache can be painted on top of watercolor. (I used white gouache to create stars on my galaxy painting.)
  • If your painting looks too flat, try adding layers to create highlights and shadows.
  • You will need tons of white gouache when mixing colors.
  • If your paint color is too transparent, add a bit of white gouache to make it more opaque.

Read this post with tips on mixing gouache colors!

demo on gouache layering
Top: L to R: Thicker paint on top will blend with the color under it (unless it’s dark like the red.) Light layers can be added without blending.
Bottom: Light gouache over black paint shows up. Watercolor over black paint doesn’t show through.

Gouache Paint FAQs

Why is gouache so expensive?

Gouache contains a lot of pigment to give it a nice vibrant, opaque quality.

Pigments cost more, so the paint will cost more. Inexpensive paint will not contain as much pigment and will not be as vibrant or opaque.

Looking for budget-friendly gouache? Check out my review on Arteza gouache.

What paper do you use for gouache?

You can use watercolor paper, mixed media paper, canvas, or canvas board. You can also experiment on thicker papers like cardstock, chipboard, and even heavier weight sketchbook paper.

Learn more about the best paper for gouache here.

How is gouache different than watercolor?

Watercolor is translucent and uses a lot more water. Gouache is opaque and uses less water. While gouache can be used in a translucent manner, it will never be as translucent as watercolor.

For a full breakdown, see my post on gouache vs watercolors.

gouache paint tubes

Can you put gouache in pans?

Yes, it’s possible to put gouache in pans for portability or convenience’s sake. Get more tips for creating your own gouache palette.

Squeeze the tube into each half pan and fill it halfway. Help the paint settle to the bottom by tapping it lightly. Then fill it to the top.

Not all gouaches reconstitute the same. You may find that you prefer fresh gouache out of the tube instead.

Be sure to use an empty pan set with a lid, not a mixing palette. An air-tight container is your best bet.

You might be interested in this review on Himi gouache.

Can gouache be reactivated?

Regular gouache can be reactivated with water. To minimize reactivation between layers, apply a thin layer first, and let it dry thoroughly before the second layer. Then apply a thicker layer on top in the next color.

I like to use eyedroppers to reactivate gouache, but spray bottles also work.

The alternative is to use acrylic gouache, which cannot be reactivated once dry.

Can I mix watercolor with gouache?

You can! They mix very well. It’s a fun way to make new colors or experiment with gouache without buying a whole set. Just mix watercolors with white gouache.

How long does gouache take to dry?

Unlike watercolor, which is notorious for taking forever to dry, gouache dries very quickly. It’s generally dry after 20 minutes, but of course, this depends on room temperature, humidity levels, and how much water you mixed with the gouache.

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tips for painting with gouache

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