My Gouache Essentials
Updated: Apr 22, 2021
Here's a quick list of essentials to get you started in painting with gouache and some helpful tips!
Welcome! I'm so glad you're here. These are some things I've learned since using gouache in the last year. I'd love to hear your feedback. Thank you for supporting my art endeavors, if you haven't already, consider following me on Instagram or buying me a coffee so I can continue to create more content. :) Now onto the reason you're here!!
There are so many great brands out there. However, I mainly work with Holbein Artists gouache and M.Graham & Co. Gouache is beautiful in the way it can be reactivated with water. If you've had to take a break from painting you can come back to your dried up palette, spritz with some water and continue working. It is never really the same as before but works just fine! However, white is almost never salvageable once it's dried up.
Paint colors I find myself using the most are:
I also keep 2 different kinds of white in stock. I use Zinc White for mixing with colors to make them go farther. Then I use Titanium White for when I want a more opaque layer (usually when I'm adding a layer of paint on top of another). Titanium White is also great for getting a pure white if you're adding a moon, stars or clouds for example.
I absolutely love Princeton Brushes (particularly the velvet touch ones). They're great for beginners and more advanced users. One round brush (size 4 or 6) will go a long way! I find myself reaching for both sizes often. The synthetic fibers allow for a lot of water retention and bounce and if they're taken care of properly, they will last a long time.
**Please don't store your brushes in your jars of water in-between uses!! I see this all the time and it makes me crazy! The water will soak into the wooden handle and cause it to split as well as deforming the brush tip from the weight of the brush standing up.
The quality of the paper you use is super important. Because gouache is used with water, using normal paper with water based paint makes the paper warp. Try to find a paper that is 300gsm. I like to use Arches Cold Pressed Paper. When I'm working from a sketchbook I typically use the Pentalic Aqua Journal or Arteza Watercolor Sketchbooks for practice.
Jars of Water
You should always have at least 2 jars of water with you when you're painting with gouache. One jar for rinsing the paint off your brush and the other for picking up clean water. This prevents your colors from becoming muddy. Call me crazy but depending on which colors I'm working with sometimes I'll even grab a third jar of water, especially if I'm working with dark colors.
Washi Tape is how I get those clean lines! It's a thin Japanese paper tape. Be careful when removing it from your finished product though. Sometimes it can tear up the paper as you're taking it off. This is easily avoided if you briefly use heat on it first, like a blow-dryer, before you peel it off. Or just by peeling it slowly.
Depending on how you like to work you can choose totally different palettes. I like to mix colors a lot but if I want A LOT of a certain color, I'll mix into a palette with wells so they hold more paint. Otherwise, my most used one is in the picture above. It's nothing fancy. In fact, I made it from removing the glass from an old 8x10 picture frame and then I duct-taped the edges. It works so well especially if your painting surface is white, you know what your color looks like as your mixing. It also washes up beautifully.
Other Odd's & Ends
Other little extra things I use are bulldog clips to hold my sketchbooks open. I always keep a few scrap cloths around for drying my brushes or getting out the excess water. Another thing that's useful is a micron/ultra-fine tip pen for signing your work!
Here are a few things I've picked up since I started painting. Give it a go and let me know what you think and if you found it helpful!
Paint in layers. Especially if you're painting landscapes. I've found it's best to start on the background/furthest away subject such as the sky and clouds. Work your way up to the foreground painting the objects closest to you last.
Speaking of painting in layers, be mindful of how much paint you're using. Remember that gouache reactivates with water. At least in my case, working from thin to thick layers has worked well for me. Let your paint dry between layers.
If you're stuck on getting an element of your painting just right, move on and come back to it later. Gouache can be very forgiving in the sense that you can just reactivate it with water or paint over it. It's always best to come back with a fresh perspective.
Does your painting look a bit chaotic? This could be that you've used too many colors. Try trimming back and experimenting with a limited palette. I've recently enjoyed using: Payne's Grey, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Yellow and White. You could even try swatching out all of the possible color combos.
Most important, just have fun with it! Painting should be a way to let go and create. Don't get hung up on how this will look on social media or think that it needs to look perfect every time. Otherwise, you hinder your progress right out of the gate by setting unrealistic expectations. It takes time and practice to learn. I'm still learning everyday!
If you found this helpful, I'd love to hear about it! Feel free to reach out and say "Hi!". Consider buying me a coffee so I can continue to create more content :) Soon, I'll be planning to upload some youtube tutorials! Thank you for reading!!