Gouache paint is like watercolour, but more opaque. It's a lot more forgiving, too, so it's great if you think you might need to paint over mistakes. Plus, uniquely, it reactivates so you can use water to alter the composition once it's painted on a surface.
As gouache is water-based, it'll easily wash away from paintbrushes (here's our how to clean paint brushes if you want to know more), and it's simple to control and set up – making it the perfect medium for colour work. Gouache is somewhere between working with oils and drawing so you'll need a decent weight of paper (over 200gsm), and preferably the paper will be toned or one of the best watercolour papers will work fine, too.
Both artists and designers enjoy gouache. Designers like it because it paints flat, making it ideal for design work. And artists love it for painting, illustration, colour sketches and incorporating it into mixed media works. But if you'd rather work in oils, see our list of the best oil paints here. Quick tip: It also works better when painting at an easel (see our pick of the best easels for options).
The best gouache paints in 2022
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Schminke's Horadam gouache is a high quality paint best suited for artists. Though it has a smaller colour range, the colours included use quality, reliable pigments.
This gouache is a bit thicker in consistency than most, with an excellent intensity of colour due to highly concentrated pigment. It reactivates very readily when wetted. Because of its high colour intensity, washes more closely resemble watercolour than any other brand, even granulating slightly in washes. Colours are opaque and cover well without the addition of white.
This is the best gouache available in terms of overall quality, and is ideal for finished works.
M. Graham's gouache is a high quality gouache that is especially well suited for painting.
It has a runny consistency thanks to its honey binder, though it still has very strong colour. When watered down for washes, the pigments are still bright. This means different colours have similar consistencies as well, and the paint mixes easily. The coverage slightly less dense, so it is less suited for flat areas of colour, though it sits evenly on the paper without any streakiness.
This paint would suit finished works, and plein air painting especially well.
Hobein's artists' gouache is a range of professional quality paint available in a wide selection of colours. The range is carefully designed to allow as many different colours to be mixed as possible, and also contains a selection of metallic pigments.
The gouache has a thick consistency that lays down well on paper and is very opaque, which alongside the excellent range of colour makes it ideal for designers. It has a good pigment intensity and readily reactivates. Some of the colours in the range are not lightfast, so take care if using this paint for finished works and check the manufacturers guide, which lists all the colours clearly
Winsor and Newton's Designer gouache is a solid option suitable for a variety of uses. The colours mix predictably, and the range covers a broad selection, making it suitable for both artists and designers. It has some excellent substitutes for toxic pigments too.
This gouache covers well and is opaque, with a good amount of pigment, so the colours are bright. Unfortunately, the paint does sometimes separate in the tube. The consistency can also vary, with earth colours (most browns) being particularly thick.
Overall, this is the best gouache paint for general use, suiting artists getting started, and is a solid step up from student quality paint.
This studio box set is an unusual format for gouache, coming in a pan form. It includes a tube of white gouache, which is used to add opacity and thicken paint. The pans are more like watercolours, with some of the darker colours being more transparent than typical gouache.
The pan format means that it is convenient to carry around, and the metal case is sturdy. The paint layers well, and looks bright. Unfortunately, there isn't any indication of the pigments used in this set, so it is unknown if the colours are light fast.
These gouache pans are best for sketchbook work, or anyone looking to make quick colour sketches on the move.
Royal Talens Art Creation gouache is a student quality range available at an affordable price. It has a fairly limited selection of colours at 24, which unfortunately only appear to come in sets. However, the paints mostly contain good quality pigments, and cover a broad range of covers.
For the price, this paint handles surprisingly well, and behaves as gouache should, reactivating readily, and being capable of layering. It is on the runny side, and therefore tends not to have the densest coverage, but it produces even, flat areas of colour.
This would be an excellent choice for students, or anyone looking to try out gouache paint without breaking the bank.