Do you want to discover expert gouache tips?
Desire to improve your gouache paintings?
I’ve been painting with gouache for over 9 years. I’ve learnt a lot during that time, from painting successes too many failures.
Gouache drove me mad when I first used it! I was from an acrylic background, so I was familiar to the quick drying nature of gouache, however it’s other painting properties of gouache had me stumped (which I’ll discuss later). Only with practice and experience was I able to gain confidence. If you can relate to this, or if you’re a gouache beginner, then this blog post is here to help you.
Avoid the agony that I experienced with gouache.
Within this blog post I’m sharing my top gouache tips that I’ve learnt over 9 years of working with gouache. You will discover painting gouache tips to save you time, my recommended tools, to practices that you can employ. Gouache is a wonderful painting medium, and most of my illustration portfolio is built with gouache. I love gouache, and I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge!
If you’re looking for even more content and advice with gouache, I’ve also created a complete guide to gouache. This blog post offers even more gouache advice for you to digest!
So sit back and learn how you improve your own paintings with these gouache tips.
Legendary artists like Van Gogh, J. C. Leyendecker, to J.M.W. Turner, planned their artworks ahead of time. They didn’t just paint a masterpiece without thinking and planning beforehand. These artistic legends made sure they planned.
Drawing and making notes in their sketchbooks, these artists (like most professional artists come to think of it) plan before committing to a painting. Like Norman Rockwell said:
“Too many novices, I believe, wait until they are on the canvas before trying to solve many of their problems. It is much better to wrestle with them ahead through studies.” – Norman Rockwell
Even though you may just be practicing your gouache paintings in a sketchbook, it’s still worthwhile painting thumbnails. Helping you get to grips with tones, composition and colour before tackling any artwork. It will save you time, and help you improve quicker too.
This can be small thumbnails in your sketchbook, and doesn’t have to be bigger than 2-3 inches. Drawing thumbnails and planning ahead is crucial if you’re painting for a commission for instance. Take Rockwell’s advice, and solve your problems before arriving at the final artwork.
Pro tip: Plan ahead, draw small thumbnail sketches and know exactly what you’re creating before painting.
Use Bigger Brushes
When I was new to painting I always used small brushes (which you’re going to relate to if you’re a beginner). This often resulted in unnecessary paint marks and was very time consuming. This is often a beginner mistake.
I suggest you paint with bigger brushes. This saves time painting large areas, will help your artistic confidence, and you can discover how easy bigger brushes are to use. Bigger brushes can scare beginners, as you may feel frightened that bigger brushes leads to mistakes. This isn’t the case, as you’re more likely to be looser and 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. You’ll be surprised at how much it can improve your art.
So, when you’re next painting, always try and select a brush which is slightly too large for what you’re painting – you’ll be surprised by how effective it can be!
Pro tip: Use bigger brushes, especially for large shapes.
Gouache is heavenly as you can work back into a painting with water. Gouache is also frustrating for many, because you can work back into a painting with water.
Especially for beginners, working back into a painting can feel wonderful, and then other times, not so much!
When using gouache, I recommend leaving areas of your painting that you like. Unless you feel it will help your painting, you can keep changing your painting until your head goes fuzzy.
I encountered this problem when I first started using gouache. I would keeping changing and working back into a painting, and the result was messy! You can skip this frustration by leaving what you like, and just working on the things that need work.
Pro tip: The general rule – paint with purpose, make every mark count, and if you like it, leave it!
Strong Drawing Skills Leads To Good Paintings
This wouldn’t be a very good blog post of gouache tips without mentioning drawing. Painting is simply drawing with colour and a brush. That’s why drawing is so important to not only aid your gouache paintings, but your overall painting skill. The famous John Singer Sargent once said:
“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.” – John Signer Sargent
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 you need to help you create habits (it’s also one of my favourite self-help / habit books).
Pro tip: Sketch, draw and practice your art daily – it will help your painting skill.
Use A Ceramic Palette
The old saying rings true – “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 something to avoid completely.
Ceramic is the way to go here, as this material is easy to mix paint, easy to clean, and is easy to blend for beginners. It makes painting easier. This ceramic palette is affordable, easy to clean, and it’s great to mix with.
If you’re painting from an easel or on location, a portable palette is ideal for this sort of painting. A palette with a hole is most desirable, as one hand can hold the palette comfortably, and one hand can concentrate on painting. (Think of good old Bob Ross’s palette – that sort of style).
Of course you don’t necessarily need this sort of palette, but go for a painting palette which is comfortable, and allows it to be held by one hand.
Once you have finished painting, I recommend you clean your palette with some water and some toilet paper. When you next paint, you’ll start off with a nice clean palette. Get in the habit of doing this and it can save you time in the long run!
Pro tip: Avoid plastic were possible, and use ceramic palettes. Always choose quality over quantity.
Use Good Brushes
Similar to using a ceramic palette, you also get what you pay for with your painting brushes. Avoid cheap brushes, as their hairs can fray quickly – making your painting life miserable.
I currently use Royal & Landnickel brush set, and have a few Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes too (which are quite 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! I’ve been using my Royal & Landnickel brushes for years, and are still going strong today!
When you’re finished with any painting session, it’s key that you clean your brushes correctly. If not, any remaining paint on your brush can make the hairs fray – which is an ordeal to paint with in the future.
I always clean my brushes after any painting session, and use hand soap and work my fingers into the fibres so I remove all of the paint from the brush. (Even though this is an article about gouache tips, this is even more crucial if you’re painting with acrylic. If acrylic paint dries on your paintbrush, it’s very difficult to remove as this is a plastic-based paint). I then dry my brushes with a bit of toilet paper.
Pro tip: Remove any paint from your brush with hand soap and cold water after every painting session.
The Key To Great Paintings
All of these gouache tips above will improve your gouache creations. However, creating epic gouache paintings also requires other elements that you may not have considered.
From good composition, tones, edges, 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. It will improve your 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 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: Study the masters of art to improve your own paintings.
Gouache Painting Techniques
As you may have discovered, gouache is a versatile painting medium.
As a result, there’s lots of different painting techniques to choose from; which offers different results. With practice, experience, and experimentation, these techniques will become second nature to you, and you’ll discover more as you learn. If you’re an absolute beginner, I recommend experimenting with these painting techniques, so you can familiarise yourself with how gouache functions.
- Wet-on-wet: Painting thick or watered down, this is where you paint whilst the paint on the surface is still wet. I love using wet-on-wet technique with thick paint, as it promotes good colour flow and is very satisfying. You can also produce great gouache results with watered down wet-on-wet, applying a watered down (almost watercolour treatment) consistency to your panting surface.
- Dry brush: Perfect for painting grass, foliage, to hair, the dry brush technique is great whilst using gouache (but also works for most other painting mediums too). This technique requires a dry brush (hence the name), so remove most of the excess water from the paintbrush.
- Block colours / ‘Blended’ colours: as gouache is similar to both acrylic and oil, you can paint block colours, or blend your colours together. This depends on the painting style you want to achieve.
There’s lots of different gouache painting techniques and styles out there, from impressionist, pointillism to realism. Practice to understand what techniques and styles suit you best.
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 this only goes so far if you have poor artistic skill. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword (you need good tools, but also good skills too)!
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 350gsm A3 Paper: This is a brilliant paper for painting and drawing on a thick material – making painting an ease!
- A used and cleaned out yoghurt pot to put your painting water in!
- Caran d’Ache Gouaches: A brilliant brand with excellent products – highly recommend!
- Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain: Not necessary painting related, but is a great book for a drawing beginner.
- A toolbox: I have a portable toolbox that hosts most of my tools.
- Colour & Light by James Gurney: A great book to help your use of colour.
Gouache Tips To Help You: What Have You Learnt?
As you may tell from my enthusiasm, I love gouache as a painting medium. It’s an easy medium to get into, as all you need is paint, a palette, water and a painting surface. The aim of the game is to practice (consistently and deliberately), utilising the tips and tricks that I’ve shown you today. As a reminder, here’s a brief summary that I’ve shared with you:
- Mix your paint with a ceramic palette, and avoid cheap plastic ones!
- Use thick paint to help blend one colour into another.
- There’s no substitute for drawing and sketching daily – it will help your gouache paintings.
- Work with gouache, not against it. Use it’s painting properties to your advantage.
- Paint onto thick, heavyweight, durable watercolour paper, over 200gsm at least.
- Study the masters to help your painting skill.
- Use a limited colour palette.
If you’re a complete beginner to these gouache tips, 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’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 from these gouache tips? Please do comment be below, I’ll love to hear your thoughts and opinions!
Many thanks for listening and visiting my news page today. You can follow what I’m up to on my Twitter, Facebook or Instagram pages, I’ll really appreciate it if you do, and don’t be afraid to say hi to me! Many thanks again, and have a great day!