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Gouache

Gouache

Gouache is an opaque watercolour. It dries to a flat, matt colour when used from the tube with a little water to help flow or can be thinned right down to be applied as a wash. Unlike Acrylic, it is not waterproof when dry. Here we offer Winsor & Newton Designers, Royal Talens and Plaka and, for students, the Reeves and Royal & Langnickel options as well as Sennelier pigments and Gouache Binding Medium for making your own gouache paint.

A brief description of Gouache

What is Gouache? Gouache is a water-based paint consisting of pigment held in gum Arabic - much like watercolour - but with an inert white pigment added so that the paint is opaque and dries to a flat, matt finish and has none of the translucency of watercolour. Also, known as Body Colour, the finish allows for good reproduction making it ideal for commercial art and illustration.
How do you pronounce ‘gouache’? The word gouache is the French take on the word, guazzo, an Italian word derived from the Latin for watering place. As such, the most common pronunciation is with a French twist – gwahsh. However, it is also possible to describe it with the more anglicised ‘goo-ash’. Both pronunciations are used and understood as the same product.
How is gouache used? The paint naturally lends itself to bold applications of flat, opaque colour but it can be thinned with water to be applied in washes. However, the best way to use it is to add just enough water to allow a good flow. It is very quick-drying so graduations of colour should be laid down quickly – having a number of tones pre-mixed and waiting on the palette for large areas is advisable. There can also be quite a lot of difference between wet and dry colour values so trying to re-mix a colour used in a previous painting session can be tricky.
Who uses gouache? As a fast-drying paint that does not require any mediums, it is a staple of art students getting to grips with tone and composition. It is great for Plein-air painting because of its immediacy and coverage. Turner is known to have used gouache for a number of his landscape sketches and the flat, matt finish was ideal for matisse too. He used it to colour the paper for his ‘cut out’ collages. But gouache came into its own throughout the 20th century as the medium of choice for posters, animation, comics, packaging design and other commercial Art.

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