Techniques – Gouache

Some notes, from a variety of sources, on techniques for using gouache: –

  • Lying flat areas of colour can be difficult. Mix paint to consistency of single cream as this allows even coverage – though some colours are semi-opaque and may need several coats.
  • Mix more paint than you think you will need – difficult to get exact hue twice.
  • Be aware of permanence of colours. Fugitive colours will be marked on tube and should be avoided if work is for longer term. Many commercial colours are for design work and are not lightfast. Avoid paints with non-standard names. Aim for ochres, umbers and ultramarines.
  • Transparent watercolour occasionally combined in a gouache painting. As a general rule this produces a better effect than when gouache is used in a picture that is predominantly watercolour. Textural effects can be achieved by combining watercolour, gouache and pastel in the same picture.
  • Gouache has solidity which gives effect of impasto paint layer, heavier than that which actually exists – therefore paint need not be applied thickly as it is likely to crack or peel off.
  • Techniques
    • Wet-in-wet
    • Overlaying colours
    • Dry brush work
    • Blending colours
    • Adding highlights and lowlights
    • Scraping areas
    • Masking fluid
    • Wax/oil resist
    • Mixed media
    • Lifting out with masking tape
    • Serafino with oil pastel
    • Spattering with toothbrush
    • Masking
    • Sponging
    • Combine – gouache with watercolour
    • Use on grey or coloured papers of mid-tone
    • Monochrome sketches on mid-toned paper
    • Gouache painting on a mid-toned ground
    • Combine with pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, pastel, watercolour, acrylic
  • Start by using tubes of six co-primary colours (a warm and cool version of each primary colour).
  • More readily soluble when over painted than straight watercolours – softening and blending between layers can be done using damp, clean brush.
  • Try hot-pressed watercolour paper stretched on board – but can use with almost any support.


Garland, P. (1997) ‘Gouache’ In: Artists and Illustrators (August) pp.18-19

Jacob, W. (2011) ‘The Joy of Gouache’ In: Artists and Illustrators (June) pp.50-51

Mayer, R. (1975) The Painter’s Craft: An Introduction to Artists’ Methods and Materials. 3rd edition. London: Thomas Nelson & Sons.

Smith, R. (1987) The Artist’s Handbook: The Complete, Practical Guide to the Tools, Techniques and Materials of Painting, Drawing and Printmaking. London: Dorling Kindersley.

This entry was posted in Studio Practice. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.