5 Helpful Gouache Painting Techniques for Beginners

Not a lot of people know this medium, even though it has been around for a long time. However, gouache a medium that’s definitely worth discovering.

It’s a type of paint similar to watercolor and tempera paints, and is sometimes called “opaque watercolor” because of its vibrant, luminous hues similar to both watercolors and acrylics. There are three components of gouache paints: a high amount of color pigment, gum Arabic, and a solid white pigment (i.e. chalk).

You can think of gouache paints as a type of watercolor that you can layer in gradients and paint in whites without masking off, and because quite affordable, there’s no need for a complicated set-up to start.

If you’re getting started using this medium, here are a few painting techniques you need to keep in mind when painting with gouache:

1. Staining
Staining is covering up an area with watered-down paint. This gives you the base layer, or underpainting, that you can work on and add details as you go.

When starting with your base layer, be sure to use even strokes and wet your brush regularly as needed. This way, your underpainting stays as even as possible and you will have no problems adding following layers.

2. Softening
Gouache works similar to watercolor in that you can re-work it long after it has dried on the surface, sometimes even after several days have passed.

This also lets you create any additional gradients that you missed when building layers. To do this, add more water to your brush and apply to the dry strokes or areas of gouache that you want to create a gradient for.

However, use this method carefully, especially if your surface is prone to warping when exposed to water.

3. Bloom
You can water down gouache to make it move just like watercolor, and using blooms lets you add in different color bases that you can layer on top of. Simply add more water and only a small amount of pigment, and watch the color spread or “bloom” to your desired effect.

4. Dry Brush
Dry-brushing is when you layer colors on top of one another to preserve their texture. You can do this when you want to preserve the original underlying colors while adding something else on top.

Use this method for adding finer details to your work that could change the color of your underpainting when water is applied.

5. Blurring
Blurring offers a loose, organic look in painting where you can use the brush and pigment to mix colors as you want. Do this only with limited colors to keep the resulting blend from looking too muddy.