What is Goauche?

First, let’s start with the pronunciation. It sounds like “gwash” and rhymes with squash.

Gouache is often described as opaque watercolor. While these two mediums have many similarities, gouache differs from watercolor in its quick dry-time and matte finish.

Janice Sung - Gouache on Strathmore 500 Series Ready Cut Watercolor, Cold Press

Goauche has a higher pigment content that is ground into larger particles than watercolor. This prevents it from granulating, causing opacity and a matte finish versus the translucent finish of watercolor. The bold, flat, poster-like finish makes it a versatile medium that is excellent for illustration, fine art and lettering.

Below is a side-by-side comparison of artwork completed by Minnie Small in gouache (left) and watercolor (right).

The application of watercolor and gouache are similar. If you’ve been using watercolor paint, aside from the gouache itself you probably already have all the right tools to get started.

Brushes that are typically used for watercolor will work well with gouache.

Watercolor and Mixed Media papers are best suited for gouache painting since they are manufactured to handle wet media applications. Sketch and Drawing papers are too lightweight and don’t have the proper sizing (additives). A heavier weight paper that is 140lb (300gsm) or higher is ideal to help prevent warping. Selecting a watercolor or mixed media paper with a hot press, cold press, rough or vellum surface comes down to personal preference.

You can mix different amounts of water with gouache as you are using it depending on how opaque you want the final look to be. It can also be reactivated with water once it’s dry, which can come in handy if you want to reuse paints that have dried on your pallet, or rework a section of your painting.

Artist Minnie Small created a helpful series of 3 short videos introducing gouache and demonstrating a number of tips and techniques to get started. Check them out here:

Video 1: Intro to Gouache

Video 2: General Gouache Techniques

Video 3: Gouache Time-Lapse Painting

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