23 Top Gouache Painting Tips & Secrets From Pros

In gouache painting, there is always room for improvement, and an artist should always be open to learning, especially when the gouache painting tips come from their fellow artists that have experienced quite a lot.

Top tips in painting with gouache include practicing daily, opting to use ceramic palette, being mindful about thick layers to avoid cracking, using synthetic brushes, and learning the basic of color matching.

Grab your brushes and paint these tips on your artistic mind so you may apply them to your next Gouache Painting Project.

My 23 Gouache Painting Tips and Secrets for Beginners

Being a beginner with Gouache, learning things from other people who also do what you love is something we all treasure, mainly because it improves our skills.

That being said, we have prepared twenty+three ultimate tips and secrets that a beginner in painting will need in starting their journey with Gouache Paint.

Let us sum them up for you:

  • Getting a smooth finish with Gouache
  • How to Mix Gouache
  • Learning different techniques
  • Trying different painting surface
  • Bigger Brushes Bring Efficiency
  • Do Not Overdo Your Work
  • Practicing Daily Leads to Mastery
  • Ceramic Palettes are Worth It
  • Do Not Opt for Cheap Brushes
  • Clean Your Paintbrush When Switching to Different Color
  • Check on Your Palette to Ensure That Your Gouache is Not Drying Out
  • Thick Layers of Dried Gouache May Cause Cracking and Peeling
  • Get Comfortable with Gouache First
  • Gather All of Your Gouache Paints and Make Color Swatches
  • Start Painting on a Small Scale
  • Fresh Paints Are Always a Good Idea
  • Ensure that the Base Layer is Dry Enough Before Starting Working with Layers
  • Gouache Paint is Different From Watercolor
  • Synthetic Brushes Can Be Good For Use Too
  • Enjoy and Trust The Process
  • Always Varnish and Coat Your Painting
  • Learn the Basics of Color Matching
  • Build a Habit of Cleaning Your Brushes Regularly

To know more about them, keep reading more below:

1. How do I get a smooth finish with Gouache?

After setting up the workplace, mixing your Gouache Paint is the next step in starting to prepare for your work. At the same time, it requires experience to master the consistency you want to achieve.

To achieve a smooth finish of Gouache, you must know paints well and how they come off as they are because overmixing them may create a watery finish that affects the opacity of your Gouache on the surface.

After mixing, make sure that your Gouache has a creamy consistency that drops off slowly from your brush tip, and when it’s sticking to your brush, you’ll know it’s too thick.

If you’re painting over a rough surface like wood or raw canvas, it is better to prime it with gesso. Gesso helps even the surface and get smoother coverage.

2. How to Mix Gouache

Though various factors can affect your Gouache’s consistency, mixing is still a big chunk in how its consistency would end.

As mentioned above, mixing Gouache takes a lot of practice to develop a certain level of mastery to your preferred consistency. However, for you to learn about it, let us give you some general tips that are useful in mixing Gouache:

Thick Consistency

Gouache Paint is known for its opaque and solid colors, and because they are made that way, you may not realize that it is too thick immediately.

Now, to recognize that your paint is too thick for consistency, scoop an ample amount using your brush, and if the paint sticks to your brush and hard to spread around, you will need to dilute it a little with water.

Thin Consistency

Since Gouache Paint is water-based, overdiluting it with water may result in a thin consistency. However, if it’s hard for you to recognize a thin consistency, there’s a simple technique.

While mixing your Gouache, if you notice that the surface of our mixing palette is visible, it means you have over diluted it with water, creating a transparent finish.

To mix different colors with gouache you will follow the same rules as for any other medium (acrylic or watercolor). Primary colors like red, blue and yellow will create secondary colors when mixed, and so on.

In most gouache sets though you will have all needed colors and you may only have to make them lighter (with titanium white) or darker (black, blue or brown depending on the colors)

3. Learning Different 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 is a technique for adding texture to your painting. 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.

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!

Wet-on-dry

Wet-on-dry painting is simply the application of wet paint directly on top of a dry surface. 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.

These three examples are just one of the many techniques you can do with Gouache.

4. Trying different painting surface

Many artists prefer using Gouache on Watercolor paper; since Gouache is a water media, it will be needing a surface that is less susceptible to warping due to absorbing too much water.

However, Gouache is flexible to use on any painting surface, which is why many artists fall in love with this paint medium. However, painting Gouache on glossy or oily surfaces is not suggested because they repel paints like Gouache. 

You may use Gouache on:

  • Canvas,
  • Cardboard, 
  • Paper, 
  • Wood, 
  • Illustration board, and
  • Sketchbook.

You won’t be experiencing any problems with drying, as it dries extremely fast, which is why you do not have to wait for long until you can apply layers.

5. Bigger Brushes Bring Efficiency

There is nothing wrong with using small brushes, mainly because beginners commonly use them. However, as an artist, efficiency is essential, so it is better not to use small brushes as they take so much time.

Do not be afraid to use big brushes, especially when working on a big project. Though they may seem intimidating initially, you will have to get the gist of using them to overcome being daunted by them.

Of course, you will still need those small brushes, but those are only used for detailing. So the next time you make a Gouache Painting project, it would not hurt to leave your comfort zone. You may even use a larger paintbrush for your artwork because it is effective.

6. Do Not Overdo Your Work

Many artists have suggested that whatever you paint, always put your heart into it. And truly, your work will mirror your heart as you also channel your creativity through expressing it into art.

Of course, as an artist, you may always become a perfectionist, and it may seem that your work won’t finish as you always retouch it. If this is one of your frustrations as a newbie painter, we have a tip for you.

You may end your frustration by leaving the areas of the artwork you already like and only work on the things that need a little finish, and it would help if you’re painting with a purpose, which is to express yourself.

7. Practicing Daily Leads to Mastery

As an artist, it is important to improve your skills daily, as this will help you unconsciously become better than ever.

To do so, you may allot a specific time of the day to draw, meditate, and introspect about the area of skills that you still need to improve. Utilize this time as it is sufficient time to explore your art style and techniques and expand your artistic horizons.

You may also read books, blogs, and other reference materials that could help you improve more as an artist. Most importantly, it would be best to do this with discipline and eventually notice how you have changed drastically.

8. Ceramic Palettes are Worth It

A Ceramic-paint palette enhances the consistency of your Gouache paint thanks to its coating, as you won’t see water beads on it. Additionally, porcelain does not make your paint’s pigments stick together, creating a beautiful consistency and mix of vibrant Gouache Paint.

Though Ceramic Palettes are quite costly, you are guaranteed that what you pay is worth it, unlike buying cheap palettes that indirectly affect the consistency of your paint.

9. Do Not Opt for Cheap Brushes

Opting to buy cheap materials will only cost you more, as they are easy to break and damage and do not help finish your paint beautifully because the brush hairs come off quickly, making an unpleasant finish on your painting.

Like opting for a ceramic palette instead of a cheap plastic palette, what you pay for is worth it with high-quality painting brushes. It would not always hurt to choose quality with your materials, such as brushes and palette, because surely, you will not regret it in the long run.

10. Clean Your Paintbrush When Switching to Different Color

In painting with water media such as watercolor, poster paint, acrylic, and Gouache, you must clean your brush in every transition since the color of the paint stays with your brush.

To ensure that your painting will not end up looking dirty and messy and not mixing one color with another, here’s what you can do:

  • Dip your paintbrush with water in a bowl.
  • Pat the hairs on your paintbrush dry by using a towel. Remember to do this process gently so that you won’t be damaging the hairs on your paintbrush.
  • Repeat these steps every time you change Gouache Paints.

Cleaning your brush in between will not only result in a neat-looking artwork but also prevent paint from accumulating in your paintbrush, reducing the risk of damaging it.

Read also: How to Clean Paint Brushes [The Ultimate Cleaning Guide]

11. Check on Your Palette to Ensure That Your Gouache is Not Drying Out

Gouache is known to be a fast-dry art medium, and when they say this, it does not only dry quickly on the art surface but also in your mixing palettes.

Keeping an eye on your palette may take time instead of allotting it to painting, but do not worry because there is an easy hack, so you won’t be stressed about it all the time.

If you notice that your Gouache is all dried up, you can have a spray bottle beside you and mist the paint on your palette to re-activate it.

12. Thick Layers of Dried Gouache May Cause Cracking and Peeling

In painting with Gouache, a painter must always be mindful of layering because if Gouache is applied too thick, it tends to peel and crack once dry.

To avoid the instance of cracking and peeling, it is important to apply base layers first and ensure that the base layer you’re applying is thin. Do not worry because you can apply a second layer afterward.

13. Get Comfortable with Gouache First

In working with any art medium, you must get comfortable with them at first because painting entails resources of time, effort, and cost. Without due practice, you may waste these precious resources.

Allow yourself time to practice with Gouache a lot to get comfortable with it as your art medium.

Once you get comfortable with Gouache, exploring it with different techniques and other surfaces will be easier, and you could also make a living out of it. 

14. Gather All of Your Gouache Paints and Make Color Swatches

As a painter, one of the most exciting parts is restocking art materials, as it serves as a happy pill to get your materials complete once again. However, when your paints have piled up, you may get overwhelmed by the number of paints you have to deal with.

To avoid being confused by the Gouache Paints you own and to determine which one is the most suitable for your work, follow the steps below:

  • Gather your Gouache Paints.
  • Sort them according to the brand since the consistency and formulation differ from one brand to another.
  • Reuse an old notebook, and start swatching the paints. Be mindful of putting a label like Color Code – Brand. This way, you will know what to use for your next painting project.
  • You may try swatching paints when diluted with water, when it’s straight from the tube, and when the paint is mixed with white so that you can see how to work with that particular paint according to the demand of your painting.

Swatches may or may not produce the most accurate result because when they dry, they may appear lighter or darker depending on different factors. Still, they can help you determine which Gouache Paint is suitable for use in a particular situation.

15. Start Painting on a Small Scale

As a newbie in painting, it is understandable that you are still figuring out your style, techniques, and preferences about the work you are doing, and beginning to paint on a small scale can help you get to big things.

Starting to paint on small-scale canvases can help you learn about each palette you have without entailing a lot of resources such as cost, time, and effort.

The small-scale painting will only require you to have a few shades by your side instead of your whole Gouache paint collection so that you won’t get overwhelmed but appreciate and enjoy painting your artwork.

16. Fresh Paints Are Always a Good Idea

As mentioned above, Gouache dries quickly, and when they do while you’re in the middle of the painting, you may still reactivate it by giving it a little mist. In addition, you may even re-activate a completely dried-out Gouache paint with a glycerin and water mixture. 

However, professional artists suggest working fresh out of the tube Gouache Paint on your first artwork and paintings. Getting the ideal consistency can be tricky and would take time.

When you use fresh paint, you will already know its consistency. But once you master the re-activated Gouache Paints, it will be easier for you to work with re-hydrated Gouache paints.

17. Ensure that the Base Layer is Dry Enough Before Starting Working with Layers

Working with any water media requires waiting for the base layer to dry up completely before applying the second layer. One good thing about Gouache is that it dries quickly.

However, Gouache also reacts with water quickly, as it gets re-activated instantly when contacted with water, resulting in bleeding of colors to your surface.

To prevent a messy painting, pro painters suggest using an acrylic binder so you may prevent the base layer from absorbing the second layer. However, the downside is that applying acrylic binder may lessen the matte finish of your painting.

18. Gouache Paint is Different From Watercolor

Artists often compare Gouache and watercolor, and beginners are often confused about interchanging them. So the tendency is that they treat Gouache as how they treat a watercolor.

The distinction between Gouache and Watercolor is the opaqueness of Gouache, so it takes experience to get the right consistency and achieve a matte finish. Remember the following consistency tips:

  • Diluting Gouache with too much water will create a watery consistency, making it look like watercolor.
  •  Too little diluted water may cause the paint surface to crack after it has dried.
  • Gouache’s ideal and perfect consistency is its cream-like texture; you will know you have achieved this consistency when you have scooped your brush and the paint drips off your paintbrush perfectly, not too fast and slow.

That is why mastery of the paint’s consistency is crucial and should be cream-like consistency that easily drips off from your paintbrush. 

19. Synthetic Brushes Can Be Good For Use Too

While artists have different preferences regarding their paint brushes, some pro painters have an uncommon opinion that not everybody will agree with. Synthetic brushes can sometimes be better than natural brushes.

Synthetic brushes do not always mean cheap brushes, though. In choosing synthetic brushes, you may bend the hair to see how the bristles respond when bent.

Additionally, the ability of synthetic paint brushes to hold water is less than that of natural hair brushes. With a synthetic brush, you may control the amount of water in your painting to avoid being messy.

20. Enjoy and Trust The Process

Painting with any water media will require extra patience compared to painting with non-water media such as oil pastels, as Gouache needs time to quick before applying another layer.

To paint efficiently using Gouache, you may follow the process of painting with Gouache:

  • In painting the base layer, you may want to start tracing blocks of color before filling them with paint to create boundaries so you may paint effortlessly.
  • It would be helpful to take time with your application for the second and subsequent layers because the base layer will still have to blend with subsequent layers. 
  • In working with layers, it is also important to work from light to dark colors, so you can more easily paint dark paint over light ones instead of vice versa because it would be difficult to paint light over dark. After all, Gouache is highly opaque.
  • Applying the same principle above with shapes, pro painters also say that it’s best to start by painting the bigger shapes and then doing smaller shapes on top, which allows the bottom layers of color and design to show through still. 

21. Always Varnish and Coat Your Painting

Painters understand the significance of coating your Gouache painting, whether halfway done or finished, because even a water droplet can destroy your Gouache Painting.

There are various ways to seal your painting, and these are as follows:

  • Watercolor varnish: If you keep the artwork for a personal collection, you could use this technique. You may refer to this article about varnishing a gouache painting.
  • Isolation Coat: If you sell your Gouache Paintings, then a more serious way of sealing is needed, and you must use an acid-free layer of varnish to ensure a solid protective barrier.

To top off the varnishing of your Gouache Painting, placing it in a glass frame is highly suggested, as it serves a double purpose of protecting your paint and making it more eye-pleasing for display.

Read also: Best Isolation Coat for Acrylic Painting: Is It Necessary?

22. Learn the Basics of Color Matching

As a beginner in painting, learning the basics of the color wheel is sometimes overlooked due to the overwhelming information you have to learn about painting with Gouache.

However, it’s always best to try mixing colors with the basic colors red, blue, yellow, white, and black. Doing so will help familiarize you with colors. 

Always be mindful of the color wheel to ensure that your piece’s colors are complementary. Lastly, do not be afraid to use bold colors, as this emphasizes your painting. 

23. Build a Habit of Cleaning Your Brushes Regularly

When you use your brush frequently, the tendency is that the debris of Gouache paint will accumulate and eventually damage the bristles of your paintbrush when neglected.

To avoid this, do not allow the Gouache paint to dry on the brush for a long time before cleaning it, so it is best to clean your paint brush after every use.

To clean your brush, we have listed an effective method to clean your paint brushes:

  • Gather your brushes that need cleaning.
  • Prepare lukewarm water and mild dish soap.
  • Wet the debris of paint in your brushes using lukewarm water.
  • To remove the slimy feel in your brush, the paint has left off your brush, apply a mild dish soap and wash it well until the debris is gone.
  • Rinse the brush thoroughly.
  • Pat your brush/es with paper towels and let them air dry on their own, and do not directly dry them in the Sun as it may damage your brush.

How do I Get Better at Gouache Painting?

In anything we do, regardless of what it is, improvement takes a lot of courage, discipline, and hard work. The same applies to painting with Gouache, as nothing comes easily.

As a beginner, you may be overwhelmed with many things you have yet to learn, and now you have questions about how to get better at Gouache Painting.

Learning is a Personal Responsibility

Many artists are self-thought, which is why it is important to learn about the basic elements of art, such as tones, edges, movement and rhythm, and color, to continually improve and master your craft.

Remember that learning is always your accountability, and do not deprive yourself of learning deeply about your craft, as this is one of the secrets that shape a good artist.

Start with Cultivating Your Drawing Skills to Master Painting Skills

Many beginners often get overwhelmed with painting because there is a misconception that painting is stressful, challenging, and only for those with gifted hands.

However, it is important to perceive painting as an expression rather than work, as this can bring out the best in you, especially in your creativity. Improving your drawing skills leads to mastery of your painting skills.

Suppose you create a daily habit of practicing drawing; this will drastically improve how you do your paintings, specifically with Gouache. Draw anything that inspires you, seek it for a mentor, and socialize with fellow artists. 

Be Observant With Your Surroundings

Artists are gifted to observe things profoundly and meaningfully; that is why they can express themselves through their work in the most earnest way possible.

One way to improve your Gouache Painting skills is to determine your way of appreciating the beauty around you. Once you get the gist, you can transform the mundane into something beautiful, using elements such as colors, shadows, and shapes.

Always see yourself as being profound, as this will help you explore yourself and how you will creatively express it on your canvas because the only limit there is in art is your imagination.

Remain Committed to Practice

Learning does not come instantly. Investing your resources in training and practice is worth it, especially in painting. As for painting, watching someone paint is not always enough because unless you can do it yourself, you will be able to master it.

Always apply the art lessons you have learned according to your art style as soon as possible so you won’t forget them. Only then will you see the desired results. Always remember to trust the process because all of it will be worth it.

Allotting at least 30 minutes of your time daily can make you go places. Afterward, mastery will follow because of your commitment to learning and self-growth as a painter because you chose not to remain stagnant but to improve continuously.

Wrapping Up

Painting with Gouache can be a little intimidating, especially for those who are just beginning to try them out or are just getting started with their painting journey. Things like these can get intimidating until you try them and see that it isn’t that bad.

In this article, we have imparted 20+ tips that you may utilize in practicing Gouache as your next medium.

With this handful of tips, we hope you have gained a fair knowledge about painting with Gouache, even though you are still a beginner.