Find the best gouache supplies, from a review of the different paint brands available, to the best easels for painting on location. This is a full supplies list that you could use to set yourself up with a complete gouache painting kit.
Gouache is a professional artists’ medium that has evolved over the years. Artists can get highly pigmented, lightfast colours that bring the benefits of an opaque watercolour. It is a simple painting medium to learn due to this opacity, as artists have the flexibility to paint from dark to light and correct errors.
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Best gouache paint
Generally, the features of the best gouache paint includes vibrancy and opacity. Professional artists who are looking to sell their work, or create art to an archival standard will look for permanent, lightfast pigments. Another attribute that professionals or artists who want to create paintings beyond practice and the sketchbook will look for is single pigment paints. These can be mixed to create cleaner and more vibrant colour mixes.
Professional artist grade
M. Graham manufactures their paints with mostly single pigments that have excellent lightfastness. M. Graham don’t mix their paints with fillers or opacifiers and instead use a dense pigment load to increase the opacity of the paint. This means that certain pigments that are more transparent in nature, for example, magenta or burnt sienna may come out of the tube looking more transparent than you would expect from a gouache. However, M. Graham leave it to the artist to add titanium white to increase the opacity of the colours.
Schmincke is very similar to M. Graham in quality, the colours are permanent and are made with mainly single pigments, allowing artists to create clean colour mixes. The paint is ground so finely that it can be used with a 0.15mm spray nozzle.
Holbein is a pricier brand, but it’s worth the money for the quality of the paint. Favoured by professional Japanese gouache artists and designers, the paint is fine art quality, permanent, streak free and feels wonderfully smooth to paint with. Their set of primary colours provides artists with a base to mix a full chromatic range of hues and tones.
Mid range & beginner options
Winsor & Newton Designer’s gouache paint is a brilliant mid range option. Similar to the professional artist brands, opacity in the paint mix is created by pigment density rather than using fillers and opacifiers. The lightfastness of the colours ranges from average to good and Winsor & Newton also make non-toxic alternatives to pigments like cadmium. At around $6.33 per tube, the paint is on the less expensive end of the spectrum. However, if you check the link, Blick and Jackson’s Art often have deals on. The sets also provide good value for money.
Da Vinci paints are another great option for beginners. The paint tubes are much larger than other brands gouache paints, which makes them better value for money when prices are compared. The consistency is slightly thicker than other gouache paints, but the paints are vibrant and feel great to use.
Gouache paint brushes
For the most part, you can use watercolour supplies with gouache paint. Gouache is slightly thicker than watercolour paint and some of the techniques used with the medium, such as dry brushing, require less water than you may use with watercolour. For this reason, I would advise to get a kolinsky or synthetic gouache brush that has a little more spring to it than natural squirrel watercolour brush fibres. This gives artists flexibility to create washes, or dry brush with ease.
The Da Vinci Casaneo is a fantastic quality brush, with soft, synthetic fibres made to emulate the properties of Kazan squirrel hair. Bristles have a spring to them, perfect for moving the slightly thicker gouache paint.
Get a round and flat brush in a couple of sizes to create a range of different marks. Flat brushes are versatile, as they can be used to cover large areas of the surface, or use the edge of the brush to create lines and edges.
The Escoda Versatil brush is another great synthetic brush that is soft, absorbent but has a wonderful snap and spring, to move fluid paint with ease. Use a small round brush to create details, or a liner to create extra small fine lines, like blades of grass.
Although synthetic brushes shine in their ability to move slightly thicker paint, sable brushes are also a great choice. Winsor & Newton Series 7 kolinsky sable brushes are great for fine details and thin lines.
Any surface made for watercolour painting will also work with gouache paint. If your intention is to create professional quality, saleable works that stand the test of time, I would advise getting thick, acid free paper.
Brands such as Stonehenge, Canson and Arches all make fantastic papers that can be bought in hot pressed, cold pressed or rough varieties. Hot pressed refers to the surface texture and the way the paper has been manufactured.
In contrast to cold pressed and rough paper, hot pressed is smooth and less absorbent. Rough paper has the most surface texture and is also the most absorbent. Hot pressed paper may suit artists that have illustrative styles, or artists that like to paint with lots of detail. Details will be obscured less by the paper fibres when using smooth hot pressed paper. Artists who paint with watercolour alongside gouache and use a lot of washes heavy with water, may favour rough or cold pressed paper.
Another great surface option for gouache painters is Aquabord. This is a thick, acid free, museum quality board that can be used with watercolour or gouache. Aquabord comes in cradled varieties, so you can hang your painting straight on the wall.
By painting on Aquabord, it removes the need for stretching or mounting watercolour paper and provides surface stability while working. This gives artists the flexibility to apply washes without worrying about the surface buckling. Artists can also paint at an easel straight on the surface without having to tape it to a backing board.
Sketchbooks with cotton watercolour paper that is 90lb or heavier would make an excellent accompaniment for plein air sketching, composition planning or taking to class. The Strathmore Visual Journal has thick, acid-free paper in a spiral bound journal with a hardy leather-look cover.
For some artists, pencils are an essential tool for use with any medium. A great tip is to use water soluble pencils with gouache paint. That way, they will start to dissolve when painted over, leaving the artwork free from excess lines and drawings. You can also use watercolour pencils alongside gouache, drawing over solid colours to render fine details.
Palettes made for watercolour paint will also work well with gouache. Get a palette that has wells to squeeze colours into and a space for mixing. Gouache is easy to clean, simply wash the palette with soap and water.
There are several options depending on your needs and budget. If you plan to spend most of your time in the studio, a ceramic palette is a heavyweight and solid option that won’t move around during use. This Stephen Quiller porcelain palette contains 32 wells for squeezing colours, it also comes with a cover to keep colours fresh for longer. The benefits of using a porcelain palette are that it doesn’t stain, it’s easy to clean and the surface helps to maintain the moisture of the paint.
Plastic palettes are a cheaper option for gouache painters. They are lightweight and perfect for taking outdoors to paint en plein air. This palette by Mijello is airtight and leakproof, keeping colours wet for longer. Pack it away in your bag without worrying about spillage.
Gouache paint cannot be erased, but pencil marks and watercolour pencil marks can. A kneaded gum eraser is essential for rubbing out drawings, as it lightly lifts marks from the paper without damaging the paper fibres.
Get a collapsible plastic cup, to slot away into a bag for travelling or painting on location.
Alternatively, you can get some handmade pottery from a ceramicist on Etsy. These cups have a brush rest, so that you can lay your brush flat instead of keeping it upside down in the water where the bristles will splay.
Easel for gouache painting
The New Wave u.goPlein Air Easel is a lightweight and sturdy easel perfect for painting on location. Paint on Aquabord panels, mount some watercolour paper or tape it to a board to work at an easel. Gouache paint isn’t as runny as watercolour, so paint with the easel tilted at an angle for the best results.
Extra gouache supplies
For clean edges get some painters masking tape. Tape can also be used to fix paper to a board when painting, which enables artists to prop up at an easel to paint.
Bulldog clips are useful for sketchbook work, to keep pages in place so they don’t move around while working. Clip the page of your sketchbook to a backing board, to keep it stable and prevent colours from being spilled onto the next page.
Gouache is a relatively simple medium to learn and not too many supplies are required. All you really need is a few tubes of paint, some paper, a brush and some water. If you want to learn more about the gouache painting process, read our gouache painting for beginners guide or check our blog for gouache painting ideas.
Take a class on Skillshare! From botanical illustrations to beautiful seascape paintings, learn the basics from talented artists.
The Skillshare blog also gives a comprehensive guide on Gouache painting for beginners.
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