What is gouache?

Gouache has recently resurfaced as a popular medium for painting and creating crafts! Due to demand from my Instagram followers, I have created a complete guide about the ins and outs of gouache. So, what is gouache?

Gouache is a watermedia also referred to as an opaque watercolor. Interestingly, gouache paint is made of opaque pigment, which is mixed with water and then thickened with a gluelike material called gum.

Although not as common as watercolor or acrylic paints, gouache has been used for almost 600 years! This vibrant painting medium is usually packaged in aluminium tubes (sets) or in a palette.

Gouache pronunciation?

To be honest, I keep pronouncing “go-ash” or “go-ash-ay” but it is correctly pronounced as “gwash”. 

How to use gouache?

Adding Water

When you first squeeze gouache out of the tube the consistency may appear to be similar to watercolor or acrylic mediums. You can change the richness of the paint by adding less or more water. Mix in more water to create a more watercolor feel. On the other hand, if you use less water the consistency becomes that of acrylic paint.

Mixing with Water

It is important not to use gouache straight out of the tube. The paints will only become ‘active’ and suitable for use only when water has been added. for the perfect consistency, gradually add water and use a paintbrush to stir until the texture becomes toothpaste-like.

Gouache Properties

As mentioned earlier, the consistency of this paint will depend on your preference. For a more transparent feel, simply add more water. As this painting medium dries very quickly, it’s great for creating layers on top of each other. I find that gouache is perfect for painting my florals and botanicals.

How to re-use?

What happens when you have finished your painting and you still have a blob left on your palette? I can’t bear to see paint go to waste so I would store the palette with the leftover gouache in a container to prevent dust from gathering. The next time I’m ready to paint again, I simply add water to re-activate the paint.

Gouache flower painting with red, pinks and yellows

All the supplies you need:


To start off you do not need to purchase the most expensive gouache paints out there. The basic three primary colored (i.e. red, yellow, and blue), black and white paints are enough for any beginners to gouache. You can also purchase sets of six-, eight,- or 12-color kits which for your needs.

Mixing colors together is another option to achieve a color you may not have. Using a color wheel is a perfect way to find unique and desired colors.

For instance red and blue creates a gorgeous purple. If you want a light purple simply add white or if you want a dark purple add a touch of black paint.

Personally, I prefer to use the Windsor & Newton gouache paint sets. Unlike more generic brands, these pigments are extremely high-quality and vibrant. These properties are essential for when I paint my florals and botanicals.



The essentials for any artist regardless of any painting medium are a larger round brush and a smaller round brush. The hairs on the paint brushes are made from different materials, such as natural hairs or synthetic fibres.

For gouache, synthetic haired brushes are perfect! Synthetic fibres have soft textures and allow fluidity with the paint and allow the artist to create fine details in their art piece.

Although you can use any brush to paint beautiful illustrations and pictures, I typically use the Princeton Artist Brushes. While painting my florals I noticed these brushes have finer hairs which helps disperse the pigments more evenly. Another great feature is that they tend not to fray. I’ve kept mine for over a year and it’s still kept its shape.

For a point of reference, I’ll link the 2 Princeton I would recommend for beginners or event pros!

Larger round brush – Princeton Round Synthetic Squirrel Size 6

Smaller Round Brush – Princeton Round Synthetic Squirrel Size 2

Extra Tip: Once you have completed with your painting, it is important to thoroughly clean your brush with water to remove any pigments left over. Speaking from experience, gouache dries very quickly and can ruin your brushes by leaving pigment in the bristles.

Painting surface:

Due to the physical properties of a water type medium, gouache is best used on watercolor paper. If your a beginner, any watercolor branded paper would be ok, as long as the thickness is over 200gsm. I used watercolor paper from my local bargain $2 store and works perfectly! Thick watercolor paper prevents the paper from getting “warped” and crinkly when water is applied to the paper.

Extra Tip: Once you have completed your art work, your paper may be a little warped to guarantee a flat and non-warped piece, place your painting in between hardcover books (the heavier the better) and leave overnight. 

Other materials:

To mix gouache colors I’d recommend using a paint palette which you can find at your local art stores. Any material is suitable for gouache including wooden, upcycle an old ceramic plate, or disposable cardboard palettes.

Because I’m using multiple colors, I prefer to use a palette with at least 6 wells and some space to mix. For your convenience, I’ve linked a cheap 6-well palette on Amazon but anything similar should be fine!

Paper towels are also handy on the side in case you need to remove wet gouache paint from your painting. Last but not least, you will also need water! I usually have 2 jars set up: 1 for the initial paintbrush wash and the 2nd to double wash your paintbrush. This will ensure your paintbrushes are clean from pigment residue.

Painting ideas:

This painting medium has been primarily used for illustrators but it is so versatile and can be used to paint landscapes, floral patterns, gardens, buildings, potted plants, cactus and plants and so much more.

I love using this painting medium in my floral wreath paintings. The colours are so bright and I absolutely love the printed look and the boldness of the painting.

A common question that is asked is, “Is gouache good for beginners?” If you are a beginner, I would recommend painting floral patterns first. Floral patterns can best be described as drawing a collection of simple and scattered flowers and leaves all over your page.

One key tip is to paint with shapes. This will give you a good feel for how to paint with this gorgeous medium and is super simple! Simply outline a flower shape and use the paint to fill in the shape!

Discover my step-by-step gouache painting tutorial below. I will show you all the fundamental steps for perfecting any of your gouache masterpieces. Whether you’ve just started or are at an intermediate level, you should definitely check it out!


Gouache vs watercolor?

One key difference between gouache and watercolor is that gouache is more opaque meaning that it is not transparent.

The physical properties of gouache have a higher pigment content and larger pigment particles than watercolor. This creates a more vibrant feel as opposed to the translucent or ‘see through’ vibe with watercolor paint.

Despite the physical differences the characteristics and technique are very similar to watercolor.

Difference between acrylic paints, gouache paints and watercolour paints
Difference between acrylic paints, gouache paints and watercolour paints

Gouache vs acrylic?

Many of my interest followers have asked “how is gouache different from acrylic?” Acrylic paints are a deeper based paint and dries exceptionally fast compared to the other two painting mediums.

When painting, the main difference between the two is that acrylic is also much thicker. Gouache dries quicker than watercolor and leaves a flat or matte appearance compared to the shinier acrylic paints.

Want more inspiration?

I would also recommend checking out blogs from Jessie Olson Moore and Creative Catalyst who inspired me to create my complete and simple gouache painting tutorial

Check out our blog post where you can follow a step-by-step tutorial on painting a floral wreath using gouache.