If you typically dabble in watercolor but also happen to love acrylic, don’t choose between the two. Instead, opt for painting with gouache. It’s the best of both worlds — depending on how much water you use with it, gouache can have a matte-like acrylic effect or look more like an opaque version of watercolor.
Before you dive in and paint an entire gouache landscape though, make sure you have the tools you need.
Good to Know: Gouache doesn’t require a ton of expensive or specialized supplies. But because it’s a unique type of paint, your supplies may be a bit different than when you paint with watercolor or acrylic.
Gouache is sometimes referred to as “opaque watercolor.” Like watercolor, it starts with a color pigment that’s combined with a binding agent, like gum arabic. But the pigment is added in a greater quantity, and it’s paired with a solid white pigment. This gives gouache a heavier texture and higher level of opacity than translucent watercolor paint.
For a basic gouache palette, invest in tubes of primary colors, plus black and white. You can also purchase a six-, eight- or 12-color beginner’s kit, which will have a good selection of basic colors you’ll frequently use — not to mention save you from re-mixing the same colors again and again.
When first starting out, you only need three brushes: a smaller round brush, a larger round brush and a broad brush for painting larger areas or washes. You have total freedom to experiment with different brush types (like natural hair), but synthetic watercolor brushes are great for painting with gouache. The softer texture allows fluidity with the paint and the ability to create delicate detail.
Pro Tip: Always carefully wash your brushes after painting with gouache. The “ingredient” used to make it opaque (which can vary depending on the manufacturer) can damage brushes if it dries and sets.
Gouache is so versatile, it can be used on a wide variety of painting surfaces including watercolor paper, illustration board, thick drawing paper and Bristol board. It doesn’t work as well as acrylic when painted on canvas though, so you may want to avoid that if you’re a beginner.
Gouache is water-soluble, so water can be used to dilute and alter its fluidity. Use less if you want a highly opaque paint, and more for a watercolor-like effect.
Small, Airtight Containers
Like acrylic paint, gouache will set if you leave it sitting on your palette. If you mix a color you don’t want to have to re-mix later, store it in a small, airtight container for future painting.
Rags or Paper Towels
Clean rags and paper towels can be used to dab excess paint from your surface, to dry your brush between dips in water, or to remove excess paint from your brush. It’s invaluable to always have some on hand.
For mixing paint, you need a palette. You can purchase one from an art supplies store, upcycle an old ceramic dinner plate or even use disposable palettes.
Because gouache is thicker than watercolor, a small palette knife might be useful when mixing colors. Along with mixing more efficiently, the knife preserves the texture of your brushes so you can save ’em for actually painting.
Gouache is great on its own, but even better when combined with other mediums. Use the supplies below to change up the look of any painting.
Acrylic or Watercolor
Gouache works well with acrylic or watercolor, so combining it with one (or both) of these mediums can give you a gorgeous result. For example, acrylic can be used on top of gouache to accent or make more opaque details, while watercolor can be employed to add subtle translucent shadows and dimension.
Pencil and Eraser
You might find it helpful to sketch out your painting first. Gouache is more opaque than watercolor, so it’s able to cover up pencil marks fairly well.
Pen and Ink
Pen and ink can be used under or over gouache. Depending on the look you want in your finished piece, a waterproof pen may help add details to your work.