Gouache vs Watercolor Paint: What’s the Difference?

Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of PaintCentric.com, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

Differences between gouache paint and Watercolor

Gouache Paint Vs. Watercolor
Gouache paint vs. Watercolor

To understand the differences between gouache paint and Watercolor, explore the unique aspects of each medium. This will help you determine which medium to use for specific painting techniques. Consider the differences in medium composition, colours and opacity, versatility, and flexibility between gouache paint and Watercolor.

Medium composition

Gouache and Watercolor each have distinct compositions that make them unique. Gouache is an opaque blend of pigment, water, and gum Arabic/dextrin. It has more stains than Watercolor, resulting in brighter colours. Watercolor has a transparent composition which enables the mixing and layering of colours.

When utilizing gouache, it’s important to consider the thickness and texture of the paint. Less water in the mix creates a thicker consistency for an impasto effect, while more water forms a wash similar to Watercolor. One must adjust the water to get the desired consistency and colour with Watercolour.

A benefit of gouache is it can cover up errors or prior layers. Watercolour can be layered too, but it may be difficult to hide mistakes once it dries. Use high-quality paper for either gouache or Watercolor to improve vibrancy and depth in both mediums.

In conclusion, understanding the differences between these two painting techniques allows an artist to pick the best one for their needs. Gouache offers vibrancy and versatility, while Watercolor is great for transparency and layering. Utilizing proper techniques and quality materials can improve results in both mediums. Lastly, never underestimate the power of happy accidents!

Painting techniques

Paint type affects the way it is used. Watercolour is mixed in water, while gouache has opaque pigment soluble in water. Gouache lets you layer and mix, while Watercolor is transparent and cannot be changed after drying. Gouache dries with a matte finish, while Watercolor dries glossy. Gouache has the unique advantage of high pigmentation, which lets you rework, impacting other layers.

One day, I was painting with Watercolor by a creek. Then, I was swarmed by mosquitoes! I knocked over my palette, and the colours ran downstream. That was a lesson to watch out for insects near wet paintings! Trying to get the right opacity in Watercolor is like Russian roulette, while gouache gives you more control.

Colours and opacity

Gouache paint and Watercolor differ in hues and transparency. A glance is enough to recognize the difference.

Gouache pigments have strong bonds with the binder, making a flat, opaque finish. The colors are brighter, so it’s great for illustration or poster design. Watercolor has a translucent finish, allowing the paper underneath to show through.

Gouache stands out as adding water doesn’t create transparency. Rather, it smudges or washes away the underlying layers. This makes it great for details on top of other colours.

I helped a classmate understand the differences in university. Gouache might be tougher technique-wise, but Watercolor is forgiving and easy to use.

Versatility and flexibility

Gouache paint can have a great influence on an artist’s work. It is more opaque than Watercolor, so it can be applied on top of another layer without any visible issues. This makes it great for creating detailed works, opaque surfaces, and various textures. Watercolor is more translucent and transparent, making it suitable for softer tones and loose details.

Gouache is made of chalk binders and allows for thicker brushstrokes, while Watercolor uses gum Arabic, allowing easy merging with other colours and mediums. Advice when using gouache is to add white to pastel colors to increase richness and contrast in dark areas, plus taping up areas might help avoid smudging.

Pros of gouache: you can fix mistakes. It’s opaque and perfect for dramatic highlights. Cons: not as translucent as Watercolor and dries darker than it looks on the palette.

Pros and cons of using gouache paint

Gouache Paint
Gouache paint

To weigh the pros and cons of using gouache paint for your artwork, consider the advantages and disadvantages of this medium. Gouache paint offers some unique benefits compared to other mediums, but it also has its limitations. In the following subsections, we will briefly introduce the advantages and disadvantages of using gouache paint to help you decide if it is the right medium for your artistic needs.


Gouache paint offers many advantages for artists. It has a high opacity so that the painting can be easily layered. The matte texture dries quickly, maintaining vibrancy. It can be used on surfaces like paper, canvas, wood panels, or cardboard. Plus, it changes colours as it dries, adding more detail to the painting.

For those who prefer opaque mediums, gouache is a great choice. Complex compositions can be created with dilution techniques similar to Leonardo da Vinci’s! Many artists, from past to present, rely on Gouache as a tool in their work. It’s smooth, effortless, and never leaves you wanting more!

Blendability and layering

Gouache Paint: When You Want Colors That Pop!

Gouache paint is the go-to for artists who want exceptional control over blendability and layering. Here are six advantages and drawbacks to using it:

  1. Quick drying makes layering colours easy without the risk of mixing.
  2. High pigment content creates seamless blends that keep colour clarity.
  3. Lifting layers of dried gouache reveals new shades beneath.
  4. Not as transparent as Watercolor, some pigments can be hard to blend.
  5. Too much layering on rough surfaces can ruin the smooth finish.
  6. Rewetting previously painted areas might cause colour bleeding or fading.

Notable uses include multi-layered washes, dream-like effects from the glazing, leveraging acrylic ground to avoid curling or bleeding, and discovering new hues like shimmery crackles.

One painter found a new level of success with gouache when they switched from their old paints. With its unique opaque properties, they achieved better coverage, more precision, and delightful accents in their portraits. Gouache paint: when you want colours that pop and coverage that could hide your mistakes…if you had any.

Vibrant colors and opacity

Gouache paint is amazing! Its radiant colours and excellent coverage gives it unique attributes. The finely grounded pigments create a smooth texture that looks stunning on paper or canvas. Its vibrancy and opacity make it stand out from other paints.

Also Read: Gouache vs. Acrylic Paint

You can adjust the consistency of the gouache by adding water or an acrylic binder. It dries quickly, so you don’t have to wait between coats. Gouache is perfect for creating unique effects and experimenting with different art techniques.


  • Mix colours to create new ones.
  • Dilute with water for washes and backgrounds.
  • Use wet-on-wet or dry brush techniques.

Gouache paint is like a relationship – it needs re-workability and flexibility.

Re-workability and flexibility

Gouache paints offer amazing qualities in the artistic world. But how good are they regarding the “Ability to Modify and Flex”? This medium has very different characteristics than other paints and offers unique properties.

Gouache paint is renowned for allowing artists to start projects with ease. At first, as rework dries, it forms an impenetrable layer. However, you can rewet it with liquid watercolors or plain water because there is enough binder-to-pigment mixture to make it flexible. Unlike oil paints, you don’t need a solvent to fix mistakes.

Those well-versed in handling gouache have a “sixth sense” that helps them decide how much water they need. They rarely use masking tape because they can scrape off an area with a sharp object while keeping the integrity of the paint sections.

I heard a story about a Gouache painting event. An artist used Gouache on his canvas project. His use of colour blending and vivid detailing showed his skill and attention. He mentioned being able to fix mistakes quickly without much hassle due to chemical techniques passed down from generations of artisans.

Using gouache paint can be like a rollercoaster ride with its opacity and layering ability.

Disadvantages of gouache paint

Gouache paint is a unique medium – it can create vibrant, opaque colours but also has downsides. It can get expensive and isn’t always easy to find. The pigment may not adhere well to certain surfaces and dries quickly, making blending difficult. Plus, it can be prone to cracking and flaking.

However, many disadvantages can be overcome with practice and careful technique. Gouache originated in ancient Egypt but was replaced in the Renaissance period by oil painting. In the 20th century, it regained popularity among artists.

The dry time and crack

Gouache Paint
Gouache paint

Gouache paints are renowned for their long drying time. This can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the artist. The quality of the paper affects the drying time; thicker papers absorb less moisture, leading to slower drying times. If a layer of paint isn’t allowed to dry fully before additional layers are applied, cracks may form.

Additionally, if thick paint is deliberately layered, the different rates of dryness between the layers can lead to cracks. Using a hairdryer to speed up the drying process can cause temperature differences and cause cracks, too. Add water-based mediums like gum Arabic or flow-aid to your gouache mixture to prevent hairline cracks.

Artists need to be mindful of the particularities of gouache paint when working with it. In addition to controlling opacity and size, they must also manage their drying time. Techniques such as utilizing water-based mediums, choosing the proper paper thickness, and allowing each layer adequate time to dry can help. Don’t fear potential cracking! With the right attention, artists can create stunning artwork that stands the test of time – or switch to digital painting!

Settle and texture

Working with gouache paint is like a game of roulette – will it be a masterpiece or a muddy mess? Settling and texture play a big role in the outcome. Different levels bring different effects and challenges. Check out the table below.

Level Settling Texture
Low Little to none Smooth
Medium Moderate Slightly grainy
High High Rough and textured

Practice and experimentation are key to finding the right level. Water affects these levels, too.

Gouache can be reactivated with water after it has dried. This allows for layering, but too much water can disrupt previous layers. Keep thin layers and let each one dry before applying another.

Cost and availability

There are a few factors to consider when it comes to gouache paint. Cost varies depending on the brand and quality. Professional-grade paint can be more costly than student-grade or individual tubes. The availability of gouache paint may depend on where you live. Art supply stores usually have them, but not all. Online shopping makes it easier than ever to find options. See the table below.

Brand Type Cost
Winsor & Newton Professional-grade gouache set around $USD 90
Daler Rowney Student-grade gouache set around $USD 25
Holbein Individual tube- professional grade 15 ml tube around $USD 10each
M. Graham & Co. Individual tube- professional grade 15 ml tube around $USD 7each

Investing in high-quality paint can save money in the long run. You should also check ingredients and characteristics that may affect how you use them. For example, some colors may crack when dry.

For beginners, student-grade paints are a great way to start. Experienced artists may find professional-grade paint worth the investment. But don’t forget to experiment and enjoy what gouache has to offer!

Pros and cons of using Watercolor

To weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using Watercolor with gouache paint vs. watercolor comparison, we bring you a section dedicated to this analysis. Focus on the pros and cons of using Watercolor to understand what to expect from this medium. The sub-sections under this analysis are advantages and disadvantages.


Watercolor paints provide a range of positive experiences for artists and novices alike. They mix seamlessly to create a spectrum of colors and hues. Exploring the flow between them makes unique textures and patterns. Plus, the transparency of the paint allows light and reflection to be included in the artwork, making it look vibrant and luminous. Cleaning up is hassle-free too – just water and soap!

Using watercolors encourages patience, imagination and attention to detail. Despite its many benefits, unexpected mixing and hard pencil strokes can dampen the painting or make marks that weren’t intended. Paul Cézanne and many other famous artists used Watercolor throughout their careers.

Overall, the occasional challenges of Watercolor may even contribute to the outcome for the better. It’s the only art form where transparency and luminosity can simultaneously make a painting look both ethereal and like a hot mess.

Transparency and luminosity

Watercolor has its special properties of transparency and luminosity, making it stand out compared to other mediums. It adds depth to the art and allows the light to shine through the layers, giving a dreamy look to the colours.

The following table reveals the specifics:

Transparency Level Luminosity
High Low
Low High

High transparency levels make it hard to manipulate colour and tone, which can be tough for beginner artists. But they can get around this by layering or using thicker pigments in opaque areas.

Watercolor’s transparency and luminosity give the artwork a special visual quality. Some tips for using Watercolor involve trying out various techniques like layering, lifting off, or wet-on-wet painting. Also, experimenting with different paper thicknesses helps to understand how to use Watercolor based on personal style.

Want to know the difference between Watercolor and acrylics? Ask yourself, ‘Do I want to carry a Picasso or a water balloon?’

Ease of use and portability

Discussing Watercolor’s ease of use and portability. Let’s take a closer look!

Pros include:

  • It’s easy to mix and blend, giving artwork versatility.
  • Drying quickly, it’s ideal for creating multiple artworks quickly.
  • Minimal technical equipment means it’s easily portable.

Cons include:

  • Quickly drying out on palettes.
  • It can be challenging when trying intricate techniques like layering.

Various effects can be achieved depending on usage techniques. Brushes and pressure application can lead to diverse outcomes. Novice watercolor artists should practice on small canvases, avoiding potential disappointment on larger projects without prior training.

Watercolour may be expensive and harder to find, but gratification from watching mistakes bleed through the paper is priceless!

Cost and availability

Let us look at the costs and feasibility of using watercolors in your art. Here is a table providing info on the cost and availability of materials:

Material Estimated Cost (USD) Availability
WWatercolourpaints (12 colors $15-30 Art supply stores and online retailers
Paper $10-20 per pack Art stores or stationery shops
Brushes $5-20 each Local art supplies store or online
Palette $2-10 Art stores or ordered online

We can see that watercolor materials are moderately priced and widely available. Prices may vary depending on the brand’s quality.

It’s also important to note that some artists may prefer unique paintings or tools from niche brands. These may not always be easy to find, but many options are available online.

Gouache Paint Vs. Watercolor
Gouache paint vs. Watercolor


Using Watercolor has its challenges. For example, it is unpredictable and delicate. Colors can also stain the paper, making it hard to make changes. Additionally, there is a limited color range and longer drying times.

However, watercolors provide unique textures and organic shapes. Artist Winslow Homer said, “The object of art is to create a new reality, not to replicate it.” WWatercolourpainting is a game of hide and seeks with your brush. You may get the coverage you want or watch it run away.

Lack of coverage and control

Watercolor’s limitations can affect a painter’s control and coverage. It’s usually transparent and semi-opaque, offering little coverage compared to other paints.

Controlling the paint on wet paper can be tough, as it spreads beyond the intended area. It also behaves differently when applied to different surfaces.

These limitations may require specific techniques. Artists can pre-wet the paper with a sponge to stop the paint from spreading too much. Different papers’ weights and textures can also help with absorption.

Tools like masking fluid can preserve areas, allowing artists to make beautiful artwork despite Watercolor’s challenges.

Watercolor may be hard to work with, but it’s still beautiful – even if it fades with time!

Staining and blooming

WWatercolour Staining and Blooming

When using Watercolor, it is crucial to comprehend staining and blooming. Staining is when the pigment seeps into paper fibers, creating a semi-permanent mark. Blooming is the halo-like effect that appears around wet areas on the paper.

Pros Cons
-Staining can make colour and intense
-Blooming can give a unique texture
-Staining can make corrections hard
-Blooming may not be wanted in certain styles

Some artists use stains and blooming intentionally; others try to avoid them. It’s up to personal preference and artistic style.

Amazingly, Watercolor’s staining and blooming have been appreciated since ancient times. Egyptians used ‘encaustic painting’, with pigments mixed with melted beeswax and resin. This enabled vivid colors with minimal smudging or bleeding.

Mixing Watercolor is like trying to assemble a jigsaw without a picture, and half the pieces went…fun for some, annoying for most.

Reactivation and mixing

Study the complexities of activating and blending watercolor supplies. Make a table to show Watercolor mixing basics through Watercolors and Dot-Paint-Chart. Put warm colors on one side and cooler hues on the other side. Have a transparent column in between to show how both can mix. Also, use ‘wet-on-wet’ blending for smoother transitions between colors.

WWatercolourMixing Basics

Warm Colors Transparent Mixing Cooler Hues
Watercolors Red, Orange, Yellow Green, Blue, Purple
Dot-Paint-Chart Warm Pink, Coral, and old Aqua, Lavender, Indigo

Fun Fact: Watercolor painting is one of the oldest techniques, dating back 30,000 years to cave paintings.

Choosing between gouache and Watercolor is like pizza and tacos – both are delicious but have different purposes.

What to Choose between gouache paint and Watercolor?

Choosing between gouache paint and Watercolor depends on the intended subject matter, personal preferences, goals, and experimentation and exploration. Each sub-section delves into a unique approach to help you better understand which paint to choose for your artwork.

Based on the intended subject matter

Choosing paint for artwork depends on the subject. Texture, colour, and luminosity can be achieved with different paints. For example, Watercolor works well for details and intricate patterns. Its translucent layers create tints and shades. Gouache paint is opaque, giving sharper edges and vivid colors.

Which one to use is determined by the subject, but also by personal preference and budget. Practice often to get familiar with the paints’ characteristics and techniques. Don’t forget to experiment with both to understand their capabilities; creativity and skills will develop through this. Ultimately, it’s all about personal preferences and your goal.

Based on personal preferences and goals

Gouache paints and Watercolor both have their unique qualities. Gouache is known for its high pigmentation, matte finish, and ability to hide mistakes. Watercolor is more translucent and lighter in coverage, which is good for layering techniques.

The type of paint an artist chooses depends on the subject, the level of detail or contrast desired, and how the finished work will be used. Knowledge of both can help in making an informed decision.

Gouache is good for saturated colors or illustration styles like comics or graphic novels. Watercolor works well for landscapes, creating beautiful washes that capture nature’s subtleties.

Gouache paint dates back to ancient Egypt, where it was used to illustrate manuscripts. Choosing between gouache and Watercolor is like deciding between a hot fudge sundae and a fruit salad. Both have perks, but only one will satisfy an artist’s cravings for vibrant color and texture.

Based on experimentation and exploration

Exploring the properties of gouache paint and watercolors is essential to pick the right medium for your art. Pigment density, transparency and drying time are important factors to consider. Below is a summary of the differences between the two.

Property Gouache Paint Watercolour
Pigment Density High Low
Opacity Opaque Translucent
Mixing Capabilities Limited Extensive
Drying Time Quick Slow

Gouache has higher pigment density and opacity and dries quickly. But it doesn’t have mixing capabilities like watercolors. Watercolors are translucent and have extensive mixing but take more time to dry.

Gouache can be reactivated with water even after it has dried. Watercolour creates a stain once applied. This makes gouache perfect for correcting mistakes.

Gouache has been used for centuries by European illuminators for its high pigment density. Asian artists used watercolors for calligraphy before developing their techniques.

No matter which you choose, don’t forget: mistakes are just happy accidents waiting to happen.


Comparing gouache paint and Watercolor, it’s clear both have their distinctive properties. Watercolor is known for its transparency and delicate touch, while gouache offers vivid, opaque colors and versatility. Plus, it can be reactivated with water even after drying. These two decisions depend on the project’s needs.

Some artists blend them to get certain effects. For instance, layering Watercolor on top of a gouache underpainting can create depth.

It’s also necessary to know how they interact with different surfaces. Watercolor works best on thin paper or cardboard, while gouache can be applied to thicker stuff like canvas or wood. Try them out on different surfaces before committing to a piece.

Exploring the unique qualities of each can result in amazing outcomes. Medieval illuminated manuscripts used gouache and gold leaf, giving texture and richness to their illustrations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I mix gouache paint and Watercolor?

It is possible to mix them, but it is not recommended as they have different properties and may not blend well.

Which one should I choose for my artwork?

It depends on your personal preference and the effect you want to achieve. Gouache is great for vibrant, opaque colors, while Watercolor is perfect for soft, transparent washes.

Can I use gouache paint like Watercolor?

You can dilute the gouache with water to make it more transparent and create a watercolor effect.

How do I store gouache paint and Watercolor?

Both should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Gouache paint should also be sealed tightly to prevent it from drying out.

Which one is more expensive?

Gouache paint is generally more expensive than Watercolor due to its higher pigment concentration. However, the cost may vary depending on the brand and quality of the paint.

Randy CharlesProfessional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of PaintCentric.com, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years of experience in the painting industry, Randy has become an expert in the field and is passionate about helping others learn more about painting. He has written numerous articles on the subject and is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information to his readers.

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