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The best gouache paint in 2022

Gouache paint - image of a paint pot with a paintbrush dipping into it
(Image credit: Fiqah Anugerah / EyeEm via Getty Images)

Gouache paint is similar to watercolour, but it's more opaque. It's also a lot more forgiving than watercolour, meaning you can paint over mistakes easily. This makes it an excellent medium for beginners, as well as experienced artists.

Another handy feature of gouache is its ability to reactivate. If it is painted onto a surface it can be reactivated with water to alter the composition, this is a unique quality and differentiates it from acryclic. Wondering what paper to use? You'll need paper to be a decent weight (over 200gsm), and is particularly suited to toned paper, or one of the best watercolour papers.

Gouache being water-based means it is easy to wash away from paintbrushes (our how to clean paint brushes guide has more on this). It's really easy to control and set up, so gouache is the ideal medium for practising observing and mixing colour, and is a fantastic midpoint between drawing and working in oils (find the best oil paints here).

Gouache is popular with artists and designers for a reason, as it paints flat, even areas of colour, which makes it perfect for design work. Artists love it or painting, illustration, colour sketches and incorporating it into mixed media works. It's best used with fewer washes than watercolour, and is more suitable for painting at easels (here are the best easels, including plein air easels, and tabletop easels for studio work).

The best gouache paints in 2022

A set of Schminke: Horadam gouache paints

(Image credit: Schminke)

01. Schmincke Horadam Gouache

Best gouache paint for professionals, combining wonderfully with watercolour

Specifications

Quality: Professional
Tube Size: 15ml
Colours in Set or Range: 48

Reasons to buy

+
Very high quality paint
+
Range uses reliable pigments
+
Combines well with watercolour

Reasons to avoid

-
High price point, not one if you're on a budget

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.

A box of M. Graham gouache paints

(Image credit: M. Graham)

02. M. Graham Artists' Gouache

Best gouache paint for artists, particularly smooth and easy to mix

Specifications

Quality: Professional
Tube Size: 15ml
Colours in Set or Range: 35

Reasons to buy

+
Very high quality paint
+
Smooth application
+
Mixes easily

Reasons to avoid

-
Not for a low budget

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.

a box of Holbein gouache paints

(Image credit: Holbein)

03. Holbein Artists' Gouache

Best gouache paint for designers, with a well-balanced colour range

Specifications

Quality: Professional
Tube Size: 15ml
Colours in Set or Range: 89

Reasons to buy

+
Thick and opaque
+
Large colour range
+
High quality paint

Reasons to avoid

-
Some colours not lightfast

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

A range of Winsor and Newton gouache tubes

(Image credit: Winsor and Newton)

04. Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache

Best gouache paint for all-round use by artists and designers

Specifications

Quality: Intermediate
Tube Size: 14ml
Colours in Set or Range: 89

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent non-toxic options
+
Broad range of colours

Reasons to avoid

-
Paint prone to separation
-
Paint thickness can vary

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.

A box of Caran d'Ache gouache paints

(Image credit: Caran d'Ache)

05. Caran D'Ache Gouache Studio Box Set

The best gouache paints available in a pan set

Specifications

Quality: Student
Tube Size: N/A
Colours in Set or Range: 15

Reasons to buy

+
Convenience of a pan set
+
Sturdy, well laid out box

Reasons to avoid

-
Darker colours less intense
-
Pans behave like watercolour

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.

A box of 12 Royal Talens Art Creation gouache paints

(Image credit: Royal Talens)

06. Royal Talens Art Creation Gouache

The best gouache paint sets for students and beginners

Specifications

Quality: Student
Tube Size: 12ml
Colours in Set or Range: 24

Reasons to buy

+
Good value
+
Reliable behaviour

Reasons to avoid

-
Paint is very runny
-
Only comes as a set

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.

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Lancelot Richardson is an artist, painter, and freelance illustrator based in Brighton, UK. He tutors life drawing at independent art school Draw Brighton, and teaches in their online Patreon courses. He is also a freelance writer, producing articles on art and drawing. He works in both traditional and digital mediums.

With contributions from