Getting Started With Gouache (Everything You Need to Know)

Painting with gouache can be tricky. I am here to demystify it and encourage you to get started!

So here’s everything you need to know to get started with gouache.


There are three things you need to start, and if you shop smart, you can get everything for under $40 (depending on the brands).

You will need:

  • Gouache paint
  • Paper
  • Brush(es)

Which brand you buy and what type of paper/brushes is totally up to you.

Which Gouache Paint Should I Buy?

As for brands, that very much depends on where you live. I can personally recommend Holbein or Winsor & Newton (I use W&N as of 2021).

The quality of the gouache does make a difference, but when you are first starting, anything will be fine until you gain a little control.

What Colors Should I Buy?

You really only need 4 colors to start: red, yellow, blue, and white. You can mix any color you need with the primaries (Red, yellow, blue).*

There are many different reds, many different blues and yellows…each of these will give you a different type of mix. Overtime, it’s worth trying different versions of each primary until you find a trio that suites you. But if you can only afford three, my recommendation is:

  • Permanent Alizarin Crimson
  • Cadmium free lemon yellow
  • Ultramarine Blue

As for white, there are two main whites. Titanium (often called permanent white) and zinc white. Zinc white is slightly more transparent and yields cleaner, stronger mixes. Titanium is brilliant white, and leads to more pastel mixes and is great for those final brilliant highlights in your painting. It is advised to use zinc white as your mixing white. If you wish to learn more about the complexities of white (and how it effects your color), this is a great resource.

*if you wish to mix vibrant (neon) colors you will need to also buy a phthalo blue or green, and some colors like cobalt turquoise only comes out of a tube.

Download my Free Gouache Guide which covers materials in more depth:

Get started with gouache guide for beginners

Which Paper Should I Use for Gouache?

Watercolor paper is perfect for gouache. I love hot pressed watercolor paper because the gouache flows smoothly over the surface. It’s perfect for every type of subject or style of painting. You can get crisp edges or go wild and loose. It does not matter if the paper is 100% cotton (as it would with watercolor) because you are building up your layers with thicker paint.

The only thing that matters is that the paper is acid free. The rest is up to you. I have all my favorite supplies listed here.

Which Brushes Should I Use for Gouache?

In my opinion brushes matter when it comes to water control. I prefer flat brushes for gouache because it’s EASIER to control the amount of water in the bristles. It also allows for more even brush strokes when needed because you can monitor where the paint is on the bristles as you go.

Basic Technique & Water Control

Please watch the video above for a better understanding of basic technique and water control.

Easy gouache color mixing charts

One of the quickest and easiest ways to get started is to make swatch sheets and color mixing charts. I have many videos demonstrating how to do this. It’s important to know what colors are possible.

Sealing, Varnishing, and Framing a Gouache Painting.

Let’s talk about Sealing, Varnishing, and Framing a Gouache Painting. Unlike watercolor or acrylic or oil, once gouache dries it is NOT permanent (unless you are using Acrylic gouache). So sealing the surface is important to protect it from moisture. Any amount of moisture splashing onto your finished gouache painting will ruin it.

I like to use Dorland’s Wax Medium to seal the surface of my gouache painting. It’s easy to use and I demonstrate how to apply it here. If you prefer to frame your artwork, just make sure there is a slight gap between the surface of your painting and the glass. This helps avoid mold growth.

It’s also important to avoid hanging the artwork in direct sunlight, as UV rays can break down the pigments over time.


Please leave a comment here or on the video and I’ll do my best to answer!

Posted by

I'm an independent artist living in Scotland. Always chasing the light, and painting the beautiful highlands.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.