Artist Resources: Gouache

Gouache -- think velvety, opaque watercolors.  Sounds a bit like an oxymoron, but gouache (pronounced gwash) is a medium all its own with a lovely matte finish and workability until it is fixed or varnished.  P.C. Turczyn, our Artist Spotlight from last week works her beautiful mandalas in gouache because of their brilliant color and smooth application.

Gouache was originally a term used to describe the technique of painting oils over a tempera underpainting, back in the 16th century.  Much later, in 18th century France, gouache became the name applied to opaque watercolor paint.

Gouache is opaque when applied to a substrate, covering the white of the surface. It is created with either opaque pigments and a gum arabic binder, or created with translucent pigments and added chalk plus the binder.  There is a significant difference between student and artist grade gouache paint; take note that the artist grade will have a higher pigment concentration and usually more range in colors.  

Gouache can be reworked on paper when re-wetted, but will stay fixed once sprayed with fixative or varnish.  The paint is very useful in design or illustration because it dries to a matte finish and can be used to make prints easily.  

Acrylic gouache is a different formula that gouache as the binder is an acrylic resin rather than gum arabic.  It will be water resistant when dry and stick to a variety of surfaces.

Gouache has been primarily manufactured for the use by designers and illustrators, hence the namesake "Designers' Gouache".  Some of these paint lines have hues that will fade with exposure to light due to the pigments used.  Be wary of these colors if you are creating art for posterity and stick to brands and colors in particular that conform to ASTM D5724, a quality labeling standard that confirms the colors have been lightfast tested.  

Faux Kolinsky Series
Since gouache works on a surface like watercolors, watercolor brushes like Faux Kolinsky, are appropriate for application.  However, gouache does beautifully in dry brush techniques and a bristle brush or springy brush like Interlock Bronze would do well for this type of application.  

If you work in gouache, please share a link to your website with us, or connect with us on our Facebook page:

Keep Painting, 

For more brush information, check out the Dynasty Brush website.