Painting with Gouache for Beginners: 7-Step Ultimate Guide

It looks like someone’s trying to discover different art materials and ways to expand their techniques in paintings. Since painting requires many skills, we understand you’re here to expand your horizons. That’s why we provide this guide on painting with gouache for beginners.

Gouache can be a good starting point for beginners because it resembles watercolor and acrylic paint. Still, Gouache comes handier as it is the most opaque compared to watercolor and acrylic paint, and it is easier to blend as well.

It is understandable when an artist is entirely clueless about the different materials, styles, and techniques there are to discover about painting. It can get overwhelming sometimes but do not worry because we are here to help you through it.  

Well, now that you’re here to learn about Gouache paint, let us help you know more about them. 

Painting with Gouache for Beginners
Photo by Marina Yalanska on Unsplash

Is Gouache good for beginners?

Gouache is perfect for beginners: it’s easy to mix, blend, wash off if made a mistake. It is safer than acrylics and colors are opaque and vivid. Perfect for illustrations, sketches and landscapes.

You can say that an art medium is suitable for beginners when they are used widely by non-artists when making artwork for compliance in their school projects.

Now, when non-artists are asked about the Gouache paints, they usually do not ring a bell, and this happens for a reason because newbie painters do not typically use Gouache paints.

Because Gouache paint almost resembles popular art mediums such as watercolor and acrylic paint, even those who are beginner in using Gouache can find it fun to use as using it does not require much skills. 

Yet some really good gouache set are very expensive and can be less accessbile for beginners.

It is also easier to progress with gouache and upskill yourself using some tips expert artists came up with.


What is Gouache Paint?

For beginners, Gouache paint may sound like an unfamiliar name, but do not worry because its composition is almost the same as watercolor and acrylic paint because they are all formulated to be water-based.

Gouache paint is a water-based paint made of pigment, gum Arabic and sometimes a bit of chalk for extra opacity.

What is Gouache Paint
From my Reeves gouache review

Gouache paints are as pigmented than watercolor and acrylic paint because water and gum arabic serve as their binding agent and primary mechanism to create an opaque finish. But safer to use as they contain less chemicals than acrylics.

When explored, Gouache paint can be one of the handiest art mediums to use because you may correct a mistake when painting using Gouache. With this being said, let us dig deeper into the advantages and disadvantages of using Gouache paint.

There are a few brands of gouache that pros use like M Graham or Winsor and Newton but there are many brands suitable, and affordable, for every beginner. I made an overview and rated some best gouache paint sets, in my opinion, here: 15 Best Gouache Paint Sets in 2023 For Beginners and Pros

Pros

  • Layering is easy because of its quick and opaque finish.
  • Working with Gouache paint lets you have a wide array of paper options. You may paint using mixed media paper and heavy watercolor paper.
  • Not messy and easy to clean.
  • Easy to smudge, so you won’t have to worry about making mistakes while painting.
  • Gouache corrects mistakes better than watercolor.
  • Carrying a palette is easy.
  • It can be reactivated and redone. 
  • Friendly on all paper types.

Cons

  • Gouache paints can crack once they are dried if applied too thick like acrylics
  • It is somehow challenging to make it as transparent as watercolor since they provide an opaque, dense finish.
  • Sometimes gets muddy during layering if you didn’t let it dry fully.
  • Challenging to do nice glazing like with watercolor.

Read also: Gouache Vs Acrylic: What’s the Difference, and Which is Best for Beginners?


Must-Have Gouache Painting Supplies

In working with any other types of art mediums, painting with Gouache will have to require you to gather supplies so that you may work with it more efficiently and, most importantly, effectively.

Brushes 

There is little significance between watercolor and Gouache paints, so if you have watercolor brushes, you can use them for Gouache.

There are various choices and a wide selection, whether you prefer natural or synthetic fiber brushes, depending on how you want to use Gouache. To help you choose the best one to use, you may read this post about the best gouache brushes: 19 Best Brushes for Gouache Reviewed by Artist [Ultimate Brush Guide].

When painting, you may want to keep your brush wet for the paint to work best.

Princeton Brushes for Gouache are suitable for watercolor, acrylic, and gouache painting. Its handles provide a secure, comfortable grip and good control over broad brush strokes. Its bristles are durable, it is known to be a versatile paintbrush, and comes in a complete range of sizes and shapes, and a few different series.

Surface 

An artist can work on a few different surfaces in Gouache painting. Watercolor paper is always a good start, and while you can use a canvas, this will always work better with acrylic or oil mediums. 

Canson XL Series Watercolor Pad has 30 sheets of white-colored paper with a thickness of 300 grams per square meter. It’s an acid-free, cold press textured paper that may be used on both sides. The other side has a smooth surface, while the other one has a textured surface.

It is one of the affordable bestsellers and many artists use it, myself included!

Check also: Top 15 Best Gouache Paper Tested & Reviewed By Artist

Water 

Being formulated as water-based, it only makes sense that water is essential for Gouache. 

The pigment is needed when layering your colors on your artwork, so you will need a bowl of water to achieve the best consistency.

Water helps a lot with wet-on-wet, glazing techniques and to make gouache flow smoothly and blend easily. Unlike acrylics, water doesn’t destroy gouache.

Mixing palette 

mixing palette for gouache

Gouache paint would come in tubes, trays, or containers. Owning a mixing palette to mix your colors to have a complete spectrum of hues and shades is recommended.

It is the right way to set up your working space and work with paint. Some paint sets like my HIMI gouache already include a palette.

Gouache Paint

The Miya Himi Gouache color painting set has dominated the internet for the last couple of years and I was among those people who bought it and I never regretted it!

My Fav
HIMI Gouache Paint Set, 24 Colors
$29.99

I have exactly this set (in pink box)

  • good amount of paint
  • convenient box with space for brushes and it comes WITH a good flat palette, and brushes
  • all paint come tightly sealed
  • color and consistency are very satisfying - you want to paint immediately!
  • Often recommended by beginners on forums, Youtube and Reddit.
I earn a little commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!
02/02/2023 08:47 am GMT

However, I like to choose what is best for me myself, thus, I prepared a list and reviewed some of the most popular gouache paint sets on the market for beginners and professionals – 15 Best Gouache Paint Sets in 2023 For Beginners and Pros.

Different Types of Gouache

As part of being familiar with the Gouache paint, one of the things you could do is to know its variety, and how each variant differs from another, so you would know what best fits your art preference.

To know more about them, read below and learn more about the three most common types of Gouache Paint:

Traditional Gouache

The Gouache is an art pigment mixture of natural and synthetic colors formulated to be a water-based paint. Once Gouache is let dry, it is effortless to reactivate in case you want to make changes to your artwork. 

Like watercolor, you should mix traditional Gouache with water before you can utilize it and apply it to a surface or canvas. 

Illustrators commonly prefer to use Gouache paint in their art, as it is opaque and easy to dry, and it creates solid hues and shades that pave the way for the illustrators to catch the attention of their readers.

Acrylic Gouache

Acrylic Gouache is also called acryla gouache, and the paint it creates is opaque enough to give a solid coverage to the surface of your artwork.

Additionally, Acrylic Gouache does not need water to activate since artists may use them directly from its tube. However, you may still add water to it, so it may fit your preference in the artwork you are working with.

Jelly Gouache

When we say Jelly Gouache, it mainly refers to the consistency of the paint, which resembles the jelly-like sense of the Gouache paint, dense and sticky.

best gouache paint set
Jelly gouache will look like this

One good thing about Jelly Gouache is that when it dries in your palette, you may easily reactivate by just adding a drop or two of water. 

How to use jelly gouache

Using jelly gouache is pretty much the same as the regular gouache painted in a tube, only that jelly gouache appears in more milky consistency.

Jelly gouache paints are moist, so a damp paintbrush could help maintain the paint’s consistency.

You can move gouache from jelly paint boxes to an airtight containers or palettes for gouache.


Do you use water when painting with Gouache?

As mentioned above, Gouache Paint is water-based, which makes water perfect to thin or remove gouache. You don’t have to use water, but it may help working with consistency and blending. 

When painting, the pigment of your art medium is crucial, especially when layering your colors on your artwork, so you will require a bowl of water to achieve the most suitable consistency for your work.

For the right amount of water, be mindful that a few drops are more than adequate for Gouache Paint so that it won’t drip off the paintbrush or be too watery on your surface. Due to its opacity, Gouache paints only need less water to achieve an excellent opaque finish.

Always let your painting dry and do not go over with water if your finished painting is not sealed, or you will end up messing it up, like I did here:


Painting with Gouache for Beginners in 7 steps on canvas or paper

Understandably, being a newbie painter is a bit challenging. With this, let us help you start painting with Gouache using these seven easy steps you can paint like a pro:

Photo by Katie Goertzen on Unsplash

1. Set up your workspace and art materials

Of course, before starting, it is essential to ensure that your art materials and workspace are set up. 

As mentioned above, painting with Gouache will require you to have the following materials:

  • Paint brush/es
  • Surface/Medium
  • Water
  • Mixing Palette
  • Painting with Gouache is now easy and convenient when you have already completed these materials.

2. Add Gouache Paint to the palette and plan your colors

Determine the Gouache Paint you will use and squeeze a small amount of each paint into the mixing palette. 

Then, you may now mix and match the color palette of your artwork.

Be mindful of squeezing out the colors you will be using, and do not add the ones not needed in your work to avoid wasting gouache paints.

3. Add Water/Gum Arabic if necessary

Since Gouache Paint is water-based paint, you may add water to colors that are needed to be light. 

Furthermore, you may add a little gum arabic to your paint to bind it well, so it won’t be wiped away when the water evaporates.

4. Outline your artwork

Before sketching you may considering putting a “ground” – it is a one-color background semi-trasnparent, that works as an underpainting.

After preparing the colors, you may start outlining your artwork and what art you are trying to express. 

In this process, you may need a pencil, but I recommend doing a sketch with a visible color paint using a pointed small brush as it is easy to remove mistakes made with gouache paint – we can simple wash it off.

5. Apply the base colors thinly

Right after conceptualizing the outline of your artwork, the next step will be adding the base color of the painting. Since you are still applying the base colors, spread it thinly.

Pro tip: Many artists prefer to color the borders of their artwork with white pastels so the gouache paint won’t go over the edge of your work since oil pastels naturally deflect water.

Some pros also recommend moving from cooler and darker colors (applied still thinly), covered in shade, to warmer colors and highlights, situated in light. So you will move for ex., from blue colors to orange colors.

You never have to follow the colors of your reference directly. It is more important to follow what is in the shade and what is under the light and follow it up with cool or warm color respectively! That’s it! This is also how modern abstract artists can paint common objects in crazy colors. The follow light/shade and not the colors.

Use larger flatter brushes first

6. Apply the layers to the base

Ensure the base layer is completely dried up before applying the second layer. It wouldn’t be long anyway since Gouache Paints dry up quickly, but if you are very impatient you can use a hairdryer 🙂

Waiting for the first layer to dry up will save you from mixing two colors altogether and making them bleed and challenging to control.

For applying layers of paint, you can use grisaille or mid-tone gouache painting techniques to create realistic colors.

If in step 5 we were creating more of base washes, now you can work with a more opaque colors application. And now it is important to do brushstrokes in line with how the object shaped not chaoticaly.

7. Add details and refine the artwork

When the desired layer of your artwork has been made, you may start adding details and touch up. Remember, elements are essential with painting, so channel your inner Van Gogh and do your best.

After adding details, it is also necessary to retouch your artwork and go over the mistakes you have overlooked. You will need the finest brush to clean up edges, details, textures, etc.

Remember lighter background brings the object more forward.

After the finishing touches, your very first Gouache Painting is now done!


Can you use gouache on gesso?

Artists also use Gouache Paint in painting with canvases as one of the most versatile art mediums.

When the canvas is gesso-primed, the gouache paint will smoothly adhere to the canvas surface. So, you can use Gouache on Gesso.

At the same time using gesso with gouache is not mandatory, especially if the canvas is already primed.


How do you seal a gouache painting?

The importance of sealing a painting stems from the desire of the artist to prolong its life and protect its colors from scratches that could eventually damage the artwork. Yet, varnishing gouache illustrations or sketches is not mandatory!

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

  1. Watercolor varnish: If you keep the artwork for a personal collection, you could use this technique. I prepared an article on varnishing (or not) a gouache painting.
  2. Isolation Coat + Varnish: 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.

What is the best thing to paint on with Gouache?

Since Gouache Paints are known to be a versatile art medium, an artist may use it in almost any surface medium. 

Many famous artists, including Matisse and Picasso used gouache and I gathered some nice gouache painting ideas for your future sketches and illustrations here: 29 Gouache Painting Ideas & 16 Famous Gouache Paintings You Will Love.

To start right now, express yourself through art and be inspired by these Gouache painting ideas:

  1. Painting Landscapes with Gouache

Landscape artworks symbolize peace and serenity. If your personality fits the description, you may want to paint landscapes using Gouache.

Sunrise or sunset, valleys, or a busy city skyline – what will be your pick?

2. Food illustrations

I love food and food illustrations are alwaysso vivid, juicy, realistic and satisfying! Gouache helps your little paper sheet just burst with colors.

3. Brick wall

Oh, how pretty this beautiful project is! Easy idea to paint a brick or wooden wall or fence with … maybe flowers or a cute cat?


FAQ

Is painting with Gouache easy?

Gouache is an accessible and easy medium to try; even beginners would get along with it. They are also affordable, and most art shops sell Gouache paint in sets or individual tubes. 

Additionally, Gouache paint goes well with traditional watercolor paint. They are most beautiful when adding highlights to your masterpiece.

What is the history of Gouache?

The first known form of Gouache is used in Ancient Egypt for their painting mediums with honey or natural gum as binders.

Historians also found Gouache in European manuscripts and Persian miniatures. Although Gouache may be commonly described as watercolor, Persian miniatures are the best examples of Gouache. 

Gouache came from guazzo, Italian for “mud,” which was initially used in the 16th century. In 18th century France, the term gouache was applied to opaque water media. 

Today, Gouache is loosely used to describe any paint or drawing made in body color. 

Can you use Gouache with watercolor?

Gouache, from the same family of watermedia as watercolor, is compatible with to use. You can even use watercolor brushes for your Gouache paint without the fear of ruining them.

And like watercolor, Gouache needs no unique materials to clean them up. Add water and wipe the mess with a towel; your surface is clean.

Can you use Gouache with acrylic paint?

One of the common ways artists use Gouache is to mix it with acrylic paint, forming the name acrylic gouache. This type of hybrid paint has a creamy consistency, dries quickly, and layers easily, providing the benefits of both colors.

However, acrylic gouache cannot be reanimated like water, so you need not worry about mixing colors when adding a new layer upon layer.

To Sum Up

Artists like Gouache paints very much; even the most famous painters use Gouache paint to let us see their magnum opus today. 

This type of paint is typically opaque and dull when dry, so they look like drawings but with a striking look. Beginner painters would love Gouache paint thanks to its forgiving environment. 

Gouache is compatible with other types of paint, such as watercolor and acrylic; they have pros and cons but not too many.