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Shall I use watercolour or gouache?

what is the difference between watercolour and gouache paint?

What is paint made from?:

Watercolour pigments are made from various natural and synthetic substances that are ground into fine powders and suspended in a water-soluble binder, usually gum arabic. The colour of the pigment depends on the chemical composition of the substances used, and different pigments produce different shades and hues. Some common watercolour pigments include ultramarine, cobalt blue, viridian, burnt sienna, and cadmium yellow.

Watercolour paint has a long and varied history, dating back to ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians and the Chinese. In ancient Egypt, watercolour was used to decorate papyrus scrolls, while in China, watercolour was used for calligraphy and landscape painting.

During the Middle Ages, watercolour was primarily used for illuminating manuscripts, but by the Renaissance period in Europe, watercolour became an increasingly popular medium for artists.

Gouache or watercolour?

a gouache painting of two parrots.
a recent gouache painting I made

Gouache and watercolour paint are both water-soluble paints, but there are some key differences between the two. Gouache is a more opaque form of watercolour paint, with a thicker consistency and a matte finish. It is often used for illustration, design, and commercial art because it covers the paper or surface more effectively and allows for greater control over the amount of paint applied. Watercolour, on the other hand, is a more transparent and fluid medium, with a more luminous and delicate appearance. It is often used for fine art painting, where the focus is on capturing the effects of light and atmosphere.

Gouache and watercolour paint are both water-soluble paints, gouache being more opaque and watercolour being more transparent.

What paint do I use for my paintings?

I love using both and I often combine the two types of paint in one painting. When you water gouache down you can use it almost in the same way as watercolour and create washes and transparent layers with it but it is not as effective in doing so as traditional watercolour paint is.

an abstract landscape painting in yellow and blue
A recent watercolour painting I made

I love the opaque layering quality of Gouache paint and it works great for pictures that are more illustrative. I also often add a little white gouache to other drawings and paintings to create highlights.


If you have watercolour paint and you would like to try gouache, you can start by just buying a tube of white gouache and mix in the pigments of your watercolours.

You will get a selection of lighter, pastel colours that have the opaque quality of gouache and you can see if you enjoy painting with these opaque watercolours before you invest in a full set of colours.

I am hosting a watercolour painting and a gouache course (going live on the first of March and First of April 2023).

Perfect for when you want to get started with painting in these materials.

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