The Art of Using Gouache, Techniques and Brands

IMG_8393awebI knew that I would fall in love with gouache long before I ever tested it. In art classes, I’ve worked with acrylics, watercolors, and once in a blue moon black ink, but never gouache. Does gouache’s reputation of old precede it, for being a silly children’s medium?

Whatever the case may be, I’ve come to love it not only for its easy application and no fuss start-up, but for its vibrant pigmentation and beautiful results. Which is why most illustrators like it so much. All of my favorite illustrators use it, and I’m sure you know of a famous illustration or two that has been finely, or even not so finely, hand crafted by using gouache.

IMG_8399aweb But then there is the technique and the question that all illustrators come to face: Which brand do I paint with? Some artists are stubbornly faithful to one, others a bit more open to mixing them up. When I started experimenting with gouache, finances were a bigger issue than they thankfully are now. I had to start with some cheap paint, a student Pebeo gouache tempera mix, which I believe is called the Pebeo Studio Gouache over here. I still have a few tubes left to use up, I do not like to waste, but they are getting on my nerves. While they are effectively pigmented, lighter paints like whites and yellows, even oranges, do not show on darker backgrounds, like blues and blacks. It seems like the paint has a chalky element to it. I love gouache’s capacity to layer lighter colors onto darker ones, but this paint just doesn’t seem to do it. Of course I’ve learned that you get what you pay for, and as a student it’s really not a bad paint. Thankfully since moving back from France, I can’t seem to find this paint anywhere.


The move back to the U.S. forced me to grow up, so to speak, in the world of buying good paints. I like to buy my paints from either Dick Blick, for their prices, or Phoenix Art Supplies, because the store owner is so kind and lets me test out colors before I make a purchase. But the prices, oh the prices, of some of the more well known brands, like Winsor & Newton, were a bit more than I could initially muster. So I tried Royal Talen’s instead, a Dutch gouache, that seems to be economical yet of good quality.


I would like to give W&N a trial run, which I will do when I get home. I’ve read that W&N is made with a pure gum arabic binder and is very pigment packed, while Royal Talens is made with a dextrin-based binder, making it more fluid and easier to cover large spaces, which I find to be true. Maybe a bit too fluid for my liking. Here are some current US pricings and sizes of more popular gouache brands, priced at Dick Blick:

Caran d’Ache Gouache- $35/ set of 8 10ml tubes

Da Vinci Professional Gouache- $7-$9/ 37ml tube

Daler-Rowney Designers Gouache- $9/ 15ml tube

Holbein Artist’ Gouache- $6-$12/ 15ml tube

Royal Talens Gouache- $7/ 20ml tube

Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache- $7-$16/ 14ml tube; $15/ 37ml tube

I thought that I would open this post up to the general arts community, and this question obviously is somewhat determined by your location. Is a gum arabic binder better than a dextrin based one? What do you use gouache for and which brand is your go to?


6 thoughts on “The Art of Using Gouache, Techniques and Brands

  1. I haven’t much experience in gouache but I’d like to try it more too – I only have one tube, white, which I use to make great crisp highlights over darker colors when I need them. But I’m finding more & more illustrators I like seem to use gouache, and I do love the smoothness. My one tube, by the way, is Royal Talens and I’m pretty happy with it. I can see why the cost would give you pause, some are quite pricey!

    • I did have a chat with the store owner at Phoenix and she said that she stopped carrying W&N at request of local artists because of its price. Royal Talens was a good alternative because of its quality, slightly larger tube size and lower price. I do love how easily it lays without much if any water! My old gouaches definitely needed water!

  2. pebeo studio gouache is totally different from their tempera gouache,studio gouache is in between has fantastic pigment load like talents,but their higher end extra fine range superb!!!

    • Sathish, I believe it that their higher range is far better in terms of pigment and applicability of paint to paper. I’ve personally never tried their higher range, but it is good to know. I still have a bit of experimentation to do with other brands!

  3. I’ve tried several brands of gouache – Winsor & Newton, Lefranc & Bourgeois / Linel, some “poster colour” cheap brands – and Royal Talens, my absolute favourite! It’s the intensity combined with the wonderful flow I like 🙂 And, they spray great through a fine-nozzle airbrush, which e.g. Winsor & Newton doesn’t always, some of their pigments are too coarse.

    • Lars, Thanks for commenting. It sounds like more and more people I meet do not have an absolute preference for Winsor & Newton gouaches, which I had assumed was the artist’s standard.

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