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For the French wine grape, see Gouache (grape).
Gouache paints come in many colors and are usually mixed with water to achieve the desired working properties and to control the opacity when dry.

Gouache (/ɡˈɑːʃ, ɡwɑːʃ/; French: [ɡwaʃ]), body color[a], opaque watercolor, or guache, is one type of watermedia, paint consisting of pigment, water, a binding agent (usually gum arabic), and sometimes additional inert material. Gouache is designed to be used with opaque methods of painting. The term, derived from the Italian guazzo, also refers to paintings using this opaque method.

Gouache has a considerable history going back over 600 years. It is similar to watercolor because it can be rewet and the paint becomes infused with a support, rather than forming a superficial layer like acrylic or oil paint. Also like watercolor, gouache dries to a matte finish. It is similar to acrylic or oil paints in that it is normally used in an opaque painting style. Many manufacturers of watercolor paints also produce gouache and the two can easily be used together.


Gouache paint is similar to watercolor modified to make it opaque. Just as in watercolor, a binding agent (usually gum arabic) is present. Gouache differs from watercolor in that the particles are larger, the ratio of pigment to water is much higher, and an additional, inert, white pigment such as chalk may be part of the paint. This makes gouache heavier and more opaque, with greater reflective qualities.[1]

Gouache generally dries to a different value than it appears when wet (lighter tones generally dry darker and darker tones tend to dry lighter), which can make it difficult to match colors over multiple painting sessions. Its quick coverage and total hiding power mean that gouache lends itself to more direct painting techniques than watercolor.[2] "En plein air" paintings take advantage of this, as do the works of J.M.W. Turner and Victor Lensner.

Gouache is used most consistently by commercial artists for works such as posters, illustrations, comics, and for other design work. Most 20th-century animations used it to create an opaque color on a cel with watercolor paint used for the backgrounds. Using gouache as "poster paint" is desirable for its speed and durability.

The use of gouache is not restricted to the basic opaque painting techniques using a brush and watercolor paper. As with all types of paint, gouache has been used on unusual surfaces like Braille paper.[3] A variation of traditional application is the method used in the gouaches découpées (cut collages) created by Henri Matisse. His Blue Nudes series is a good example of the technique.


"Guazzo" was originally a term applied to the early 16th century practice of applying oil paint over a tempera base.[4] In the 18th century in France, the term was applied to watermedia, although the technique is considerably older; it was employed as early as the 14th century in Europe.

Acrylic Gouache[edit]

A relatively new variation in the formula of the paint is acrylic gouache. Its highly concentrated pigment is similar to traditional gouache, but it is mixed with an acrylic-based binder, unlike traditional gouache that is tempered with gum arabic. It is water-soluble when wet and dries to a matte, opaque and water-resistant surface when dry. Acrylic gouache differs from acrylic paint because it contains additives to ensure the matte finish and the reworking time is slightly extended. Some brands can sometimes be removed or "lifted" for several hours after application, during their drying time.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The alternate term "body color" is sometimes one word "bodycolor".


  1. ^ Marjorie B. Cohn, Wash and Gouache, Fogg Museum, 1977.
  2. ^ Adolf Dehn, Water Color, Gouache Studio Publishing 1955. ISBN 0-670-75110-3
  3. ^ Vienna Parreno has painted on Braille paper. "Beyond Retinal Titillation: Seeing Red: Blog: Vienna Parreno". Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  4. ^ Mayer, Ralph. The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques, Viking Adult; 5th revised and updated edition, 1991. ISBN 0-670-83701-6
  5. ^ Bill Buchman, Expressive Figure Drawing: New Materials, Concepts, and Techniques, Random House LLC, 2010, page 50

Additional references[edit]

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