Gouache, did I say that right?

What Is It Anyway?

If you've never heard of it, Gouache(pronounced gwaash) is the little understood paint that works like an opaque watercolor. It's made of ground up pigments in water and mixed with a glue like substance to thicken it and has velvety, opaque and reflective qualities as well as brilliant color. Gouache is actually one of the oldest mediums used in Western art and used in a number of different professions, not just art. It's used around the world for many different purposes and it's probably a good time to learn exactly what it is.

Painted with Guache

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 a watercolor, but unlike watercolor, gouache isn't used as a stain and doesn't rely on the whiteness of the paper or canvas you're painting on to display the colors' brilliance. It also can create flawless, flat colored areas, which is harder to create with watercolors. But, because the pigment concentrations are higher in gouache, it is more resistant to problems like the "blossoming" or "washing out" that occurs with watercolors. Gouache also gives off a slightly reflective shimmer that has been used extensively in illustrations and advertising. 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, its been around for a very long time. The ancient Egyptians were the first to use it using honey as their binding agent. They saw its potential as the ideal medium to capture the effects of light. Then it was used by artists throughout Europe and grew to much popularity during the victorian age. Famed historic painter Henri Matisse also used it extensively. 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?

  • Artists- Duh. Perfect for abstract work and coloured backgrounds, gouache is often used in conjunction with watercolor paints to give watercolor paintings more texture and depth.
  • Designers- They love it for its ease of use and brilliance. It shines and reflects more than other paints which is more likely to draw the eye which has made it very popular with designers and advertisers.
  • Airbrushing-water based and great covering power make it perfect for airbrushing. It's also one of the least toxic materials to spray and is easily cleanable.
  • Calligraphy- because of it's excellent flow, easy controllability, opacity and permanence, gouache is a favorite among calligraphers.
  • Tole painters- tole painting is the folk art of painting on tin and wooden utensils, objects and furniture. It stands out particularly well on glass, wood, and tin! The jug to the right is a great example of tole painting with gouache.
  • Fashion-Gouache is often the paint associated with paintings of fashion models and clothes and apparel. 


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 where you use it. We'd love to hear more about it!

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