Basic Breakdown


Basic Breakdown: Gouache



We wanted to highlight a medium that has been used for centuries and is classed as a close cousin of watercolours. This is obviously the opaque gouache. Its renowned opacity comes from the addition of an opaque white element being added to a watercolour, gum arabic mixture. Primarily used by designers, illustrators and industry professionals, this medium can be used to great effect in many ways. Good for large areas of block colour and interestingly good for dynamic landscapes, as its layering ability gives the artist room to create more depth in an image than perhaps with the transparent watercolours. Or at the very least to utilise the layering to produce unique effects. 

It is similar to watercolours though in the way it can be re-wet when dried and dries to a matt finish. The paint becomes infused with the paper and leaves a deep mark that can be painted upon when dry. As both mediums are water based they can be used in tandem to some unique effects. The transparent watercolour paint can be used over gouache to create new depth and a range of colours. Additionally clean up is done the same which saves a lot of time and effort on the artists part.  


Daler Rowney Gouache

Daler Rowney Gouache

Gouache typically contains larger particles of pigment than found in traditional watercolours and as such the ratio of pigment to binder (such as Gum Arabic) is far higher. Additionally, fillers may have been added to add body to the paint, the filler is typically a white substance such as chalk. The combination of larger pigment particles and the chalk body makes the paint far heavier than traditional watercolour paint, and gives the gouache greater reflective qualities and lowers the opacity. This does come with some downsides however as gouache paint typically experiences noticeable colour shift from when it is wet to dry. This can make it rather challenging to maintain certain colour mixes over multiple painting sessions.  

Gouache can be used on a variety of papers with watercolour paper being the most common. As it is essentially watercolour with an opaque element the watercolour paper can function in a similar manner, absorbing the wet media and often leaving a chalky finish. As well as typical watercolour paper gouache can be used on mixed media paper, heavy cartridge or even pastel paper if used without an excess of water. 


Arches Watercolour Paper


As it has an extremely efficient covering power with its opacity giving a rapid layering ability unmatched by any other painting medium. Its rapid drying time combined with the layering abilities means it is a perfect medium for use “En plein air”. With other mediums the time taken between layers can be hours, days or weeks, whereas with gouache a thin layer can be dry in minutes. This lends itself well to direct painting techniques and most pieces done in gouache can be done in one sitting. 


Click Here if you would like to see our Gouache range.



Image Credits:

Sandra Manchester