Gouache is a form of paint that acts like watercolour, but is opaque enough to cover the paper beneath. It is a great painting medium for beginners as well as experienced artists.
As gouache is opaque, mistakes can be painted over, and there is less need to preserve the white of the paper, making it a bit more forgiving. Another quality of gouache is 'reactivation'; gouache that has been painted onto a surface can be reactivated with water. This separates it from acrylic. Gouache paints onto any decent weight paper – anything over 200gsm is ideal – and has especially good results on toned or one of the best watercolour papers.
Another benefit of gouache is it is water based and therefore washes away easily, even from brushes - learn more in this guide to how to clean paint brushes. Gouache can be a bridge from drawing to working in oils, which are covered in this guide to the best oil paints. It is a good way to practise observing and mixing colour, whilst being easier to control and set up.
Gouache tends to be best used with fewer washes than watercolour, and is more suitable for painting at easels, like those in this guide to the best easels, which includes plein air easels, or tabletop easels for studio work.
Both artists and designers use gouache. It paints even, flat areas of colour, suiting it to design work and other purposes, such as manuscripts. It is used by artists for painting, illustration, colour sketches, and incorporating into mixed media works. This guide covers some of the best gouache paints available, and what they are best for.
The best gouache paints in 2021
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.