Some Qualities of Gouache

Artwork-Miya Arts Gouache over watercolor on Hahnemühle Cézanne Cold Press. Brushes: Jack Richeson 713995 Watermedia Pocket Plein Air Brush Set Photo reference from Masy on Pixabay.

What are some qualities of gouache that might make it a better choice, at times, than watercolor?

The opacity has to be the first thing you think of. Gouache isn’t as transparent as watercolor. This is a bit confusing (of course! What isn’t when it comes to art supplies, lol?). Some watercolors are very opaque, such as the cadmiums. Some gouache colors are more transparent. I decided to play a bit with my Miya gouache.

I pulled out some old watercolor pieces where I’d been testing or didn’t like what was happening and painted over them with gouache. I also used some pen, but I’ll get to that later on.

I already knew that the paint to water ratio had a lot to do with transparency versus opacity. For this first, on the left you have the original watercolor, and on the right my gouache and pen painting. I used light washes and you can still see much of the original work. The trucks and their white reflections were drawn with technical pen and white gel pen.

Unfortunately, for some reason, the scan I took of the original paintings here got lost – I can’t find them anywhere on my PC. However, I used very think paint and even though the watercolor was dark in some places, you can’t see it at all.

Another quality of gouache that I’ve heard – it is supposed to be very easy to draw on because of it leaves a flat, matte surface.

I didn’t find it so easy – I ruined the technical pen. HOWEVER, I think that was the paper. I was using Hahnemühle Cézanne Cold Press, which has a fairly gritty surface. It’s fantastic for watercolor and gouache, but too rough for fiber-tipped pens. I’ll have to test again later on another paper.

For my last test, I used thicker gouache in some areas and more watery gouache in others. Note that some of the color showing in the background didn’t even show up in the scan of the original painting! I’m not sure if it was just having more contrast or a wider range of colors, but it did show up in the finished work.

I’m showing you this larger version of the finished piece. Note that even though the fiber tipped pen is wearing down, the lines are bolder than I would have expected. I didn’t do much shading since the pen finally stopped working altogether, but I don’t think the piece really needs it.

I had no trouble with the white gel pen at all. It has a hard tip, so that made a difference.

So, gouache can be as transparent as watercolor – BUT, it dries to a different kind of surface. It’s a bit like using shiny or matte paper for photographs (if you remember the days when people printed them out, lol). Watercolor usually has a shine or glow to it, whereas gouache has a matte almost velvety texture.

Depending on the colors and the paint to water ratio used, sometimes you can’t tell the two apart.

Neither is better or worse – it’s simply what a choice to help you get the affect you want.

Published by Life Imitates Doodles Art, Reviews & Tutorials

Artist Ambassador for Zebra Pens. I'm a self-taught artist who dances about with all sorts of artistic mediums. My main loves are Watercolor, Zentangle and Ballpoint pen. The subjects of my work are many and varied and change at whim. I'm a little bit crazy, but doesn't that come with being an artist? At my Life Imitates Doodles Blog, I post a list of resource links for Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways two times a week. I also write reviews, hold giveaways and share my art work.

6 thoughts on “Some Qualities of Gouache

  1. Thanks for all the gouach studies! These are so imaginative. And your descriptions of the varieties of styles, techniques and materials….esp. paper are very helpful!

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