First painting mostly gouache

Roxy as Absinthe Girl, painted in mostly gouache, watercolor, and ink

As you may already know, I paint with a combination of watercolor, gouache, and ink. Most of the actual painting is watercolor. I pencil first, ink next, let the ink dry, erase the pencil, then start to paint.

When the ink is wet, it will smear, even with the eraser. Not a good thing.

I love watercolors because of their ability to layer upon layer. Sure, you can layer with gouache but since watercolors are transparent, there’s nothing in the world like watercolor layering.

Since I’m a pinup artist, when I paint skin tones, I’m painting seven layers of paint.

Gouache is better at covering mistakes

So why the switch to gouache? Well, this was a one time thing. I accidentally ruined Roxy’s face with a bad ink line.

So I had to fix it with watercolor ground.

Now, I’m not a fan of fixing things with watercolor ground. It’s actually a bad idea. It’s usually better off to discard and start over.

But, I loved the penciling so much I decided to experiment.

What if I fixed it with watercolor ground, then tried painting with gouache instead? As watercolors are transparent, gouache is opaque.

Certainly gouache will cover up the ground way better than watercolor would, right?

It turned out I was correct. Whereas it took seven layers of watercolor to paint Roxy’s skin, I only needed four layers with gouache.

She looks different. More like an 80s cartoon than my normal paintings.

But you know what? I’m ok with that. I like how it turned out.

I also don’t own much gouache. I have a whopping total of five colors, all from M Graham – Naphthol Red, Azo Yellow, Cobalt Blue, Titanium White, and Ivory Black. That’s it.

So pretty much everything you see there are those colors mixed. Except parts of the paintings I added watercolors into the mix.

The other big differences

Other than my limited color collection, gouache looks a little bit more flat. Watercolors are livelier.

Not at all an insult. It depends on what you’re going for.

Also, not sure if I’m seeing things or if this is real, but when you’re mixing paints and you actually go to paint, watercolors will dry brighter than the colors you’re painting with. Gouache is the opposite. You’ll mix some bright ass color, and it will dry a slightly darker shade.

Yes, I was drinking heavy the first day of painting but I swear, I was completely sober the second and third day. And all three days, I’ve noticed this was true. Gouache dries darker. You think you’re mixing a super light mix and when it actually dries, it’s a shade or two darker.

This seems to be consistent no matter which brands you use. I use primarily Daniel Smith and Sennelier for watercolors. I also own some Blick paints and Winsor and Newton (all my paints are artist grade).

Anyways, those are my observations. I prefer watercolors but I’ve seen Olivia de Bernardinis work wonders with gouache, so that’s another reason I wanted to give gouache more of a chance. I’ll do this again in the future, but watercolors will still be my primary medium for now.


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