How To

How to Use Gouache Paint on Paper? Best For Consumer

Have you ever heard of watercolor, acrylic, or oil painting? Certainly. But what about gouache? 

The gouache painting is far less well-known than its comrades, but once you get to know it, you will love it because it is a real alternative to the usual colors and painting techniques.

In this guide, you will learn what gouache is and how to paint fantastic pictures and calligraphy with the paint. Finally, we also look at the works of well-known gouache painters who have forever influenced the use of color.

Special features of the gouache painting


Gouache painting belongs to the family of watercolors. The Italian term “gouache” is translated as “pool” and refers to the property of the colors that are water-soluble thanks to gum arabic as a binder. 

Varied consistency 

Like watercolor paints, you can dilute gouache with water and apply it as a glaze. But also a pasty and covering order, as in oil painting, is possible. With the advantage that gouache, as the painting technique is called, dries very quickly and you can easily paint over dark layers of paint with a lighter color (e.g., for corrections). The pasty application creates furrows in the paint surface, which you can use to create the illusion of surface texture, as in acrylic or oil painting. Also, already dried color areas can be redeemed with water again.

High opacity 

Gouache paints consist of a crushed color pigment that has been stretched with chalk. It dries quickly and allows you a paste and opaque paint application. 


Compared to the usual school watercolors, Gouache has more color pigments and less binder and extender, so it is less dull in the color result. Gouache is lightfast, which keeps its colors longer. Even if the colors become lighter and soft after drying. 

Subdued luminosity 

When painting gouache, “white” is used, so you can paint the colors impasto, as in the oil and acrylic painting. The color result is not as bright and intense as a watercolor. You can use gouache paints to create very subtle and gentle shades that give the impression of velvety matt surfaces. Although the chalk-dry character is somewhat lackluster compared to the oil painting, your gouache painting can be viewed from all sides without any incident light disturbing the viewing angle.

Required material for the gouache painting

One of the most significant advantages of gouache painting is its low standard. You only need one or two brushes, an absorbent painting surface, water and gouache paints.

Which accessories can also be used helpfully or creatively can be found here:   


In the specialized trade, you get gouache paints in individual color tubes. For starters, you’ll be well-equipped with a painting set that includes 12-18 shades. The important thing is that you have enough white color for accents and for mixing.

Watch out for a quality product if you want your image to not yellow or fade too much.

Surface to be painted 

Since gouache is watercolors, it is advisable to use an absorbent, rough painting surface. Watercolor paper, textured cardboard or cardstock (at least 185g / m²) are well suited.

You can also paint with gouache on canvas or other textiles.


To get started, you will need two flat bristle brushes (2-4) and one to two fine round brushes (Rothaarmader, 1-4). For large underpaintings, a flat bristle brush is also useful (4-8).


You need a glass of water to moisten the brushes and mix the colors. To achieve right color consistency, you must gradually dose the addition of water, e.g., with a pipette or spray bottle.

You can tap water, better still distilled water if the water quality is not clear (e.g., much lime or chlorine).

Color palette or mixing container 

To mix the colors, use a plastic color palette with small wells with wells. However, small plastic containers with screw caps are better for transporting and reusing the colors.

sketch tool 

Pencil, sharpener and a soft eraser, where you can cut clean edges (or an eraser in pen form).

Painting with gouache: the painting techniques

Gouache colors are very versatile. You can use it very thin, but also quite thick layers of paint and Vermaelen. Gouache is suitable as a background underlay (alla prima) or for filling more significant areas of color.

Unlike the watercolor painting, you do not have to spare white parts of the picture, but you can then use opaque white to re-set over existing layers of paint. The only important thing is that the underlying color is already dry.

However, you can use different painting techniques, as in the watercolor painting of gouache painting.

Painting with gouache is just as easy as using acrylic paints, so painting with gouache is a lovely form for beginners in painting, which requires little prior knowledge. There are different types of color application that you should know to better understand and use the properties of color in practice:

Sharp contours

Shuffle your color to a creamy, paste-like consistency (i.e., with little, to no water) and carry them with an almost dry brush on a dry surface to be painted on if you want sharp contours of the colored surfaces ( dry-on-dry technique ). If you wish to softer transitions, you can moisten your substrate evenly with water beforehand. As a result, the color on the edges will be slightly blurred and harmonious ( dry-on-wet technique ).

Glazing (layerwise application of color)

When gouache, you can about each put several layers of paint to enhance the color result or to set lighter shades over darker. Apply wet paint to your dry surface ( wet-on-dry technique). Wait until the surface has dried and put another layer over it. To avoid sharp transitions, you can lightly moisten the painting surface or the already dried paint surface with a clean brush, and only then put a new layer of paint over it. This allows you to blend the edges into each other easily. Or you use the dry on wet technique to glaze and take a pasty paint job, which you put on a moistened surface or a still moist color surface. Again, the edges are only slightly blurred.

Blurred color borders

 To give your picture a washed-out character or even to evenly fill entire color areas (backgrounds), the wet-on-wet technique is best suited. Using a flat bristle brush, wet your surface generously and evenly with water, then apply gouache paint that has been diluted with water. You can also paint in a still moist color area, this blurs the color and you achieve smooth transitions and contours.

Lettering: Paint and write with gouache

In the Asian region, gouache has a long tradition as an ink substitute for calligraphic writing. Therefore, it is also very popular with modern “lettering.” In this process, different fonts are combined and graphically decorated with flourishes, small ornaments and illustrations. This style was particularly popular in the early 50s in the USA – today, retro-style lettering is making a comeback. 

You can find out how to mix your calligraphy ink with gouache in the last part of this guide article.

The preliminary work

Outline motif and lettering

Think about a beautiful motive and lettering, e.g., a yellow lemon with the inscription “Make Lemonade” and outline your picture in outline. Take either a sketch sheet, if you want to practice some painting techniques or draw directly on your correct painting surface. You must take an absorbent paper and a soft pencil (HB2).  


The preliminary drawing serves to make the image structure visible. Since she is painted over cover anyway, she does not have to be perfect. Draw the oval shape of a lemon and put your lettering in different fonts over it. For example, for the first word “MAKE,” select a straight block text and for “Lemonade,” a curly, italic font.

Background music

Overlap the lemon shape with light ocher to brown tone. The color layer is not opaque but only applied as a glaze, so that your sketch drawing below it remains visible. Draw quickly with broad brushstrokes (Gr.8-10) until you have covered the entire surface. Afterward, your picture has to be dried and pressed. For a full underpainting up to 24 hours. Place your image between two clean sheets, in a newspaper or a book and complain about weights, e.g., a wooden plate and gouache painting surfaces (20 kg).

Paint with gouache 

Create colored surfaces 

In the next step, roughly lay down the color areas of your picture. These are in this example, the lemon shape and the individual block letters of the word “make.”

In the gouache painting, you can mix colors directly on the painting surface by layering individual layers of paint, making the color lighter or darker. The background made beforehand serves as the mid-tone.

Color and light-dark distribution

To darken your colors one more time, for example, to create shadow effects, you can add a shade of black, or better, a mixture of green (tree green), blue (ultramarine) and red (magenta). Also, from blue and brown, you get a fantastic shade of gray to darken.

With white (titanium or opaque white), however, you can create bright areas of light and lighten colored areas. To do this, fill a small resealable plastic container, each with a large amount of hazelnut gouache paint and the desired shade. Blend the whole with the style of your brush until you have a result of the same color.

Lemon motif 

Cover the lemon shape with an even coat of paint. To do this, use a medium round brush (5-8) and paint from dark to light for a covering color, i.e., start with a dark shade in the lower-left corner of your motif and work your way to the upper right corner of the image. Become lighter by the addition of white, layer by layer (from ocher to bright yellow). In this way, your lemon gets a shadow effect, which is later worked out more beautiful.

Lettering “Make”

If the lemon motif is dry, you can now also cover the individual letters with a covering paint job. Draw from light to dark to give the message more variety, for example, through shadows or darker parts of the image (from white, rose to red and darker). Then you have to dry and press your image again for a few hours.

Work out color areas 

If you have covered all areas of your image with gouache, you can now proceed to elaborate finer details and subtleties.

Plasticity and radiance

Blur the transitions of the color areas with a moistened brush; this will give your image volume. If you follow the shape of the fruit with the brushstroke, you can also lift your motif out of the surface and enhance the effect of light and shadow. With a transparent layer of watercolor (light yellow), you can increase the beam effect of the bright image areas. As if the sun was shining on your lemon.

Write with gouache 

Gouache colors are also ideal for writing because you can use it to mix any tone for your font. To enhance the summery feel of your yellow-coral colored motif, you can now take a contrasting, turquoise-colored gouache ink for the second word of the lettering: “Lemonade.”

Mix color and determine consistency

If you mix the blue-green tones “Timeralda,” “Ultramarine,” and “Leat green” together, you will get an impressive turquoise. Put a large amount of hazelnut in a plastic container and mix well. Then add drops of distilled water with a dropper until you get a partly creamy, partly liquid consistency. Test if the ink spreads well with the brush and flows evenly out of the pen. If it is too thin, let it dry out overnight.

Gouache painting with the brush

Take an excellent hairbrush (size 0.5 / 1) for a fretted font and use it to trace the lines of your sketch. (you may have to draw these over your fruit again). If you control the gradient as you apply, you’ll make your image more impactful. Because when you start and stop your brush collects more liquid, so that the surface is more intense and darker at this point. Ideal for a light shadow effect.

Gouache painting with the quill pen 

The writing pen will make your lettering even more elegant. Using a fine brush, paint the inside of the steel spring with your turquoise gouache ink. Now put the tip on your paper and use it to cut off the lines of the letters. Try not to drop the writing keel, but to write in one go (cursive).

If you press the spring firmly into the ground, your line will be thicker, because the spring releases more color. If you only glide slightly over the sheet, the writing line becomes thin and delicate. Use this beautiful effect on your lettering.

Set details

After your drying, add some finishing touches to your picture:

Edit lettering, “MAKE Lemonade.” 

Drag the edges of the “MAKE” letters with a darker hue. Use a fine brush or marker. With this, you can also set accents with white lines or points of light.  

To reinforce the frilly character of the second word, “Lemonade,” you can always draw a fine light line on the left edge of each letter.

Lemon motif

Give your lemon a true-to-nature surface texture from tiny brown/orange dots or circles that reflect the pores of the lemon peel. Put the dots but only as highlights on the dark shady spots. For example, add a leaf with stems.

When lettering, your imagination knows no bounds. Create your stationery or company logo quickly and inexpensively with gouache as ink and ink.

Have fun trying.

Famous gouache painter

Over the centuries, some artists have distinguished themselves with their gouaches. Here you will find an excerpt from the most renowned gouache painters and their works.

Adolph Menzel

Adolph Menzel is considered alongside Caspar David Friedrich as the most important German artist of the 19th century. His works in the conception of realism are world-famous. Menzel painted some of his paintings with gouache.

Ralph McQuarrie

McQuarrie was an American illustrator and concept artist. He is responsible for many of the concepts of the original “Star Wars” series of the 70s. What is hard to imagine in today’s days of digital image editing was the order of the day for McQuarrie: he designed the detailed Concept works, especially with gouache, acrylic colors and pencil.

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