Gouache - Grundlagen und Material

Gouache - Basics and materials

Gouache is a trend medium

Alongside watercolor, gouache is one of the oldest media - and is currently experiencing a small renaissance. Here I will introduce you to the basics and the material

Gouache - pronounced "Guu-aasch" - has become a real trend medium at the moment. Not least because of the "Jelly Gouache" boxes that have been presented on many art channels on YouTube. In these boxes, the gouache is filled into small pans that are individually sealed with a foil lid, a bit like the dips for finger food in fast food restaurants. More on that later.

What is gouache?

Like watercolor, gouache is a water-soluble paint, which means that it is always water-soluble even after it has dried. However, its consistency is completely different to watercolors - this is because, in addition to pigment and water-soluble binding agent, it also contains chalk or other white powder as a filler.

The white powder is responsible for the unique properties of gouache, as the paint can be used undiluted or slightly diluted to create an opaque finish - even light colors are opaque, meaning you can work with them on dark paper/cardboard. If you add white, the opacity can be increased or improved a little. In addition, the fillers added give gouache a chalky appearance after it dries.

Gouache usually comes in tubes

Most of the time you will find tubes when you look for gouache. If you are used to paints in boxes, this may take some getting used to. There are also very rare gouache boxes - the only one I have ever seen was from Caran d'Ache, I think. I use a folding palette - a little of each color goes into the individual compartments, and the areas are mixed. The color that is not used can remain on the palette and is reactivated with water the next time.

As mentioned above, the Jelly Gouache boxes present the color palette in small pans. When you first open them, the color in them has the same consistency as gouache in a tube. However, you have the whole palette in front of you, just like with a classic paint box. I think the concept itself is very good.

However, all the colors are then left open - and then slowly dry out while you are painting. Of course, you can also reactivate them with a few drops of water and stir them until they are liquid - but that is additional work that you wouldn't have to do if you only took the amount you needed out of the tube.

You also have to be very careful when mixing. Let's say you want to mix orange. So you take some yellow out of the bowl with the brush - now you would add red to it. However, there is always some yellow left on the brush - if you put it in the red bowl, some yellow will stay in the red bowl. If you rinse the brush beforehand, you waste yellow paint. Let's be honest - most of the time you go straight into the second color with the brush because it's quicker. If you do that often, you gradually contaminate all the colors and when you reactivate after it has dried, you mix everything up again every time.

Of course, that's all a matter of taste, but that's why I haven't bought a Jelly Gouache box yet. Although they look really fancy and pretty, I'm more of a chaotic person who completely overflows in the box and then, after a short time, only has 24 pots of neutral grey in it.

Different qualities

The big brands also offer several qualities of gouache - usually a study quality and an artist quality. Well-known brands usually use the same pigments for both series - in the study quality these are usually not ground as finely. This means that the paint is used up a little faster and does not spread quite as nicely in direct comparison - but you can safely start with a study quality to get started at a lower price and then buy the used paints in the artist quality if you want to switch.

Important - if you buy cheap, you buy twice. Since gouache is a trend, there are extremely cheap starter sets in 1 euro and decoration shops as well as in art supply stores. I would not recommend these - they usually skimp on the pigment and the colors look dirty and grayish.

Which colors do you need to start

Not much - in principle the primary colors cyan, magenta and yellow as well as black and white are enough. You can mix almost anything with them, at least in theory. A hot tip for portrait painting - don't use black, but buy a tube of Vandyk Brown instead - you can mix a so-called chromatic black from magenta, cyan and Vandyk Brown - this is softer than the hard black pigment and looks more natural.

The painting surface

Gouache is a little more forgiving than watercolor when it comes to paper - although watercolor paper is also the best choice for gouache. I already wrote about paper in my article about watercolor - you can read it here . Be careful - the more you dilute the paint, the heavier the paper should be - I recommend 300 g/m² and more.

The brushes

In principle, you don't need much to get started. However, because of the slightly different way of painting with gouache, I would get a brush set that contains different sizes of flat and round brushes. Brushes for watercolor work great, but brushes for acrylic painting also work well. Since you will never paint wet-on-wet with gouache like you do with watercolor, a cheap set can be a good start - just make sure that the brushes are well made, so that no bristles stick out or the bristles are not trimmed to the same length.

And now you can get started - try it out and have fun. I will soon be writing a blog post with a video on the basic painting techniques with gouache - so subscribe to my blog or sign up to my mailing list - so you don't miss anything.

Until then, creative greetings,


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