Can you Paint with Traditional Gouache on top of Acrylic Gouache?

Over the past few years I’ve been posting a lot of videos about my gouache process. It’s such a fascinating and alluring medium to paint with! But gouache is fairly new to the masses, previously only known to illustrators and animation background painters. Now it seems that every year a new brand of gouache appears, and this creates even more interest among the general population. I myself only discovered gouache a few years ago but quickly fell in love. Now after hundreds of paintings and dozens of videos, I receive endless questions about it.

In This Post

Painting with traditional gouache on top of acrylic gouache

If you are brand new to gouache, here are some helpful places to start.

Get Started With Gouache – A comprehensive list for beginners of what you need to get started.

How to keep your Gouache from drying out while painting – it’s easier than you think!

My Intro to Gouache Lesson – tons of techniques and gouache secrets to get you started on the right path.

This post may contain affiliate links. Using an affiliate link to purchase your items gives me a small commission at no extra cost to you. New Jacksons customers receive 10% discount on their first order.

Can you Paint with Traditional Gouache on top of Acrylic Gouache?

I am frequently asked, can you paint with traditional gouache on top of acrylic artists gouache?

The simple answer is, YES! You can. And it’s a lot of fun.

To understand this a little deeper, let’s explore the features of the two types of gouache:

Acrylic Gouache Features

  • After it dries, it’s permanent (cannot be reactivated or lifted with water)
  • Has an acrylic binder (contains an acrylic polymer emulsion)
  • Dries to a matte finish
  • Due to the acrylic binder, it is possible to paint on a wider variety of surfaces such as canvas, metal, wood, glass, and more, as long as the surface was prepared correctly. You can even paint on top of other acrylics.

I used Holbein Acrylic Gouache. (From what I can tell, Holbein uses different names for their gouache depending where it’s sold and year of manufacturing. I bought mine in the UK in 2020 and it was called acrylic gouache, but elsewhere it’s known as Acryla gouache.)

Traditional Gouache Features

  • After it dries, it can be reactivated or lifted with water.
  • Has a gum arabic binder, a naturally occurring material made from dried sap obtained from the stems and branches of two acacia species: Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal.
  • Dries to a matte finish
  • Due to the nature of the gum arabic binder, it only adheres to a very porous surface like paper, or on top of a matte paint (like acrylic gouache). Note: If you water down the gouache, it will have trouble adhering to acrylic gouache…or anything except paper. It needs the “stickiness” of the gum arabic for adhesion.

Link to my Gouache supplies list.

Can you MIX acrylic gouache with traditional gouache?

Yes, you can mix acrylic gouache with traditional gouache, but remember that any amount of acrylic gouache will be permanent. So don’t use it in your regular palette. Treat it like normal acrylic!

Why I love Traditional Gouache

I have fallen in love with traditional gouache for three reasons.

  • Dries matte
  • Dries fast
  • Perpetual blendability

My Experience with Acrylic Gouache

I first tried acrylic gouache in 2020, and immediately abandoned it. I didn’t like how “goopy” it felt (basically like acrylic, duh). And back then I was still new(ish) to gouache and still figuring out my techniques. Anyway, it wasn’t fun to use back then.

Painting with traditional gouache on top of acrylic gouache 2020 vs 2023

But over the years I’ve received more and more questions about acrylic gouache, so it was always in the back of my mind to revisit it. Fast forward to now and it was time to give it another try. And surprisingly my recent experience with acrylic gouache was actually quite pleasant.

I used the acrylic gouache as an underpainting, with very strong color. After that dried I painted on top with traditional artist’s gouache. One of the best things was the sky process. I painted a deep blue with acrylic gouache. I used traditional gouache for the clouds and didn’t have to worry about the white blending with the blue. It was very liberating! I could see myself doing this more in the future for skies, especially in bigger scenes with a more complicated color structure.

Painting with traditional gouache on top of acrylic gouache clouds

Why Would you use Acrylic Gouache?

I think the biggest appeal is that you can layer permanent layers on top of each other. Which means if you struggle with layering traditional gouache (the dreaded muddy colors), you might want to give this a try. Think of it like regular acrylic or even oils. Think in layers. Let it dry between each one.

Important Tips for using Acrylic Gouache

acrylic gouache palette paper

Before painting with acrylic gouache, consider these tips:

  • Use brushes that can stand up to lots of cleaning. I used my Handover Synthetic Golden (One Stroke Flat 1/2″) because it’s synthetic, cheap and if I accidentally ruin it it’s not the end of the world.
  • Don’t leave paint in your brushes – I use Master’s Brush Cleaner and it keeps my brushes spotless.
  • Don’t put acrylic gouache in your normal palette. It dries permanently so it will not be removable. I used a sheet of New Wave Grey palette paper (shown above) to mix on.
  • As a reminder you can mix acrylic gouache with traditional gouache, but remember that any amount of acrylic gouache will be permanent. So don’t use it in your regular palette. Treat it like normal acrylic!

I’ll continue to explore this idea of a “permanent” underlayer for my gouache landscapes. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences with acrylic gouache!

Watch my acrylic gouache process

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

4 thoughts on “Can you Paint with Traditional Gouache on top of Acrylic Gouache?

  1. Thanks Sarah…I have quite a few…Holbein Acryla Gouache…I even bought the Rebecca Green set off of Jackson’s…and am afraid to try them…sadly…It is about the water that you wash your brushes off with…I have a rickety gray water system here…just liquids can go down the drain and I have an outhouse…I know…NEVER POUR ACRYLIC PAINT WATER DOWN ANY DRAIN..more so here…My query is…would you treat your paint water/brush rinsing water…the same as acrylic paint……so dispose in a separate bucket…let the H2O evaporate….then dispose of the plastic from the acrylic pigments afterwards??? I LOVE your scientific approach!!!!!…our brains collide a bit…and with that “Miss Marple” detective work!….Janis

  2. Thank you Sarah. I am encouraged to try my acrylic gouache again! I saw your first video. I have tried AG once or twice. I think it always looks quite flat. What I did was to paint some page in grey acrylic gouache as a bas pe and then just had them ready for when I wanted to paint on top. In essence a ground. It was a Stillman and Brin Zeta sketchbook. Seems to take mixed media OK. Thanks Clare

    1. Thanks Clare…I have a Zeta as well…smooth…I also thought it would be great for under watercolours…like inktense…great base…that will not lift…or even under like real guoache paint…Janis

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