18 Gouache Painting Techniques You Should Try To Paint Like Pro

Have you been running out of ideas on how to paint with your gouache next? What if we bring your creativity to the next level? That sounds great, isn’t it? If you’re getting bored with your current painting style, don’t be scared to try something new. You are free to experiment, explore, and try other gouache painting techniques that will work best for you.

Before you can get the most out of your gouache paints, you must first learn their basics. Once you know how to use them, you can dry brushing, wet-on-dry, glazing, blending, and other gouache painting techniques.

Gouache is such a powerful and versatile medium that you should experiment with whether you are a professional or a beginner. If you want to learn more about how to paint creatively with gouache, keep reading because we’ll go over gouache painting techniques and some tips on improving them.

Gouache Painting Techniques

Even though gouache paint offers unlimited creative possibilities, learning some of the most common gouache painting techniques might be extremely helpful. Some of the best to try are as follows:

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing with gouache is a technique for adding texture to your painting like rustic motives, old wood or bricks.

This approach is great for creating multi-tonal effects, fine details, backgrounds, and highlights. It also adds dark and light tones to your gouache color. The dry brushing technique may be ideal for you if you’re into painting landscapes or natural sceneries.

Furthermore, this technique is simple and easy to do. The paintbrush you’ll use here is nearly dry yet still holds paint. To dry brush with gouache, simply dip your brush into a slightly damp paint and wipe it out with a paper towel or a palette. Apply the dry brush across your paper or canvas to create a light, feathery look on your painting.

Materials you need for dry brushing:

Artist: Sarah Burns Studio

Watercolor Imitation 

Gouache is frequently compared to watercolor in appearance. Like watercolor, you can rewet gouache with water. They both use the same gum Arabic binder, though gouache has more pigment. These properties allow gouache to resemble watercolor paint. The watercolor imitation technique is easy to do too!

You can not just mimic watercolor with gouache; you can even blend these two paints. To make the gouache look like watercolor, dilute it with water to lessen its opacity and make it transparent. Using gouache on wet paper might even give you the appearance of watercolor paint.

Watercolor imitation with gouache will look more opaque anyway! 🙂

Materials you need for watercolor imitation:

  • You can use watercolor paper or any other watercolor-suitable surface.
  • Using watercolor brushes is great for gouache too.
  • Find a gouache paint you’ll be comfortable working with.
  • Prepare a cup or bowl of water for mixing and cleanup purposes.

Yet, I find that the best approach is to use gouache and watercolor together in one painting with watercolor for transparent areas and clean layering and gouache for opaque areas or sketches. When layered with water gouache can get muddy which is bad if you are trying to imitate watercolor.

This is a beautiful example of using gouache as watercolor by Ellen Crimi-Trent:


Wet-on-dry

Wet-on-dry painting is simply the application of wet paint directly on top of a dry surface – and this is technically what we always do by default, now you know a fancy name for it 🙂

This technique is often used for fine detail work, full-canvas painting, highlighting, and layering.

Before applying another coat in this technique, ensure the first layer has dried completely. In this regard, make sure the paint you’re about to apply isn’t too wet, as it will only diffuse into the first coat.

If you want a result that provides crisp edges to shapes, the wet-on-dry painting will provide that effect. Controlling brush strokes for defining forms and details is possible with this method. With this technique, you might get less color bleeding and more defined hues.

Materials you need for the wet-on-dry technique:

  • Choose a high-quality gouache or watercolor paint.
  • A paintbrush that suits your painting needs is essential. Round brushes hold more water than flat ones.
  • Get watercolor paper, preferably stretched on a drawing board, to avoid distortion.
  • Prepare a rag or cloth to wipe your brush with.
  • Make a jar of clean water for mixing and cleaning.

2 Approaches to Wet-on-wet technique

Wet-on-wet is a watercolor technique that you can use for gouache, in which you add another color to a wet layer of paint.

Here, you’ll notice that the colors spread into one another, creating softer shapes and edges. This method effectively paints bodies of water, adds atmosphere to landscapes and horizons, and creates backgrounds.

Using this technique may result in blurred colors and indistinct lines. It is somehow tricky to use. However, you need not be worried because it is a wet-on-wet approach. You must be careful not to over-mix it because the colors can shift from soft and subtle to muddy.

Materials you need for the wet-on-wet technique:

  • Use heavyweight paper that weighs from 140-300 lb. It would be best if it’s textured paper.
  • A jar of clean water for mixing and blending purposes.
  • Choose a high-quality gouache or watercolor paint.
  • A paintbrush that suits your painting needs is essential.
  • You may also get a palette, depending on your choice.

Nice tutorial here:

Another understanding of wet-on-wet technique from acrylic painting is to use wet brush on wet paper, it will give you a more watercolor look. Janet Lia has a nice demonstration of this idea of wet on wet:


Mixed Media

The mixed media technique uses gouache and other art mediums such as watercolor pencils, pastels, charcoal, acrylic, markers, or ink in one painting.

These mediums enable you to enhance your artwork with new colors, textures, dimensions, effects, and details. Since gouache is so versatile, various mediums work well with it.

You’re using various materials here, so it’s not as easy as you can imagine. Before adding other mediums on top, make sure the gouache layer is entirely dried. Also it is better to have basic understanding of all mediums in play.

Materials you can use for the mixed media technique:

  • Heavyweight paper that can withstand multiple reworkings
  • Crayons and watercolor pencils
  • Soft pastels to be applied over still-wet watercolor or matte acrylic paint.
  • Waterproof pencils
  • Working with charcoal underneath, on top, and into the paint.
  • Oil sticks
  • You can use oil pastels on top of acrylics, watercolors, and oil paints.
  • Acrylic paint pens.

Kelsey Beckett created this stunning portrait with gouache and colored pencils:


Glazing

Glazing is an advanced gouache painting technique that allows you to create more transparent layered washes on your canvas with darker shadows. It also helps set the tone for more atmospheric artwork.

It is a very controversial gouache technique as you will see many painters ruining their paintings with glazing. It works better with watercolor but some artists successfully use glazing with gouache! It is all about water control!

To accomplish this, apply first shadow layer of gouache in more opaque way, then gradually blend water into your paint to thin it out. In this way, you can experiment with different levels of transparency.

The glazing technique works well with gouache because it dries quickly and can become transparent. After thinning the paint with water, you can apply it over top of previously painted and dried portions. This technique can enhance or even produce new colors.

Materials you need for the glazing technique:

  • Get thick and smooth watercolor paper; weighing at least 300gsm
  • A jar of clean water for mixing and blending purposes
  • Buy a paintbrush that suits your painting needs.
  • Choose a high-quality gouache or watercolor paint.
  • Don’t forget your palette too.

Realism (adding volume and shades) 

Realism is a painting technique where you use gouache to create volume by placing various color values in different parts of your painting. We use this method to depict where light is shining and where there is no light on specific things.

It may be a bit challenging for beginners, but I know you will learn it eventually along the way.

You may try to apply this technique with just one primary color and white paint. Remember that the more light hits a region of your object, the lighter the color should be. On the other hand, if no light is reflecting on your object, the color value will be darker.

Materials you need for the realism technique:

  • Choose a high-quality gouache or watercolor paint.
  • Get a piece of gouache or watercolor paper.
  • A paintbrush that suits your painting needs is essential.
  • Get a painting palette for mixing purposes.
  • Prepare a rag or cloth to wipe your brush with.
  • Get a jar of clean water for easy cleanup.

Sketching with paint instead of a pencil

It is more of a tip than a technique, but professional artists often use a pointed brush and paint to sketch the future painting on the ground (underpainting).

Why? Pencil lines and marks may be visible through transparent colors or the texture of such marks can still be visible or palpable on the finished painting.

More gouache painting tips are here: 23 Top Gouache Painting Tips & Secrets From Pros


Blending (gradient)

Gouache has a thick and creamy consistency and it works great with water that makes it highly blendable. We need blending for painting skies, backgrounds, more realistic objects, skin, shadows, and many other things.

When working with fine color gradients on a palette or canvas, you can achieve a wide range of shades by just scooping up a tiny bit of one color and combining it with another.

To do this technique, begin with a single color stripe and blend in different colors to create your own gradient swatch. Gradually blend a little of each color into the other until they meet. Using gradient takes some practice, but I’m confident you’ll get it soon. Just keep in mind that the goal is to produce an ombre effect on your artwork.

Materials you need for the blending technique:

  • Bring a painting palette with you.
  • Prepare a jar of clean water for easy mixing and cleanup.
  • Get a heavyweight gouache/watercolor paper.
  • Grab your favorite gouache paints, including white color.
  • Get a paintbrush, natural or synthetic, whichever you’re comfortable using.

As gouache or acrylic gouache are close to acrylics in some way, you can try one of these 11 Ways on How to Blend Paint Smoothly.


Blooming (abstract)

Blooming is a primarily watercolor painting technique that gives little inconsistent and abstract color splotches. It is where the brush is loaded with water and another color that you’ll blot onto the paper, creating small puddles of vibrant color that spread throughout the paper.

If you’re a beginner, you need to be extra careful in painting using blooming but I must say it is super fun!

To apply this technique:

  1. Moisten the part of the paper where you want the bloom to appear.
  2. Simply tap the paintbrush tip to the wet paper area while it is still wet, and watch it spread and bleed.
  3. Try the blooming technique if you want to make a wonderful foundation to paint some flowers, add variation to a landscape, or even make some spotted animals.

Materials you need for the blooming technique:

  • Get a thick and smooth gouache/watercolor paper; weighing at least 300gsm.
  • Choose a high-quality gouache or watercolor paint.
  • Get a jar of clean water for mixing and blending purposes.
  • Buy a paintbrush that suits your painting projects.
  • Ready your palette too.

Staining

Staining is a gouache painting technique in which you cover an area with a layer of paint that will act as the foundation for the rest of your painting. This technique is used to apply a layer of paint to a wide portion of a painting surface. What’s good about this is that it’s easy to do, even for beginners.

To begin staining, combine your gouache paints with water to make a thin watercolor-like consistency. Then, apply the paint evenly across your paper. This stained section will be the base for the rest of the piece. It works well for producing broad fields, high mountain ranges, and dramatic skies.

It works as underpainting as well.

Materials you need for the staining technique:

  • Prepare medium to heavyweight gouache paper; up to 300 gsm.
  • Get a cup of clean water for easy cleanup.
  • Get a paintbrush that you’re comfortable using.
  • Prepare your palette, too, in case you’ll need it.
  • Prepare a rag or cloth to wipe your brush with.

Master the ground

If for oil painting we do underpainting, for gouache it is called ground. The base, the background for our future painting.

Gouache is an opaque medium and it can be easily reactivated with water even if it already on the canvas. So for the ground you don’t need to do it very dense and aim to cover the canvas very well. A thin wash will be ok. It will dry faster as well.

For your ground you can pick a neutral color or a contrasting one to make your object pop. It is especially recommended for still life painting. Choose the complementary color from the color wheel as the ground, ex, you paint sunflower and it is yellow or orange, so for the ground choose purple or blue.


Paint Application Methods

Hajra Meeks pointed at least 3 ways on how you can apply gouache colors:

  • starting with a mid tone of your object and then adding lighter and darker accents.
  • tiling means you are making sort of puzzles with different shades within your painted are without applying one single color across the whole surface.
  • grisaille method requires you to first layer a value underpainting with darkest and lightest accents. Then you are applying your actual color of the subject you are painting.

Reworking Dry Areas

One of the best qualities of gouache is its capacity to be reactivated and reworked after drying. The reworking technique allows you to return to a previously dried area and begin working with it with a brush dipped in water.

You can soften an edge, blend it, or remove color. To experiment, paint a solid rectangular area and let it dry. Then, using a wet paintbrush, paint along the edges of the shape. It softens back into a liquid, allowing you to blur the edges.

Materials you need for the reworking technique:

  • You can use pointed round brushes, fan brushes, or flat brushes, whichever you prefer.
  • Prepare a paper towel or a rag where you can wipe off the paint.
  • Find a gouache paint you’ll be comfortable working with.
  • Prepare a cup or bowl of water for mixing and cleanup purposes.

Painting on Colored Surfaces

If you’ve been wondering whether you can paint with gouache on surfaces other than white, the good news is that you definitely can! Given the opacity that gouache provides, you are not limited to using plain white watercolor paper because gouache also looks great on colored surfaces.

In this technique, you can use various colored surfaces, such as colored paper. Since gouache has an opaque finish, it will really show up well on this paper. You can experiment with bright paint colors to see how the mood changes and how interesting it is to paint on different paper colors.

Materials you need for this technique:

  • Colored paper as the medium
  • Bright gouache paint colors
  • A paintbrush of your choice
  • A rag or cloth to wipe your brush with
  • A jar of clean water for easy cleanup

Improvising

Painting with gouache truly opens up a wide range of possibilities. If you can use surfaces other than white, you can also paint with gouache with tools other than a paintbrush. You only need to be creative to create many unique textures using gouache.

If you want to play around and try something new, you can use feathers, crumpled paper, rags, stamps, or whatever you think will produce a uniquely amazing result. You can even use your finger to create a fingerprint effect on your painting. Doesn’t it sound cool?

Materials you need for this technique:

  • Various things of your choice; ex. paper towels, aluminum foil, feathers, twigs, cutlery
  • A painting palette where you can lay down the gouache
  • A high-quality gouache or watercolor paint
  • Gouache or watercolor paper
  • Prepare a rag or cloth for easy cleanup

How do I improve my gouache painting techniques?

Now that we’ve already learned about the different techniques you can do with gouache, let’s look at how to enhance your gouache painting skills. Here are some of the best supplies to use and tips to follow to get the results you want:

  • Always keep your brush clean every after you paint – To avoid having muddy colors at the end of your painting session, thoroughly clean your brushes as you go between colors.

In terms of the best brush to use, watercolor brushes work well with gouache too. I recommend using Princeton Brush Set for the best results. It works well with acrylic, oil, watercolor, and gouache paint.

  • Ensure that you’re using the right type of surface – When it comes to working with gouache, there are a few different surfaces to choose from. Whatever works well with watercolor can also work well with gouache. 

That is why watercolor paper is the perfect choice for gouache painting. This Arteza Watercolor Sketchbook is one of the recommended watercolor papers you can use.

  • Don’t allow your gouache to dry on the palette – Check on your palette while painting to ensure that your gouache isn’t drying out. If the gouache is drying, lightly spray the paint with water to moisten it.

Though not necessary, having a palette to mix your paints on is always recommended to create a wide range of colors. A ceramic palette is one of the best types of palettes to use. This palette includes a lot of color mixing space and is also quite durable.

  • Choose a gouache paint that you are comfortable working with – There are many different gouache paints on the market. If you’re a beginner and haven’t found the perfect one for you, you might start by buying a few primary colors.

However, if you want to experiment with other gouache paints, I recommend the HIMI Gouache Paint Set. It comes in 24 vibrant colors made of high-quality pigments and a palette. They’re handy too!

  • Watch other gouache painters, join challenges, find more gouache painting tips and practice practice practice! NO amount of theory will replace a good painting session and experimenting. Don’t know what to paint? Make a list of ideas and challenge yourself to paint every day. You will see enormous progress within one month.

FAQ

What gouache technique is easy?

There are actually a lot of easy gouache techniques. However, if there is one technique that even beginners can effortlessly do, that will be Dry Brushing. Dry brushing is just like working wet-on-dry. This technique adds texture to the painting, giving it a ragged appearance.

How do I get good gouache consistency?

You’ve got a good gouache consistency if your paint feels “like cream that easily flows from the brush.” It’s like a double cream mixture that slowly drips from your brush tip. It should not be too thick because thick gouache is more likely to crack once dried.

Summary

Painting has never been boring, especially when so many different techniques exist. Now that you’ve learned multiple ways how to play with gouache, I hope that you got motivated to get started. Painting with gouache is a lot of fun, particularly when you have the best materials with you.

As you continue exploring gouache painting, may this article guide you in choosing the best gouache technique that will work best for you. Just remember to enjoy what you’re doing because it will reflect on the outcome of your artwork. Happy painting!