Gouache Guide for Beginners

Gouache Guide for Beginners

Hey lovelies!

Before I let you in on my gouache painting tips and tricks, I created a free 3-page worksheet with painting exercises for you to follow along and practice at home!

Quick recap — I’ve been painting since the age of 5 starting with watercolour (wouldn’t recommend this to absolute beginners unless you’re up for a challenge and keen to learn how to control paint the hard way). High school is when I got acquainted with acrylic and it wasn’t until university that I discovered gouache, the holy grail of paints. Talk about a long winded journey. Through all that I learned paint techniques, colour theory, lights and shadows. In other words, looots of practice.

It’s likely you don’t have 15 years to kill on learning how to paint, so I hope these tips help you speed up the process!

Choosing the Right Materials

I get it, you don’t have a fortune to spend on supplies you don’t even know if you’re going to use. Let me help you pick the right ones from the get go.

Pick a thick durable paper that won’t wear and tear with water. I like watercolour paper with slight paper tooth (texture), try to look for 170gsm or higher. I recommend Canson Watercolour Pad (beginner + budget friendly), Arches Watercolour Paper (higher quality loose paper), Stillman + Birn Sketchbook

Investing in paints makes a difference, I’ve skimped on cheaper options before and the colours were dull and hard to work with.

Water-based gouaches can behave like watercolour but are more vivid and opaque. They can be reactivated once dried, meaning you have to work light to dark which can make layering more difficult.
Acrylic-based gouaches behaves like, you guessed it, acrylic paint! You can work dark to light and layer once the paint dries, I see this as the more beginner-friendly option.
When buying brushes, it’s best to buy them in person to feel for its quality. I prefer acrylic brushes as they retain less water, it’s okay to opt for a synthetic brush until you’re ready to invest in a natural-haired brush. The sizes depend on the type of art you make, though it's a good idea to have a mix of round and flat brushes! Since I work on a smaller canvas, I typically reach for two round brushes (size 0 liner + size 6), as well as a larger flat brush to cover bigger surface areas.

A Step by Step Process

This guide won’t teach you all the drawing theories and basics, it can only help you get started. The worksheets I created will provide an introductory idea of what to study (composition, colour, lighting, painting techniques), along with a general process you can follow!

Starter Tips
  • The paint-to-water ratio should be just enough so the paint spreads on the paper effortlessly. Unless diluting the paint is your goal, be careful not to be too generous with the water but also, thick cracked paint isn’t a good look either.
  • Practice mixing colours with just red, blue, yellow, white, and black. This will help familiarize you with colour and not become too reliant on pre-mixed paints.
  • To keep colours vibrant when mixing, be conscious of the colour wheel. The less colours being mixed, the brighter it will be! eg. adding red to blue and yellow will make it muddier
  • Don’t be scared to use bold and contrasting colours, higher contrast will create more depth. Try building up the colours slowly and simply rework it if it doesn’t look right!

Break It Down

Download this worksheet to follow along the steps!

1. Base Layer
A thin layer of base paint will help set the paper and prepare for the paint you’ll be adding on top. Add more water to help the paint spread evenly. If it helps, sketch out your painting before this to help guide you along!

2. Block it Out
Start blocking out big areas of colour to get a sense of the composition, you can add the detail in later.

3. Add Shadows + Light
If you’re using acrylic gouache, starting adding in shadows first and then light only once the bottom is dry! Here, you can mix up different colours and go wild with the detail!

4. Add Contrast + Depth
Add final touches of darks and white. I also love adding specks of contrasting colours for a more interesting visual! eg. adding pink to a green leafy painting

I hope you found this guide helpful, we’ll all be mastering gouache and having paint parties together in no time!

Happy creating,
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