Gouache is a fantastic medium of choice for both beginner and professional artists. In this review find the 11 best gouache paint brands. Learn more about each brand and their individual qualities, price points and suitability for different styles and applications.
Artists looking for quality gouache paint, look for these features: opacity, vibrancy, permanence and whether tubes contain single pigments. By using single, quality pigments, artists can achieve clean luminous mixes.
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M. Graham Artists’ Gouache
Attributes: Professional quality, highly pigmented, smooth texture, mostly single pigment colours
The regular list price is around $65.85 for a set of 5, or $10.55 each, but check our link for deals and offers.
This is a professional quality gouache paint made from mainly single pigment colours. This makes for vibrant, rich, dense and highly pigmented paint. The paint is unaltered by fillers and opacifies, which leaves the properties of the individual pigments to shine. This leaves it to the artist to decide when to add white to increase the opacity of the colour. Some especially transparent pigments can be used to make transparent washes with the addition of lots of water.
M. Graham manufactures their colours with pure, quality pigments, a binder of gum arabic and natural honey. The honey acts to prevent cracking and increase the flow of the paint, making it feel silky smooth on application. The colours are lightfast, giving artists the option to sell their work.
Use the opaque matte colours on their own, or combine it with artists watercolours to bring transparency to the painting. The colour range is fairly limited, but they supply an excellent range of primaries, earth tones and all the essential colours to mix a full chromatic range. M. Graham make a fantastic watercolour range too, if you’re interested in finding out the differences between watercolour and gouache, read our guide.
The line of gouache made by M. Graham is based on their watercolour pigments. The paint is much revered and used by professionals worldwide. They really are a joy to use.
Currently, these paints are available to buy in the US, but there are limited suppliers that sell this in the UK and other countries.
Holbein Artists’ Gouache
Attributes: Rich colours, free from opacifiers, small tubes, 89 colours, professional quality, finest pigments, good opacity, streak free application, list price starts at $11.45 each
Holbein paint is made in Japan and favoured by Japanese designers and artists. It is fine art quality and has a high pigment density. Many colours are single pigment with excellent lightfast ratings and some colours are premixed. The sets are fantastic, giving a great introductory range to any discerning beginner. From their primary set, you can achieve a full chromatic range of mixes using the CMYK colour model.
One of the only colours with a lower lightfast rating is the Alizarin Crimson, which is a notoriously fugitive pigment. The brand offers cadmium colours, but doesn’t offer alternatives as Winsor & Newton does.
Holbein refrains from using opacifiers and additives which can compromise the appearance of the painting, instead, they make the paint highly concentrated with pigment to increase the opacity. This means that certain Holbein tubes may appear less opaque than other brands. This isn’t necessarily a negative, as artists can always add titanium white to increase opacity.
The finish is velvety and matte and colours are less prone to darkening and cracking compared to other gouache brands. When thinned with water, artists can achieve semi transparency.
The tubes are on the expensive side and are small at 15ml compared to Da Vinci that sells a 37ml tube for only marginally more money. However, it really is worth it if you enjoy using luxury supplies. The consistency is creamy, the paint pigmented and with strong opacity, this brand sets a high bar for gouache paints. This brand is worth trying for any beginner wanting to get started on the right foot with gouache, or any seasoned professional wanting to try a new brand of paints.
Schmincke Horadam Artists’ Gouache
Attributes: professional quality, 48 colours, mainly single pigment colours, smooth flowing and creamy texture, fine artist gouache, excellent lightfast ratings, list price starts at $15.94 each
Schmincke is another professional quality brand that artists favour. This is due to the quality of the pigments and binding ingredients used in the paint making process.
Schmincke paint is made using the finest combination of pigment and binder. Without the addition of opacifiers like white pigments, artists are able to create smooth blends and clean colour gradations with the unaltered colours.
Unlike some of the other brands on the list that provide ‘designer’ gouache which consists of tubes of premixed colours, Schmincke gouache uses mainly single pigments. This factor, added to the excellent lightfastness is why it is considered a fine artist gouache.
The single pigments can be combined and mixed to create clean new colours. With tubes that are premixed (i.e. made from a combination of two or more pigments) there is a tendency for colours to become muddy in appearance sooner.
Schmincke gouache paint is ground to an extremely fine consistency, so much so that it can be applied with a 0.15mm airbrush nozzle. The colour range includes genuine cadmiums and cobalt colours, so if you want to avoid potentially harmful pigments, then you can find substitutes for these.
Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache
Attributes: High pigment load, non toxic colours available, large colour range, smooth, ultra bright colours available, list price starts at around $6.77 each
A range of premixed colours and some fine artist single pigment colours. The bright premixed colours are aimed at designers. They will dry matte and solid in appearance.
The more single pigment colours, such as the cadmiums are more expensive than the premixed designer colours such as brilliant yellow. Winsor and Newton provide alternatives to the genuine cadmium colours that are non toxic.
Due to the high pigment load, the working properties of each pigment will come through. This means that there can be less consistency of the working properties between colours. Many of the colours, such as primary red and magenta are semi transparent.
Similar to the other high end fine artist brands like M. Graham, Winsor & Newton refrain from altering the opacity of colours with fillers and opacifiers and instead opt to accentuate opacity with increased pigment load.
Single pigment colours like ultramarine are less expensive and have an excellent lightfast rating. However, some of the pigments used to create colours such as magenta are fugitive, with a permanence rating of C. The price depends on the series number and the pigment used, among other factors. For more information about pigments used by Winsor & Newton in their gouache colours, check out their website.
In summary, there is a range provided by this brand, of colours that would satisfy professional fine artists, to colours suitable for fashion students and designers who want a particular colour straight out of the tube.
Maimeri Artist Gouache
Attributes: semi to fully opaque, smooth texture and streak free application, list price starts at around $7.11 each
This is an excellent and relatively unknown brand compared to Winsor & Newton, M. Graham and Holbein. The colours provide an incredibly smooth application and a good level of opacity. Certain colours will be more opaque than others, check the tube or the website for more information about individual colour properties.
The set of eight colours also comes with a gouache fixative that makes the paint water resistant and ready for framing or shipping if you are selling your work.
The colours come in 20ml tubes, larger than Holbein but smaller than Da Vinci, however the price is still pretty reasonable.
Use these paints for flat illustrations, airbrushing or other kinds of graphic work. Alternatively, use them for landscape paintings and layer them like you would with oil. These paints aren’t widely available, you can get them at Blick witn international shipping if you live outside the US.
Da Vinci Professional Gouache
Attributes: Large tubes, professional quality, non toxic, lightfast, thicker consistency, list price starts at around $15.95
Da Vinci gouache colours come in 37ml tubes, rather than the 15ml tubes that most other brands of gouache paint come in. The colours are made using quality raw materials and are milled in small batches.
Da Vinci steers clear from altering the natural working properties of the pigments too much. For this reason, some pigments may appear slightly more transparent than you would expect from a gouache. For example, their Burnt Sienna colour is fairly transparent.
Da Vinci colours are on the thicker side compared to the consistency of other brands, which would suit some artists’ tastes. The pigment load is less dense than other professional brands such as M. Graham or Schmincke. Colours tend to stain less and look less vibrant in comparison to these professional quality brands. However, the price point is slightly lower than other brands.
Utrecht Artist Gouache
Attributes: Economical, 24 colours, designer’s gouache, 14ml tubes, list price starts at $9.99
Utrecht Gouache paint is a reasonably priced option, with a decent level of opacity and vivid colours.
With only 24 colours, there is less range than with other brands. However, Utrecht makes a primary set, from which colours can be mixed to make a large chromatic range of tones and hues. Many of the colours are single pigment, for example deep violet, raw umber and ultramarine amongst others. These will provide artists with the ability to make clean mixes. Utrecht do not add titanium dioxide or other opacifiers to increase opacity.
Caran d’Ache Studio Gouache
Attributes: Smooth application, great choice for students and sketchbook work, comes in pan format, vivid colours
The light resistance is ‘good’ according to the Caran D’ache website. This type of paint is for amateur artists and students. The colours would make a good economical set for sketching or taking to art class. Paint tubes have a decent level of pigmentation and mostly have a good level of opacity. If you’re planning on selling your works, go for a brand that has excellent lightfast ratings.
Certain pigments are more transparent in the Caran D’ache range of gouache paint. Pigments such as magenta appear transparent on paper, so if you want to make them more opaque, add white to the mix.
Caran d’Ache paints also come in caked pan form, which is a benefit for some artists who enjoy working in this format. They manufacture their paint with calcium carbonate, which can make dried colours appear chalkier than some of the brands that don’t use this ingredient.
Daler Rowney Aquafine Gouache
Attributes: Student grade, bright colours, opaque, economical option, limited colour range, hue pigments, list price starts at $5.45
Most colours rank as moderately permanent. Therefore it’s advisable not to use this brand if you are planning to sell the original gouache painting, as the colours may start to fade over time, especially when displayed in bright natural light settings.
Five of the colours use single pigments in their mixes. This means that some of the colours, for example, ultramarine or burnt umber may look different compared to other brands.
If you are planning on creating your painting then making a scan or taking a photo to upload online and discarding the original, these paints would be great. Alternatively, these paints would be a good accompaniment to art class, or for sketchbook work.
The properties of acrylic gouache are more similar to matte acrylic paint, rather than gouache. Its main difference is that it dries to a water resistant finish, whereas gouache is rewettable. Acrylic gouache is compatible with other water soluble media.
Holbein Acrylic Gouache
Attributes: Opaque, rich colours, larger tube options, great selection of sets, list price starts at around $9.25 each
Acrylic gouache is matte, opaque acrylic based watercolour paint. Use this type of paint as a ground Most colours contain more than one pigment.
If you want a gouache that dries to a water resistant finish, this could be the one for you. The fact that the paint cannot be reactivated once dry means that it can be used in the final layer of a painting to protect the artwork from moisture. If you want to create separate colour layers throughout the painting, choose an acrylic gouache rather than a regular gouache. However, it’s possible to fix gouache in place without using acrylic gouache, simply apply a fixative to the painting.
Holbein gouache paint is opaque and retains its opacity over dark and black surfaces. The primary set provides a good introductory range for beginners. The lightfastness rating of most colours from this range is two stars. The three star rating of some colours means the paints have a good to average level of permanence.
Essential gouache supplies
Soft, springy brushes designed for watercolour suit gouache painting. Synthetic brushes with a slight spring to them tend to outshine the softest sable brushes because gouache paint is a little thicker than watercolour.
The Da Vinci Casaneo brushes balance the perfect amount of softness, springiness and durability. Flat brushes are versatile, as you can use the edge of the brush for details, or use it on its side to cover large areas of the surface.
Aquabord surfaces are an excellent option, because they don’t buckle under washes. Plus, artists don’t need to mount artworks by using this surface, as it comes in a thick format.
For studio work, any ceramic or plastic palette would suit gouache painting. A palette with wells to squeeze colours and sections for mixing would be preferable. For travel, you can get sealable palettes that keep the paints and water in place. You could also use these for studio work if you want to lock the moisture in and slow the drying of the colours.
This portable palette comes with a water cup attachment, making for a cheap and lightweight paint mixing solution. For a full gouache supplies list, check out our guide.
What is gouache paint?
This paint medium is fast drying, opaque, dries to a matte finish and can be used in conjunction with watercolours. The paint is made from a mix of pigment and gum arabic. Some brands may add extra ingredients to the binder such as inert additives like chalk that increase the opacity of the mixture. The ingredients are much the same as watercolour, but the main difference is that gouache is opaque and watercolour is transparent. Gouache is soluble once dry, which makes rewetting paint on the palette and cleaning materials a breeze.
Achieve block effects of solid flat, opaque colours, for illustration and design applications. The matte opaque finish is especially sought after by illustrators wanting to make scans, reproductions and prints of their work.
Gouache paints that are opaque and vibrant are winning options. If the paint is also lightfast and can be mixed to create clean vibrant tones, then artists will be able to create professional quality, saleable pieces. Learn how to paint with gouache in our in depth guide.
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