Desire to improve your gouache paintings?
Do you want to paint with gouache?
I’ve been painting with gouache for over 9 years. I’ve learnt a lot during that time, from painting successes to many failures. When I first painted with this terrific medium though, it drove me mad! I was from more of an acrylic background, so I was used to the quick drying nature of gouache, however it’s other painting properties of gouache had me stubbed!
Only with practice and experience with gouache was I able to gain confidence. If you can relate to this, or if you’re a gouache beginner, then this blog post how to paint with gouache. Avoid the agony that I experienced as a beginner with this blog post.
I’ll be sharing my top tips and tricks that I’ve learnt over the last 9 years of working with gouache. You will discover painting tips to save you time, my recommended tools, to practices which you can employ. Gouache is a wonderful painting medium, and most of my illustration portfolio is built from gouache and digital combined. Gouache is a very important medium to me, and I’m here to reveal how great it is!
If you’re looking for more content and advice with gouache, I’ve also created a complete guide to the medium, which offers even more gouache advice for you to digest!
What Is Gouache?
Gouache is a water based painting medium. You can paint gouache thinly with water (like watercolour), or thickly like acrylic – it’s a versatile painting medium. Much like acrylic paint, it’s a fast drying painting medium which makes it an attractive medium to use. Painting into a dried gouache painting with water, is similar to the likes of oil with spirits. It’s a relatively new painting medium in contrast to oil, but it’s a popular choice amongst artists and illustrators.
Gouache works well onto most painting surfaces, from canvas to watercolour paper, and all you need is a painting palette, a water pot and good paintbrushes, and you’re good to go! It’s gouache’s versatile properties that I love, and at the same time can be a real headache!
This is especially true when I was new to the world of gouache – it certainly takes some practice! I’ve been painting with gouache for years, and is my favourite painting medium, which most of my illustration portfolio has been created from.
Gouache, like many other painting mediums, takes patience, experience and practice to master it. So, with that being said, here’s my top tips to help you paint with gouache!
Use Bigger Brushes
I always used small brushes when I was new to painting (which is a common beginner trait). This often resulted in unnecessary paint marks and was very time consuming. Beginners use smaller brushes because they lack confidence. It’s a common mistake if you fall for this trap, and you’re not alone!
I suggest you paint with bigger brushes. This will ensure that you’re saving time painting large areas, it will help your artistic confidence, and bigger brushes will becoming less-daunting. Bigger brushes can scare beginners, as you may feel frightened that bigger brushes lead to mistakes.
This isn’t the case though, as you’re more expressive with larger brushes. When I was learning to paint, I experimented by restricting myself to only using large brushes. I discovered that small, insufficient details aren’t always needed, and bigger brushes leads to pleasing results.
Pro tip: When you’re next painting, always try and go for a brush which is slightly too large for what you’re painting – it’s surprisingly effective!
Gouache is heavenly as you can work back into a painting with water. The bad thing about gouache is that you can work back into a painting with water.
When using gouache, I recommend leaving areas of your painting that you like. Unless you feel it will help your painting, you can keep going back and going back into a painting until your head goes fuzzy.
I encountered this problem when I first started using gouache to build my illustration portfolio. You can skip this frustration by leaving what you like, and just working on the things that need work.
Pro Tip: Paint with purpose, make every mark count, and if you like it and it works, leave it!
Strong Drawing Skills Leads To Strong Painting Skills
Painting is simply drawing with colour and a brush. That’s why drawing is so important to not only aid your gouache painting skills, but your overall painting skills. The famous John Singer Sargent once said:
“You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh” ~ John Singer Sargent
If this artistic legend promotes drawing and sketching, then it must be good advice. To sum up what Sargent said – draw daily and sketch as often as possible. Create a daily drawing habit, which will drastically improve your paintings. Draw from life, attend life drawing classes, seek a mentor or teacher. The more you draw, the more problems you will encounter and solve.
Your gouache paintings will come to life if you draw daily.
I have a daily drawing habit (drawing for at least 30 minutes a day), which has done wonders for my painting. Pick a distraction-free time and make sure you don’t book anything within this period. This is your most effective time to sit down and draw – so protect it. I also recommend habit trackers so you can keep track of your habits and remind yourself to do them.
If you want extra help with your habits, James Clear’s book ‘Atomic Habits‘ has all the advice to help you create beneficial habits.
Pro Tip: Commit to a daily (which is deliberate and focused) drawing practice. See how this drastically improves your paintings.
Use A Ceramic Palette
The old saying rings true here – “you get what you pay for”.
Painting with cheap brushes is one thing (don’t do it!), but mixing your gouache paint on a cheap palette is also something to avoid.
Ceramic is the way to go here, as these are easy to mix paint, easy to clean and is easy to blend for beginners. Get a ceramic palette here.
Pro Tip: Use a ceramic palette wherever possible!
Use Good Brushes
Similar to using a ceramic palette, you also get what you pay for with your painting brushes. Avoid cheap ones, as these brush hairs often fray quickly – making your painting life miserable.
I currently use Royal & Landnickel brush set, and have a few Winsor & Newton brushes too (which are more expensive but are so good to paint with). Go for quality with your brushes and palette, you certainly won’t regret it in the long run!
Pro Tip: Use good paint brushes (good brushes are more expensive however in most cases).
The Key To Great Paintings
All of these tips above will improve your gouache creations. However, creating epic gouache paintings also requires other elements that you may not have considered.
From composition, tones, edges, movement and rhythm, colour to painting technique, a lot of components go into a great painting. You can always improve in these artistic avenues; which I highly recommend you learn and discover more about if you haven’t yet done so. It will help your overall art, not just your gouache paintings.
Studying artistic masters is a great way to start. Instead of trying to solve artistic problems yourself, studying masters can help you skip all of that. From Van Gogh, Rembrandt to Rubens, there’s so many great artists out there that you can learn from. When studying master artwork, pick artists that you love, and pick one subject that you love about their work.
For instance, you may study Rembrandt’s composition, Michelangelo’s drawing technique, or Turner’s colour. Be selective, and study individual elements of their work. I also recommend you choose a mixture of master’s work, as you may end up being a carbon-copy of their work if you just study one artist. Study what appeals to you, and it will help your gouache paintings endlessly. I can’t recommend master studies enough!
Pro Tip: Using the best tools, but focus on your technique (from the artistic masters) is crucial to help improve your paintings.
Online Resources To Help Your Gouache Paintings
Using high-quality tools is a must! Painting is hard enough, so if you want to make your painting life as easy as possible (even though painting can be rather challenging!), then make sure you choose high-quality products. With that being said, how can you improve your overall painting skill even more? Using free content to help! Here’s a small list of online resources to help improve your own gouache paintings:
Check out my previous blog posts: especially this gouache article, how to improve your colour, and also this blog post to help with other tools that you might need. I regularly update my blog so check back to help improve your gouache paintings.
This Youtube video: offers an interesting insight into this artist’s process, especially their use of underpainting:
This great blog post: gives you great tips and advice to improve your overall painting skill.
Very helpful (and entertaining) video: by the legendary Proko, on the 80 / 20 painting rule:
Another (popular) video: that really got me thinking of how important it is to draw everyday, and to make sure I know what I’m planning on drawing that day / week / month. It’ll help you a lot.
Pro Tip: Learn for free (most of the time) online – via Youtube for example.
Get Feedback & Mentoring
One of the best ways to improve your gouache paintings (or art in general), if with teaching and mentoring. Great resources that I recommend like Youtube and online courses is something which you should take full advantage of. Of course, choose courses which have the best teachers, reviews and social proof, as some are quite expensive!
But these avenues can really propel your gouache paintings to the next level.
If you’re not a fan of learning on online courses, Youtube or things like blogs (even though you’re reading my blog right now haha!), traditional courses are available across the globe.
You can get 1-1 tuition, join workshops or attend courses in person. I love how easy and accessible online courses and online learning is, but I also love how committed you have to be with courses where you are there in person. This form of teaching is sometimes a lot more personal and you can learn faster.
Pro Tip: Choose the avenue (or both), that suits you best and it will propel your painting skill to the next level.
Other Resources To Help Your Paintings
I highly recommend you check out my Resources page. This page gives you all the tools, books and resources I use on a daily and weekly basis to create my art and illustrations.
Painting and creating art is hard enough, so choosing your tools carefully is recommended. This goes back to the old saying – ‘you get what you pay for’.
There’s nothing worse than painting with cheap tools – especially paintbrushes! Even though choosing the right tools is crucial, focusing on skill, technique and practice is more important. You can have the best tools in the world, but have terrible skill.
It’s a bit of a double-edged sword (you need good tools, but also good skill)!
But what are some of my other resources that I recommend?
Easel / raised workspace: Drawing and painting face down on the desk can create neck-pain and is not best practice, consider an easel or raised workspace.
Seawhite 300gsm A2 paper: This is a brilliant paper for painting and drawing on a thick material – making painting an ease!
Caran d’Ache Gouache Set: A brilliant brand with excellent products – highly recommend!
Drawing on the Tight Side Of The Brain: Not necessary painting related, but is a great book for the beginner.
Colour & Light by James Gurney: Great to help your colour within your paintings.
Ceramic palette: highly recommended!
A used and cleaned out yoghurt pot: to put your painting water in!
A toolbox: I have a toolbox which houses most of my tools – and this is portable which is ideal.
Improve Your Gouache Paintings Now!
As you may tell from my enthusiasm for painting in general, I love gouache as a painting medium. It’s an easy medium to get into, as all you need is paint and palette, water and a painting surface. The aim of the game is to practice (consistently and deliberately), utilising the tips and tricks above.
If you’re a complete beginner to gouache, I’m confident with practice and experience of the medium, that you will grow to love it. Sure, there are times when gouache can be very frustrating (even to the experts), but this medium is a worthwhile pursuit to master.
I hope this article has helped you discover and learn all about gouache, and how you can improve your own gouache paintings. Especially if you’re a beginner, all new things take time. If you’re particularly new to this painting medium, give it patience.
Even if you consider yourself a good drawer, it doesn’t necessarily equal good painting (but it definitely helps – like we covered above). Focus on deliberate practice and concentrate on practicing your skill and technique, and satisfying results will come.
As a reminder, here’s a brief summary that I’ve shared with you:
- Get feedback from teachers and mentors – this is the best way to escalate your painting skill.
- Use a limited colour palette.
- Paint onto thick, heavyweight, durable watercolour paper, over 200gsm at least.
- Owning the right tools for the job – focusing on improving your skill is the most important, however it’s important you also use the right tools for he job. Invest in quality products. Mix your paint with a ceramic palette, and avoid cheap plastic ones!
- Use bigger brushes – paint with as big brush for any given period.
- Don’t overwork – if you like a particular part of a painting, leave it! Avoid overworking. Use thick paint to help blend one colour into another. Work with gouache, not against it. Use it’s painting properties to your advantage.
- Strong drawing skills leads to good painting skills – you can never sketch enough! There’s no substitute for drawing and sketching daily – it will help your gouache paintings.
- Study artistic masters – learn from the artistic masters out there and see how they painted with this fantastic medium!
I’ll love to know what you think of this article!
How have you improved your gouache paintings?
Have I missed anything?
What have you learnt?
Please do comment be below, I’ll love to hear your thoughts and opinions!
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