September 25, 2023


How Art Works

What’s the Distinction Between Watercolour and Gouache?

6 min read

This text examines the variations between watercolour and gouache as portray supplies, their widespread options and benefits, how they differ, when it’s acceptable to make use of watercolour, and when to make use of gouache.


Schmincke Horadam Watercolour Paint Ultramarine Blue and Schmincke Horadam Gouache Paint Chromium Oxide Inexperienced


As a portray medium, watercolour has come into its personal in the previous few many years. It’s now not used primarily for preparatory sketches for big studio work and is now accepted as a critical medium for completed work. On the similar time its nearest relative materials, gouache, remains to be extremely underrated each amongst artists and connoisseurs of portray. Recently a brand new development has appeared: gouache has change into extra standard, each by way of artists utilizing this medium as their major one, and by way of the variety of books and programs dedicated to the particular properties of this materials.


Schmincke Horadam Gouache Paint


What’s the Distinction Between Watercolour and Gouache?

Talking about these two supplies, it is very important bear in mind their essential similarity and the primary distinction. These supplies are related in that they’re water-soluble, however they differ in transparency. We are going to take into account different particular similarities and variations, however that is crucial factor to grasp.

Gouache differs from watercolour in its opacity: the binder within the paint is similar gum arabic that’s used for watercolour, and there’s often additionally a better pigment load, so as to add to the opacity. This is the reason gouache is opaque, dense and protecting.


Schmincke Horadam Gouache Paint 15 ml Ultramarine Blue


Watercolour as a cloth is extra difficult in method due to the transparency of the paint: layers are seen by one another, they’re clear and the earlier layer is seen, so watercolour forgives much less errors than gouache, which permits the chance so as to add extra layers in case of failures and errors.



Gouache is a favorite materials of illustrators. Among the many particular benefits of gouache, is the truth that it’s a very handy and compact materials: it doesn’t scent, there isn’t any want for extra solvents, and occasional spots of paint can simply be washed away with water. The one actual detrimental could be that you simply undergo extra paint with gouache in comparison with watercolour, as a result of watercolour is often diluted with water to create washes, whereas gouache is usually utilized in a thicker, much less diluted approach, so you employ extra paint.

To higher perceive the distinction in supplies, I painted the identical topic in watercolour and gouache utilizing Schmincke Horadam Aquarelle Watercolour and Schmincke Horadam Gouache.


Painted with Schmincke Horadam Aquarelle Watercolour


Even the method to portray in gouache and watercolour is completely different – somebody aptly put it that opaque supplies (oil, acrylic, gouache) are the expertise of looking out immediately on the canvas, whereas watercolour is an experience of focus. In watercolour it is advisable to consider the method and know-how earlier than making use of the paint, in gouache you’ve got sufficient time to resolve whereas portray.


Painted with Schmincke Horadam Gouache


The sequence of making use of layers in these supplies can be completely different: the white color in watercolour is historically the uncovered areas of paper. On this respect, gouache is extra handy: whereas the basic sequence of layers in watercolour is, for apparent causes, “from gentle to darkish”, gouache permits you to work in each methods: you may put gentle color first after which darkish, or vice versa, first darkish after which gentle color on high.



Gouache is extra versatile, it permits you to make extra textured strokes. Some could object that in case you use watercolour too thick you may make paste-like strokes! However in case you apply watercolour too thick (immediately from a tube) it dries up in a thick shiny layer and you may actually see it on paper. Gouache, then again, permits you to put these dense strokes and it dries with out this shiny sheen – however talking of gouache, you must also do not forget that in case you put too thick a layer of paint, it may later crack.


L – R: Schmincke Horadam Gouache Paint Chromium Oxide Inexperienced and Schmincke Horadam Watercolour Paint Chromium Oxide Inexperienced


In gouache it’s troublesome to attain such fascinating uniform transitions and clean washes as in watercolour, and on the whole the paint is rather less plastic. You possibly can blur layers with water or wash them with pure water, but it surely requires extra accuracy and carefulness. One other necessary issue to contemplate is that gouache, when utilized to the earlier layer, snags the underside layer, even on cotton paper, not like watercolour, which on the corresponding paper permits making use of layers with out blurring the earlier one.


Schmincke Horadam Gouache Paint Ultramarine Blue


Gouache is much less demanding in every thing – and that features further supplies. With watercolour, the standard of paper and brushes are essential. However whereas watercolour paper works the perfect for portray in gouache, you should utilize any paper that isn’t warped by water.



Portray with watercolour requires comparatively smooth and controllable brushes, and sharp ideas are crucial, in gouache that is fascinating – however optional. One factor that’s the similar for each mediums, the standard of colors themselves are actually necessary: scholar grade gouache differs from designer {and professional} as a lot as scholar grade watercolour differs from skilled painters’ supplies.



Gouache might be utilized in a dense layer evenly and in such a approach that you simply received’t see strokes of paint, which can be attainable in watercolour, however requires extra water.

Gouache dries sooner than watercolour and is much less prone to differ in tone and look paler after drying, as do most watercolour paints. The overall rule of gouache is that after drying, darkish tones seem lighter and light-weight tones seem darker.


Schmincke Horadam Gouache Paint Ultramarine Blue


To summarise, these two supplies are each made with gum arabic so are re-soluable, however the transparency of the watercolour and the opacity of the gouache require completely different portray methods, have their very own benefits, and have completely different ultimate appearances.


L – R: Schmincke Horadam Gouache Paint Ultramarine Blue and Schmincke Horadam Watercolour Paint Ultramarine Blue


Watercolour requires extra planning, since you can not again up and proper errors. It requires extra focus and management over water, although this doesn’t imply it’s at all times ‘tight’, it may be painted in a free, unfastened approach, accepting the circulation of water as part of the method. And watercolour has its personal particular magic, that may be very laborious to specific with phrases. It comes from the by no means fairly managed circulation of paint, that you simply get just one likelihood to get it proper, that the paint is a light-weight movie that appears to be part of the floor, and naturally the glow from the white paper shining by the clear pigment.


Schmincke Horadam Gouache Paint 15 ml Ultramarine Blue


Gouache is extra appropriate to up to date portray the place you’re employed out the small print as you go, with much less planning. And it’s nice for filling in flat areas of color in illustrations or summary work. It’s extra predictable and controllable, and in that sense it’s a lot simpler to make use of.



Additional Studying

Underpainting in Oil and Acrylic

Artwork Phrases Defined: Acrylic Portray

Contained in the Sketchbook of Ann Witheridge

The Historical past of Potter’s Pink (And Why It’s a Watercolourist’s Secret Weapon)


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