Gouache has become much more popular over the past few years and for good reason. It has the unique water-soluble characteristics of watercolor with the opacity of an acrylic, making it the best of both worlds.
This makes it a unique and versatile medium that is great for illustration, painting on-the-go and makes cleanup fast and easy. Whether you are an experienced watercolorist or prefer acrylics, gouache is a medium that you should consider trying.
Selecting Your Gouache Paint
The following guide will help you understand gouache and choose the paint set that works best for you.
Tubes and Pans
One of the first decisions you need to make when purchasing gouache is whether you prefer using tubes or pans. While tubes are ready to go or can be mixed with water to thin the paint, like watercolor, pans need water and a little time to activate.
Tubes can be more challenging to travel with, but higher quality tubes can also be added to a pan from the tube and allowed to dry. Tubes are also easier to work with and give you better control over the opacity of your paints.
Pans are very easy to travel with and can activate and be put away quickly. All you need is a water brush and a few drops of water and you’re ready to paint. They are also perfect for quick paintings and are easy to use on the fly.
Gouache is known for being opaque. However, gouache paints can vary in opacity based on the pigments and formulas used. If you want truly opaque gouache, check the manufacturer’s website for information on each shade.
Also, consider using tubes instead of pans. Tubes don’t have to be mixed with water to use and are much easier to use as an opaque paint, much like you would use acrylic. In addition, you may wish to use acryla gouache if you need absolute opacity without the sheen of acrylic paint.
Lightfastness and Permanence
Each brand has its own lightfastness and permanence rating system. M. Graham uses a lightfastness rating of LFI to LFIII with LFI being excellent and LFIII being Acceptable. Winsor & Newton uses a Permanence rating system with AA, A, B, and C class ratings a rating system consisting of plus symbols with +++ being the most permanent and + being the least. Check with the manufacturer’s website if you have questions about the permanence or lightfastness ratings.
It is also important to note that some shades will be less permanent in almost every brand. A good example of this is crimson red. This is due to the type of pigment used to create the shade. The industry pigments for this shade are simply not as permanent as other shades, reducing its permanence.
Gouache vs. Watercolor
Gouache was created as a more opaque alternative to watercolor for the purpose of creating illustrations. Like watercolor, it is water-soluble. However, it has a few characteristics that are unique to gouache.
The opacity is the greatest difference. Straight out of the tube, you will notice that gouache is far more opaque than watercolor. You can thin it significantly with water, but it will never be as transparent as watercolor.
Another difference is that gouache is often very easy to reactivate on the paper once dry. This means that it doesn’t layer as well as watercolor and will lift the color beneath the layer if you get it too wet or blend the paint too much.
Mixing Colors – How Many Colors Do You Need?
The bare minimum paints that you can get away with are three. You need a yellow, blue, and red in order to mix most colors. You can also mix various shades of black with these three shades, but it can be challenging. However, if you wish to lighten a shade and maintain its opacity, you will also need white.
If you are purchasing a student grade gouache set, it would be in your best interest to purchase a set containing at lt least 2 colors, including white and black. However, if you are on a budget but want to invest in high-quality fine artist paints, you can get by with three to five colors at first.
Designer’s Gouache or Acryla Gouache
Designer’s Gouache was the original gouache created for designers and illustrators as an alternative to watercolor. It is opaque and fully water-soluble, making it behave like watercolor but with enough opacity that it can be photographed well for illustrations.
Acryla gouache is a more recent hybrid of gouache with acrylic binders. This gouache is water-soluble while wet, but once dry it can’t be reactivated like designer’s gouache. This makes it easy to layer without the pigment showing through or mixing with the top layer. Unlike acrylic, acryla gouache dries velvet matte and smooth.
Best Gouache Paints on the Market
The following gouache paint sets are great to get you started with gouache. There are a variety of paints on this list from student grade to fine artist grade to choose from and you are sure to find a set that best meets your needs.
|Arteza Gouache Paint 12mL 60 Tube Paint Set||
Best for Artists
|Winsor & Newton Designers' Gouache Primary Paint Set||
Best for Artists on Budget
|M. Graham 1/2oz. Primary Gouache 5 Tube Paint Set||
Best for Beginners
|Caran d'Ache Gouache Studio 15 Tin||
Best Acryla Set
|Holbein Acryla Gouache Mixing Set||
1. Arteza Gouache Paint 60 Tube Paint Set – Best Budget-Friendly Set
Arteza is a newer brand of art supplies, but it is growing fast and continues to expand and offer budget-friendly student grade and professional quality art supplies. Among their most beloved products is their gouache. With this set, it is easy to see why so many people enjoy these paints.
This set is huge with 60 colors, including 10 metallic and opalescent shades. Each tube is 12mL in size and the box contains a quick reference chart with the shade name, opacity, and permanence ratings on the label.
The trays come stacked neatly inside the box with six tubes per tray. This makes it convenient to pull out only the tubes you are working with and keep them in a tray on your desk or table while you paint.
These paints are creamy in consistency and are fairly pigmented. However, it is worth noting that some of the opaque shades aren’t quite as opaque as the label claims. This is inconsistent from shade to shade, so be sure to swatch shades before you begin.
Having this number of colors in a set is nice, but not necessary. It is nice to see metallics and pearlescent shades included in a set. This set would be good for beginners or people who don’t enjoy mixing or prefer consistent pigment in the shades they use.
These paints are ACMI certified non-toxic, which is interesting to find in an artist’s quality paint, as these are advertised. If you have children or wish to paint with children in your home or studio, this is good to know.
Pros and Cons
One of the major downfalls of this brand is that you can’t purchase individual tubes of paint if you run out. Most artists tend to have their favorites and will inevitably run out of them from time to time. This means you would have to purchase an entire set to replace one purchase a tube from another brand.
These paints are also only available online. Meaning, if you run out while in the middle of a painting project, you’re going to have to wait at least a couple of days to receive your new paints.
2. Winsor & Newton Designers’ Gouache Primary Color Paint Set – Best Fine Artist Quality Set
This small set includes 6-14mL tubes of paint, including signature Winsor & Newton shades. It contains Primary Red, Primary Yellow, Primary Blue, Permanent Green Middle, Ivory Black, and Zinc White. It’s kind of interesting to see a green in a primary set, but it will make mixing browns and neutral greens a bit easier.
This set is a good basic mixing set and will make it easy to produce most of the shades that you need to make your gouache paintings stand out. It includes a black and white, which are also nice to have with a gouache primary set.
As with most Winsor & Newton products, their gouache paint is smooth and predictably enjoyable to work with. The intensely pigmented paints mean that you really have to dilute them in order to get a watercolor consistency. This means that these small tubes should last you quite a while.
Best of all, if you allow your paint to fully dry and add another layer on top, it won’t lift the layer below. This is a common complaint with gouache paints, but with these paints, you don’t have that issue. The paints do reactivate but are more similar to watercolor in this respect.
Here’s the good set of colors to start:
Pros and Cons
Any professional artist is familiar with the Winsor & Newton brand of art supplies. Their paints are among the most beloved paints in the world. They are known for using high-quality pigments and binders that create paints that activate quickly are a true joy to work with.
It is worth noting that these paints do stain plastic and metal tins, so you may need to use a ceramic palette to mix them on if this bothers you. Otherwise, it is an exceptional set that most gouache artists, new or experienced, will love.
3. M. Graham Primary Gouache 5 Tube Paint Set – Best for Artists on Budget
This paint set is small, but it has every color that you need to get started painting with gouache. It includes five 15mL tubes of Cobalt Blue, Naphthol Red, Azo Yellow, Ivory Black, and Titanium White. These five shades will allow you to mix secondary and tertiary colors with ease.
The tubes are small, but depending on how much you dilute your gouache, they could last a long time. If you don’t dilute your gouache you will go through them quickly. These paints have enough pigment to be able to be mixed with water without losing opacity, but can be used straight out of the tube.
Or you can choose your own set of color from the range of single tubes, for example:
- Cobalt Blue
- Naphthol Red or Cadmium Red
- Azo Yellow or Hansa Yellow
- Permanent Green Light or Sap Green
- Titanium White
- Ivory Black
These gouache paints are highly pigmented and don’t have any chalky fillers, so there’s no streakiness or chalky texture. It also means that you can dilute them without losing opacity or pigment. However, it is worth noting that the Naphthol Red and Azo Yellow are Semi-Opaque, meaning that if you want a more opaque color wash, you can’t dilute them as much.
It is worth noting is that if you are used to using watercolor, you will need to add white paint to gouache instead of water to lighten the shad. Gouache doesn’t allow the paper’s whiteness or light to show through. This means that your colors can end up looking much darker on paper than you intended.
The paints go on smooth and are creamy in texture. They have a unique quality that honey binder gives watercolor. If you enjoy this in your watercolor paints, you will be pleased to find it in this gouache set.
Pros and Cons
It is a great artist-grade mixing set, but it’s worth noting that you will probably need to purchase a few individual tubes in order to expand your color range and achieve more neutral shades in your paintings. This probably isn’t a problem for most artists wishing to expand their gouache collection.
4. Caran d’Ache Gouache Studio 15 Tin – Best for Beginners
Pan sets are great to travel with and are a beloved feature of painting with watercolor and gouache paints. Since the paint can be reactivated with water and dries quickly, pans won’t spill and are convenient to carry in a bag. In addition, tins contain a mixing palette on which paints can be dried and reactivated when needed.
This set has everything a gouache beginner could possibly need, except for paper. It has a nice variety of primary and secondary colors as well as black and a tube of white gouache. It is a nice set for painting straight out of the tin or mixing your own shades.
The tube of white gouache will make it easier to keep the white gouache opaque since water doesn’t have to be added to activate it. This will ensure that you can use it to paint clouds, white-capped waves, or highlights without transparency.
These paints are easy to activate, but nowhere near as opaque or pigmented as tubes. Because the pans require adding water, it is very difficult to add just enough water to activate the gouache without making it too transparent. If you want a truly opaque set, this may not be the one for you.
The colors can be streaky at times, so it may take a bit more work to get an even wash than tube sets. However, the convenience of pans in a tin is a great selling point. This tin is large and you get a generous amount of paint and 14 shades, which is better than most gouache sets.
Pros and Cons
This is a student-grade gouache, meaning that it can’t be compared in quality to the other paints on this list. With that being said, it is a decent quality product for the price. It has a good lightfastness and the use of natural vegetable binder is a nice selling point.
5. Holbein Acryla Gouache Set – Best Acryla Gouache Set
Acryla gouache is different from standard or designer’s gouache because it uses a polymer binder like acrylic paint. This means that once the paint is dry, it’s permanent. It is a nice hybrid paint that is consistent and truly opaque.
This set has larger tubes that are 20mL. However, since you may not be adding much water to your paint, if any, that means it may not last as long as other gouache paints. The colors included are what we are used to seeing in printing with cyan, magenta, yellow, black, and white.
This means that you can mix about any color you wish with the understanding of how those shades mix. However, beginners may find this more difficult than mixing standard primary colors and you will have to create your own reds.
These paints are highly pigmented like acrylic paint but are thinner, smoother, and dry to a velvety matte finish, which is characteristic of gouache. However, once dry, the paint doesn’t budge and is water-resistant.
With that being said, it is a good idea to keep a spray mister on hand or to use a wet palette to keep these paints wet while in use. In dry or hot environments, your paint will dry quickly and be wasted. This is an extra step that some artists won’t enjoy, but is necessary if you don’t want to waste your paint.
Pros and Cons
One of the best parts of acryla gouache is that it’s the same color wet as it is dry. With designer’s gouache, your light shades dry darker and dark shades dry lighter, meaning it’s very important to swatch your mixed shades. With this set, you know exactly what you’re getting and won’t have any surprises when it dries.
If you enjoy acrylic, but want to try something with watercolor characteristics that is opaque and permanent once dry, this may be a good choice for you. Also, it is worth noting that it claims to mix with water-soluble paints, but this is debatable.
Choosing the Best Gouache for You
Whether you are new to gouache or have been using gouache for years, you will find a paint set on this list to tickle your fancy. Each gouache is made from its own unique pigments and binders, making it vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Each has its own unique benefits and downsides, so be sure to understand exactly what you want in gouache before you shop. This will help you narrow down your choices and choose a product that will fulfill your needs.