Comparing all the Gouache Brands – MY RANKINGS | 2023

I got my hands on the majority of the most popular brands available today.

I’d love to say I have every single brand of gouache, but there were some that I couldn’t purchase this time around. For instance, I really wanted to try Maimeri but I can’t import it to the UK at the time I started this process. I will update this list as I try more brands.

In This Post

What is Gouache (and what makes it ‘good’)?

I place huge importance on opacity and consistency. In order to explain why, let me define what gouache is.

Typically gouache is described as ‘opaque watercolor.’ But it’s much more than that! They share this in common: pigment suspended in a water soluble binder.

Pigments used in making gouache. You can buy these at Jacksons Art.

In watercolor, pigments are ground into an extremely fine powder, and mixed with a binder usually made of gum arabic. They also often contain other modifiers such as honey, glycerin, ox gall, water, and even fluorescents.

In gouache, pigments are ground up, but not as finely as watercolor. The larger pigment particles are still very fine to a human eye but are larger than what is used in watercolor paint. The pigments are combined with a binder, typically gum arabic. More pigment is added, which is why it’s often referred to as a ‘heavy pigment load.’ So compared to watercolor, the paint is more densely packed with pigment. Sometimes other binder ingredients are used such as dextrin (starchy glue), and other fillers can be added such as ox gall, honey, calcium carbonate. I’ve asked each company I reviewed for information about their binders. Understandably, they didn’t give me the exact recipe, and all I can do is trust what they say. But I wanted to hear directly from the companies because there is a lot of misinformation online about what is inside gouache, and people make assumptions that every brand has the same recipe.

In high quality gouache, the pigment load of the paint is what makes it more opaque. This means every drop of it is packed with tons of pigment and it dries extremely vibrant with a velvety matte finish. Lower quality gouache contains less pigment and more ‘filler.’ But, some pigments are naturally more transparent like phthalos and quinacridones. Even in very high quality gouache, these colors will be slightly less opaque than others. But because they pack more pigment in, they will still be more opaque than cheaper student grade gouache.

Gouache Brand Comparisons (12 and counting!)

Now for the good stuff!

I’ve spent the last 6 weeks of my life swatching, mixing, and painting with 12 gouache brands in addition to writing detailed reviews of each. Why? I’m admittedly obsessed with gouache. Over the last few years I’ve made over 100 videos about it, and I get more and more requests for my thoughts on specific brands. So not only was this incredibly informative for me, but I feel it can be very beneficial to people who are new to the wonderful world of gouache.

I’ve been painting with gouache for about 5 years, during which I spent most of my time using Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache and Holbein Artists’ Gouache. It wasn’t until 2021 that I started using Schmincke Horadam and Shinhan Professional Designer Gouache too. Since then, my travel palette contains a few colors from each brand.

I use these brands because they are extremely opaque and have a beautiful consistency. But while doing these brand comparison tests, I found out there is a wide range of consistencies in gouache brands. If you like one of the brands I don’t like, it’s because we are used to different consistencies, and that’s OK! Honestly you can get used to anything with enough practice.

Going into this big Brand Comparison I wanted to keep an open mind and let the paint speak for itself. To make it fair, I’ve done the same tests for each brand and have written all my thoughts as I go.

Steps to my Tests/Reviews

  • Lightfast Test Strips of each color including white tints – currently in the window. I’ll check them once a month, and update the notes in the Gouache Database.
  • Mold tests – each brand is inside airtight palettes and has a special place in a dark corner of my room where it can grow if it wants to. I’ll check them regularly and keep notes in the Gouache Database.
  • Swatches of each color on both white paper and toned beige paper. My swatches focus on the opacity of the paint, not dilution. All gouache can be diluted like watercolor, but not all gouache is equally opaque.
  • A ‘quick’ color mixing card – this is to get a feel for how the paint behaves and how the colors mix before I do the test painting. Usually the mixing charts reveal a lot, it’s my ‘first impression’ of the gouache.
  • A test painting – I mostly focused on coastal scenes, as that is something I’m very passionate about, but I didn’t paint the same scene every time. The test paintings are done on toned beige paper because I think that shows me how opaque the colors are better than white paper.

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I’ve separated the gouache into two main categories: professional and student level. The main difference is that the majority of the professional grade gouache pigments are considered lightfast, and they use high quality gum arabic binder.

It’s not so easy to rank these, because the top 5 or 6 are VERY close to being perfect. To be honest you could buy any of those and have a good experience.

The ranking is calculated based on the performance of three categories: price, opacity, consistency. So if the consistency and opacity are excellent, I’ve ranked the lower priced one higher because I believe in value for money.

For instance, Schmincke is the BEST gouache I’ve ever tried…so why is it ranked #5?? It’s so overpriced above the rest, and all colors contain animal biproducts which goes against my moral code. If it wasn’t for that it would easily be #1.

Consistency is subjective, but can be a HUGE factor in enjoyment. My experience over the last 5 years has shaped how I view the ‘perfect’ consistency. To me, high opacity and creamy consistency are of the utmost importance in gouache. If it’s not highly opaque, it might as well be watercolor mixed with white. If you’ve watched my videos you know my style of painting. If yours is similar, you can trust my opinion! If you have a completely different style, you may want to do your own comparisons. In my individual reviews I discuss why I feel the way I do. For instance, Schmincke is probably the best gouache I’ve ever tried, but it contains ox gall, an animal derived substance that I no longer want to use or support, so I have to give it a lower ranking.

If you’d like to send me some gouache to test and include in my list, please contact me!


Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache$7.86ExcellentCreamy1 – Best OverallReview(USA),(UK), (EU)
M. Graham & Co. Artist’s Gouache (5 Color Basic Studio Set)$10.81ExcellentCreamy2 – A joy to useReview(USA),
(UK), (EU)
Shinhan Professional Designer Gouache$6.64ExcellentCreamy3 – Incredible for the low priceReview(UK)
Holbein Artists’ Gouache$12.67ExcellentSlightly Stiff4 – Most Opaque awardReview(USA), (UK)
Schmincke Horadam Artist Gouache$17.20ExcellentCreamy5 – The best gouache I’ve ever used but…(read review)Review
Daler Rowney Designers Gouache$5.95Very GoodCreamy6 – This one wow’ed meReview(UK)
Daniel Smith Extra Fine Gouache (Primary Mixing Set)$11.18Very GoodSlightly Sticky7 – It was good but too expensiveReview
(USA), (EU)
Royal Talens Extra Fine Gouache (10 Tube Set)$8.08GoodVery Sticky8 – Too stickyReview(USA)

This page contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase something using my link, I get a tiny store credit so I can buy more art supplies, so thank you for your support! New Jacksons Art customers will receive a 10% discount on their first order if it is made through any of these links.


Meeden (24 color Set)$0.72Really GoodCreamy1 – Performed better than ArtezaReview
Arteza (Earth Tones Set)$0.74Really GoodCreamy1 – Fun to useReview
Caran D’Ache (5 Tube Studio Set)$5.75PoorGummy2 – Transparent and gummyReview
Caran D’Ache (Dried Pans Set of 15)$2.20 per colorPoorDry & Grainy3 – This is basically watercolorReview
Miya HIMI (24 Set)$1.24 per cupPoorGoopy4 – Transparent and stinkyReview
Royal & Langnickel Essentials (24 Set)$0.82The worstLike bad acrylics5 – Do not buy! HorribleN/A

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Gouache orange study by Sarah Burns

The Importance of Opacity in Gouache

Gouache is not inherently opaque. Opacity comes from the pigments. Some pigments are naturally more opaque than others. For instance, cadmiums are naturally very opaque, whereas quinacridones and phthalos are inherently transparent. Therefore regardless of brand, the same colors will be less opaque.

To combat this, some brands will add ingredients to specific colors to improve opacity, such as calcium carbonate. In my opinion, this doesn’t matter unless it effects performance or the lightfastness. Ultimately the paint will speak for itself!

So why does opacity matter that much? Here’s my take: If I wanted transparent color, I would just use watercolor. The reason I use gouache is for the ability to layer, the intense color, and the blendability. To me, it’s all about the layers!

Painting light on top of dark with high quality gouache is easy.

Gouache painting light colors on top of dark colors

Save money: Skip the student grade crap & buy a limited palette of HIGH quality Gouache

In the watercolor world, people say one of the biggest factors in learning proper technique is the quality of the paper. Even if you have the best watercolor in the world, using it on really crappy paper usually results in an awful experience. Yes the masters can create something good on the worst paper…but how many of us are masters?

In my opinion the same idea applies to gouache except instead of paper matering the most, it’s the opacity and consistency that truly matters. Water control is absolutely crucial in gouache technique, so if the paint is very transparent or sticky, you will be banging your head against the wall trying to get it to perform. Even if you use the best paper in the world.

Rather than spend $25-35 on a huge set of student gouache that performs poorly, you can buy 5 tubes of high quality gouache and mix any color you can think of. See my choices here. Does it take a bit of extra work? Yes, but after some practice it becomes completely intuitive to mix your own colors. We aren’t born with that skill. I learned it by practice. I can teach you. A hundred artists on YouTube can teach you. There are so many guides and tutorials out there to learn how to mix color. But you just have to start. Believe in your abilities. It is a LEARNED skill! Here’s my free YouTube video about getting started with gouache, including mixing your own colors.

So in conclusion, don’t waste your money on the cheap crap, buy a few tubes of high quality gouache and enjoy the experience as it is meant to be.

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Video Reviews of Each Brand

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

15 thoughts on “Comparing all the Gouache Brands – MY RANKINGS | 2023

  1. Artists may now enjoy a varied formula with a wide range of intensely saturated colors for a fair price from U.S. Art Supply to produce bold, vibrant Gouache paint styles and consistent color fills.

  2. Hi! Really appreciated this, as I’m a watercolour artist eyeing gouache to try and this cemented Winsor & Newton designer’s gouache for me as the brands I can get easily in Australia are limited!

  3. Hi there!

    Thanks so much for all your posts and research about gouache, it’s so helpful as I’m trying to navigate all the different options and your paintings are very inspiring!

    I was wondering, have you ever tried the Lefranc & Bourgeois linel extra fine gouache? This is one of the brands on my shortlist – I’ve seen some lovely paintings made with it, but I haven’t heard a lot of discussion about its merits, so I’d love to hear your take next time you feel like trying a new sort.

    Best wishes!

  4. I’ve never painted w gouache b4, but I have stumbled upon YouTube tutorials and found you have very similar painting styles as I do. I’ve never used white ink or gouache paint on my watercolor paintings I just try to paint in the negative sometimes I overpaint when I know I should’ve stopped, so I considered using ting bits of white gouache bring out sparkles in the water. Then I stumble on you painting w all gouache ocean scenes. You got me interested so I got ( per your recommendation) the primary color set with white of Windsor Newton. I haven’t opened them yet. The Google news featured you in this gouache testing of pro and student blends. Now I’m ordering an Arteza set, only they come in such tiny tubes and I can’t find where to buy individual bigger tubes outside a set. I figure I can mix my color and values with my WN primary paints and if I need a really bright or special color I can use the Arteza, since I’m just now trying my hand at gouache. Thank you for all your hard work saving others the time and $$$$$$$ to do our own experiments and testing. I love learning from you and really appreciate your hard work.

  5. I Sarah. Congradulations for this outstanding piece of work. You give me the taste to do it again. I used to do my homework of beaux-arts in the early seventies with gouache. For 3 years, I have a new set of Winsor & Newton and I will work with it this summer, if summer comes. I am living in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. For the last past days I was trying to find informations from W&N. Not very easy. My nightmare was the composition, difference and so on on Primary Red, Spectrum Red (these were include in my set) and Winsor Red and C.F.-Red. I will do my swatches because I am not satisfied with my researches. I don’t want to buy a tube if I have already an equivalent. I will see. Best wishes and have a pleasant season. Your work is fantastic, and you are a very good teacher. Thank you so much. NS

  6. Excellent reviews. I enjoyed the videos while waiting in an airport for my flight. I am a watercolor artist looking to get more into gouache. I bought a pan set of Caran d’arch while traveling in UK but have not practiced enough to make a decision. Your review was helpful. Might get a set of the Arteza. Also surprised that you rated it so highly. Thank you
    Donna Atwood

  7. Hi, this is a excellent post, very useful. I tried a couple of the gouache “buy” links. For W&N gouache, it redirects to JA’s home page, and a search there did not yield results. With Shinhan’s link I got a 404 error. I suggest adding some Amazon links. Cheers!

    1. For some reason if you are in USA my Jacksons affiliate links redirect to the homepage, but I do still get credit for purchases through my links.
      Luckily I was approved for affiliate status at Blick Arts so I’m in the process of updating my pages with US links. It takes a while as you can imagine. 😅

      I avoid Amazon as much as possible.

      1. Yes, let us all avoid amazon as much as possible! I buy my gouache directly from the importer, a fascinating woman.

  8. I would be interested in knowing about the wet vs dry color constancy for the brands, meaning, to which degree does the paint dry lighter or darker than compared to the wet appearance.

    1. That has more to do with the transparency of the color. All brands have both very opaque and slightly transparent colors. And in general the cheaper student grade gouache is more transparent in general (except the earth tones set by Arteza) so it will have more of a drying shift.

  9. Thanks. I was considering buying one of the brands you did not review well. 😳 Now I will get something else.

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