My Holbein Artist’s Gouache Review: I Put It To Test

Last Updated on March 20, 2024 by Masha Eretnova

Now that I’ve been using gouache for over a year, I wanted to try some professional-grade paint that offers vibrant colors, smooth consistency, and excellent lightfastness.

I’ve tested 3 different gouache brands, and Holbein Artist’s gouache has the best quality and value for money.

Holbein Artist's gouache
My set of Holbein Artist’s gouache

Holbein Gouache is known for its vibrant colors, smooth consistency, and excellent lightfastness.

I’ve been using HIMI, Turner, and Holbein gouache and I want to share what I like about Holbein.

This article contains affiliate links. It means no extra cost for you but a little commission (2-3%) for me to support my hobby and blog. Thank you!

Holbein artist’s gouache vs Holbein acrylic gouache Paint

The main difference between Holbein Artist’s Gouache and Holbein Acrylic Gouache is the binder used in each paint.

Both paints are water-based paints, yet:

  • Holbein Artist’s Gouache is traditional gouache, made with a gum Arabic binder, which gives it a smooth, matte, creamy texture and allows it to be rewetted and reworked even after it has dried.
  • Holbein Acrylic Gouache, on the other hand, is a mix between gouache and acrylic and is made with an acrylic polymer binder, which gives it a more fluid consistency and allows it to dry to a waterproof, matte-satin finish.
Holbein Gouache Review

Both paints are known for their incredible opacity.

Holbein Artist’s Gouache is highly opaque and can be used to create solid, flat areas of color.

At the same time, acrylic gouache is easier to layer and can be used straight from the tube without any need to thin it with water.

Overall, the choice between Holbein Artist’s Gouache and Holbein Acrylic Gouache will depend on the artist’s preferences and the specific needs of the project.

Holbein acrylic gouache will stick to paper, canvas, cloth, stone, wood, leather, plexiglass, and concrete and is more durable than gouache.

Holbein Artist’s Gouache is a more traditional medium that is ideal for those who prefer the texture and reworkable properties of a gum Arabic binder, while Holbein Acrylic Gouache is a more modern medium that is ideal for those who want a waterproof, matte finish and the ability to layer and blend colors.

My Honest Holbein Gouache Review

I’ve been hearing about Holbein a lot, and many artists recommend it across Facebook communities and Reddit.

While I was traveling through Japan (the best month-long trip!) I purchased a gouache set and acrylic gouache set to compare.

The brand itself calls the gouache paint “high-quality opaque watercolor paint”.

My package didn’t come with any additional materials, but some boxes will include color charts.

Best for beginners and professional artists, illustrators, designers, and gouache lovers.

Holbein Gouache Review

If you are not a reader, I also have a Youtube review:

Holbein Gouache Paints Composition

Holbein gouache paints are traditional gouache, made by combining pigments and gum Arabic, Ox gall.

Seasonal color sets (Irodori) also have Dextrin as a part of their binding agent along with gum Arabic.

Holbein artist's Gouache Review
Holbein gouache colors squeezed into the palette

Main preservatives used in Holbein gouache are Benzisothiazoline and Thiabendazole at very low, not dangerous amounts. The composition is confirmed to be non-toxic.

Some colors also contain Polyethylene glycol or Glycerin as a moisturizing additive.

Paints do not contain any whitening agents which could be a cheap way to make a more opaque look. Holbein doesn’t cut corners with quality.

Colors In Holbein Set

All Holbein colors are highly pigmented and made of the finest pigments that guarantee stable quality and coverage.

Holbein Gouache Review colors
The color swatch of my Holbein gouache set – 12 colors

Some colors are single-pigmented which is the highest quality standard in paint production.

The sets are available in 5 basic colors, 12, 18, 24, and 84 colors and sometimes also have seasonal palettes.

The total color chart range of Holbein gouache paints is 89 colors, including 7 metallic colors.

My set has 12 colors, all primary colors in warm and cool temperatures, and a few additional colors.

  • Carmine
  • Flame red
  • Permanent green light
  • Permanent green deep
  • Lemon yellow
  • Permanent yellow deep
  • Turquoise blue
  • Ultramarine deep
  • Violet
  • Burnt sienna
  • Permanent white
  • Ivory black

Sturdy Tubes

Holbein Gouache Review tubes
Holbein Gouache Review tubes

These are 15 ml (0.5 oz) tubes, very sturdy metal tubes with tight lids.

Tubes are filled to the right amount, so once you open them, there is no paint overflowing or stuck in the lid, which is great – no unnecessary waste of paint.

Each tube has information on the color name, the pigment used, non-toxic label, opacity, and lightfastness signs.

Mostly Semi-Opaque Colors

The paint is highly opaque and can be used on a variety of surfaces, including paper, board, and canvas.

Holbein gouache will not bleed or crack and layers stay opaque once dry.

Opacity labels for Holbein paints:

holbein gouache review opacity
How to read opacity labels on Holbein paint tubes
  • Carmine – semi-opaque
  • Flame red – semi-opaque
  • Permanent green light – semi-opaque
  • Permanent green deep – opaque
  • Lemon yellow – semi-transparent
  • Permanent yellow deep – semi-transparent
  • Turquoise blue – semi-opaque
  • Ultramarine deep – opaque
  • Violet – semi-opaque
  • Burnt sienna – opaque
  • Permanent white – semi-opaque
  • Ivory black – opaque

Most colors in the set are semi-opaque or opaque which means great coverage and layering in your painting.

I did my test as well with the paint and this is the real swatch.

I did the Opacity test for Holbein gouache

All colors are beautifully semi- or fully opaque except a few but I can see they are perfect for layering.

Finish and Coverage

Holbein gouache paint dry matte, to a rich soft finish and they do not change colors between wet and dry states.

They are also very fast-drying! In less than 5 min a thin layer will be dry on paper and the paint will start to harden on the palette.

But just a touch of water revives it, of course.

Holbein Gouache Review tubes
Painting I made with Holbein gouache

Holbein doesn’t dry lighter or darker, it stays true to the color.

Holbein gouache doesn’t milk out.

If diluted with water Holbein gouache dries darker and more opaque, without water streaks:

Holbein Gouache Review dry
Diluting black Holbein gouache with water to test performance

Holbein Gouache is Moderately Lightfast

Holbein Gouache Lightfastness
You can see the lightfastness label – 2 stars **

Gouache made by Holbein is quite resistant to fading unlike watercolour, yet not very resistant to scratching and needs a fixative.

Holbein adopted certain labeling for the permanency of colors:

  • **** Absolutely permanent colors
  • *** permanent colors
  • ** moderately durable
  • * fugitive
  • no star – not permanent

According to this classification, each tube has 0 to 4 stars.

The colors in my set have the following lightfastness:

  • Carmine – ** moderately durable
  • Flame red – ** moderately durable
  • Permanent green light – ** moderately durable
  • Permanent green deep – ** moderately durable
  • Lemon yellow – ** moderately durable
  • Permanent yellow deep – ** moderately durable
  • Turquoise blue – ** moderately durable
  • Ultramarine deep *** permanent color
  • Violet – not permanent
  • Burnt sienna **** Absolutely permanent color
  • Permanent white **** Absolutely permanent color
  • Ivory black **** Absolutely permanent color

Most colors are not very permanent so if you want to display your gouache art, use a fixative or matte/satin varnish to protect your painting.

Mixing color and blending

holbein gouache review mixing
My tests of mixing colors with Holbein gouache

Holbein gouache is great and easy to mix and it mixes without losing color brilliance or opacity.

I was mixing up some colors for the painting and swatching each new color – no muddy colors, stable coverage. Immense possibilities for new colors:

Holbein Gouache Review mixing
More mixing with Holbein – effortless and clean new colors

Blending and correcting the blend on paper is also easy and the results are very satisfying 🙂 I was painting sunset skies and here is how Holbein gouache blended:

holbein gouache blending
My mini painting with Holbein

My Verdict: Is Holbein gouache good?

Holbein Gouache Review
Holbein gouache finish

Yes, Holbein gouache is am amazing choice for artists and designers who are looking for high-quality paint with excellent opacity, pigment, professional quality, and matte smooth finish.

The paint has a smooth, creamy texture that is easy to work with, and the finish is matte and velvety.
Overall, Holbein Artist gouache is a top-quality paint that is highly regarded by professionals in the art community

I absolutely loved painting with Holbein gouache.

I previously used (and still like) Miya jelly gouache and was impressed with how they are smooth and easy to use, but Holbein seems to be even one step up!

You can mix new colors, blend, rewet, and correct mistakes – everything is very easy to do!

In fact, you can even mix this gouache with Holbein transparent watercolors, acrylic paint, or ink!

I followed this free tutorial and painted a pretty wild field landscape:

painting with gouache for beginners / Holbein Gouache Review
Final photo of the painting I did with Holbein Artist’s gouache (swatches, painting and palette)
holbein gouache

For best results use synthetic brushes, a large mixing palette, and water with Holbein Artist gouache.

A Note on Safety – Holbein is not for kids

Holbein Gouache Review tubes

Holbein Artist’s gouache is not intended for kids.

Although it has passed the test and conforms to non-toxic policies ASTM D-4236, it is still not safe to put on skin, swallow, or inhale.

It can be used for spraying though but only with a protective mask.

  • Violet contains formaldehyde in an amount safe to paint with but not safe to swallow or apply to the skin.
  • None of the paints in the 12 colors set contains cadmium (but still not enough to be considered toxic in any form for humans)
  • Turquoise Blue contains cobalt (but still not enough to be considered toxic in any form for humans).
  • but other colors in bigger sets may contain other elements – read the safety sheet.
  • Carmine, flame red, greens, yellows, ultramarine, black, white, and burnt sienna colors in the 12-color set do not contain any hazardous ingredients.

Holbein Artist gouache in non-flammable.


I have a set of 12 colors (enough for me) and I bought it in Japan for roughly 35 USD.

In general, Holbein paints are not cheap but for the quality and smaller sets, their price does make sense and you are getting the value for the dollar.

With bigger sets, it gets a bit too expensive and unreasonable. A 12-color set in my opinion is the perfect price/color number balance.

Holbein Artists Gouache Set of 12, 5ml tubes
  • Holbein Artists’ Gouache Set – Set of 12, 5 ml tubes

I checked prices on Amazon and Blick for you to get an idea:

Holbein SetsRoughly price
5 colorsaround $25
12 colors classic setaround $29 for 5 ml tubes, $47 for 15 ml tubes
12 colors seasonal colors setsaround $40-50
18 colorsaround $41
24 colorsaround $115
84 colorsaround $700 on Blick
Comparison table of prices on Holbein gouache

Is Holbein a Japanese brand?

Holbein is a Japanese brand of art supplies founded in 1900 in Japan.

And even today the paints are made in Japan undergoing strict quality and safety checks.

Is Holbein a Japanese brand

The company is named after Hans Holbein the Younger, a German Renaissance 16th-century artist who is known for his portraits and religious paintings.

Holbein as a brand is known for producing high-quality, professional-grade art supplies, including paints (acrylic paints and inks, gouache, acrylic gouache and watercolors) and colored pencils, brushes, mediums, that are used by artists and designers around the world.

The company has a reputation for innovation and quality, and its products are highly regarded in the art community.

To Sum Up

Yes, Holbein gouache is worth it for serious artists and designers who want to create high-quality, professional-grade works of art.

And even for beginners who want to start strong and have no struggles.

Holbein gouache is known for its vibrant colors, creamy texture, finest pigments, smooth consistency, and excellent lightfastness, which means that the colors will not fade over time.

While Holbein gouache is more expensive than some other brands of gouache, its quality and performance make it well worth it for you.

The paint is high quality and doesn’t use color enhancers which means that a little goes a long way, and its lightfastness means that the colors will remain vibrant and true over time.

I can assure you that Holbein Artist’s Gouache is a top-quality paint that is worth the investment for those who want to create high-quality works of art.

Have you tried Holbein gouache already? Which one is your favorite color? For me, it is Turquoise and the reds!

Last update on 2024-06-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Leave a Comment