Step-By-Step Guide on Creating a Gouache Painting

Are you an artist eager to explore the stunning possibilities of gouache painting? As a rising star in the art world, gouache continues to captivate creatives with its ability to produce breathtaking and versatile projects. Known for its opaque and vibrant colors, as well as its user-friendly nature, gouache is an excellent medium for beginners and seasoned artists alike.

A gouache painting of a bonfire

Artists' Gouache Set - Strolling Through New York

If you're a beginner wanting to learn gouache painting, then this guide is for you! Today, we'll talk about how to use gouache and give you a step-by-step guide to creating your very own gouache artwork. So, gather your paints and brushes, and let's embark on a creative journey that will bring your artistic vision to life!

How to Use Gouache as a Medium

As a water-based medium, working with gouache is similar to the process of working with watercolors. You use watercolor paper, and you utilize water to control the shades of your colors. If you want more soft and transparent washes, use more water. For a more opaque and acrylic-like look, use less water, and add more paint. 

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Like watercolors, gouache is created with pigment, a binding agent (usually gum Arabic), and additives such as fillers and preservatives. The pigment is the colored component of the paint and provides the desired hue. Gouache pigments are often finely ground to create a smooth consistency.

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The binding agent, typically gum Arabic, serves to bind the pigment particles together and adhere them to the painting surface. It also contributes to the water-soluble nature of gouache, allowing it to be reactivated with water even after drying. This is why gouache is also considered an eco-friendly medium - not only is it easier to clean, but its usage is also longer for more paintings! 

Gouache also has some similarities to acrylic paint, so you can use it in that way to create vibrant and opaque paintings. Thanks to its richer and thicker consistency, you can also utilize gouache paint in mixed media artworks as well, such as for creating impasto effects and using it to create textures like an embossing paste. 

Gouache Painting Step-By-Step for Beginners

1. Gather Your Materials

Start by assembling the necessary materials, including gouache paints, brushes, a palette, water, and watercolor paper or a mixed-media sketchbook. Ensure you have a range of brush sizes and shapes, such as fine, flat, and round brushes, to accommodate different details and areas.

A beginning sketch of a gouache painting

2. Prepare Your Workspace

Set up a clean and well-lit workspace. Protect your surface with a waterproof covering in case of accidental spills or messes. Keep a container of water nearby for cleaning brushes and a paper towel for blotting excess water.

An imprimatura layer of a gouache painting

3. Mix Your Colors

Gouache comes in tubes and dries quickly, so squeeze small amounts of the desired colors onto your palette. It is advisable to mix enough amount of the colors you want, as you don't want to be in the middle of painting to realize that the exact shade of cerulean blue you mixed with cyan ran out. It is hard to match colors with your previous mixes exactly, so make sure to mix enough.  

An artist mixing their gouache paints

Watercolor Palette - Medium

Once you have mixed your gouache colors, add water gradually to achieve your desired consistency. You can use gouache paints straight from the tube or thinned with water for transparency, depending on the effect you want to achieve.

4. Create a Light Sketch or Outline

Create a rough sketch or outline of your subject. This step will allow you to visualize your light source, perspective, proportions, and angle. You can choose to skip this step and create from scratch, but if you're a beginner who wants to create more accurate or realistic renderings, having a guideline is best. It will make adding shadows, highlights, and details easier once you have plotted all the parts of your subject - whether it's a landscape, still-life, portrait, or abstract artwork. 

An artist painting a gouache artwork of a campfire on a beach

5. Start Painting Your First Layer

Once you have your sketch, apply a light wash of water over the area you plan to paint. This type of priming helps the gouache adhere to the paper better. Once the paper is wet, load your brush with the desired color and apply it to the surface with confident strokes. 

A gouache painting of a campfire on a beach almost finished

Start with creating lighter values first, such as for the background, then move on to darker and more intense values as you create your foreground elements. Experiment with layering colors, blending, and creating different textures to bring depth and dimension to your artwork. 

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6. Allow Layers to Dry in Between Applications

Gouache dries quickly, but it's essential to let each layer dry before applying another. This prevents unwanted smudging or mixing of colors. You can use a heat gun tool on a low setting to speed up the drying process if desired. 

7. Build Highlights and Details

Once the base layers are dry, add highlights and fine details to your painting. Gouache allows for precise and controlled brushwork, making it ideal for adding intricate elements and highlights that pop. Plus, since gouache paint is opaque, you can easily paint over dried layers with white gouache, and it will still show up. That's the beauty of the medium! 

8. Experiment and Have Fun

Art isn't supposed to be perfect; its main purpose is to express, learn, and create. Since gouache is a versatile medium, don't be afraid to experiment and explore different techniques. Test out dry brush techniques, color mixing, and layering to discover your own unique style. Embrace the spontaneous nature of gouache and let your creativity flow!

A beautiful gouache painting of a bonfire by the sea

9. Protect Your Artwork

Once your gouache painting is fully dry, consider framing it behind glass to protect it from smudging or dust. Gouache paintings aren't really varnished, unlike oil and acrylic paintings, so keeping your artwork in a frame or sketchbook should do the trick. 

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Start Your First Gouache Painting Today!

Remember, practice makes perfect, so don't be discouraged if your initial attempts aren't exactly what you envisioned. Gouache offers endless opportunities for creativity, so enjoy the process and let your imagination soar as you master this captivating medium! We hope you learned a lot from this post and that it gave you the confidence you need to begin that first brushstroke. Happy painting!