Gouache, did I say that right?

What Is It Anyway?

If you’ve never heard of it, Gouache (pronounced gwaash) is the slightly misunderstood paint that essentially works as an opaque watercolor. It’s made of ground pigments and binders (such as gum arabic, ox gall, and preservatives), giving it velvety opaque, brilliant color– but what makes it opaque is the addition of either chalk or white pigment.  Gouache is actually one of the oldest historically used mediums,  and is still used in a number of different professions (not just fine art).

Landscape painted in Gouache.

Gouache’s name comes from the Italian word aguazzo which translates to “mud”– and like mud, Gouache is wet and opaque. Unlike mud, when applied, Gouache dries to vivid, opaque colors. It’s often compared to traditional watercolors, but unlike watercolor, the application of gouache isn’t used like a stain, and doesn’t require the whiteness of the paper to amplify the colors’ brilliance. It also can create flawless, flat colored areas, which are harder to create with watercolors. Because the pigment particles are larger in gouache (they are not required to be as small of particles for transparent washes), they are less likely to suffer from the problems like “blossoming” or “washing out” that occurs with watercolors. Gouache’s matte finish has been used extensively in illustrations and advertising, since there was no reflective shine with photography for capturing the image for production. Not only did it look great, but it impressed Illustrators with its speed of application and its coverage with minimal paint. You’ve probably seen it in fashion illustrations before like this one:

Gouache is not a new product either, with ancient Egyptians using it with honey as their binding agent. They saw its’ potential as the ideal medium to capture the effects of light. Gouache went on to be used by artists throughout Europe and grew to much popularity during the Victorian age. Famous painters like Henri Matisse were fans of Gouache, and used it extensively to prime the paper for his cut out shapes for his collages. Today, gouache is popular with advertisers, illustrators looking for a vintage look, and decorators looking to make their work stand out.

Who uses it and why?

  • Fine Artists– Perfect for abstract work and colored backgrounds, the matte colors and flat, even nature of the paint make for bold visual effects.
  • Designers– They love it for its ease of use, brilliance, and ability to easily transfer into print media without having to correct for glare or color shift like the translucency that traditional watercolors produce.
  • Airbrushing– being water-based, their opaque covering power make it perfect for airbrushing. It’s also one of the least toxic materials to spray and is easily cleaned up.
  • Calligraphy– because of it’s excellent flow, easy controllability, opacity and permanence, gouache is a favorite among calligraphers.
  • Fashion-Gouache is often the paint associated with color renderings of fashion models, clothes and apparel.  It’s fluid and quick drying nature make it ideal for design studies.


Have you tried painting with Gouache yet? If so, let us know in the comment section which brand is your favorite(Turner, Winsor & Newton, SoHo, LUKAS), what you like about it, and how you use it. We’d love to hear more about it!



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