Holbein Artists’ Gouache Review

Holbein Artists Gouache is the first brand I started with back in the day (2016). I remember it being slightly stiff but I didn’t know the difference between good and bad gouache. This time around I wanted to give it a fair chance without any expectations. Here’s what I experienced.

Holbein Artists’ Gouache Review

I only have three colors, very bright versions of the primaries:

  • Lemon Yellow (PY3)
  • Cobalt Blue (PB28)
  • Primary Magenta (PR122)

Note: I didn’t buy Holbein’s white gouache, so I used Winsor & Newton Primary White for tints.

Basic Information

At $12.67 (average) per tube, this is one of the more expensive brands of gouache available today.

Holbein says their gouache contains pure pigment in a gum arabic binder.

I asked them if their paints are vegan friendly and they said yes, except for these colors which contain ox gall (a substance derived from ox bile): Cadmium Red, Cadmium Red Purple, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Yellow Ochre, Jaune Brilliant 2, Naples Yellow, Cadmium Green Apple, Terre Verte, Co Green Pale, Ulta Light, Grey 1, Grey 2, Permanent White, Primary White, all of their Golds, and Silver.


Holbein Artists Gouache swatches
Look at the depth of the yellow on the white paper – it’s thick paint!
Holbein Artists Gouache color mixes
Note: I didn’t buy Holbein’s white gouache, so to do my tests I used Winsor & Newton Titanium White for tints.


Holbein Artists Gouache is slightly stiffer than my creamy Schmincke Horadam or Winsor & Newton gouache, but they are highly opaque. Straight out of the tube they feel great, but after a couple of brush strokes on the paper, the moisture is sucked out and the paint slightly resists pushing/pulling. It really helps to have a damp brush before picking up color, so that you can extend each color a bit farther without diluting it too much.

The gouache does easily disperse in water, so as long as you don’t use too much you can really make this paint go far. Once you’ve added just a hint of water, the paint softens to a silky feeling. Not quite creamy, but silky.

Even though I only used three colors, they are powerful mixing colors so I can achieve intense vibrant tones even when mixed with white.

Yellow is often the least opaque gouache, but this lemon yellow performed well. You can see in my yellow swatch (above) how the paint is quite thick – there are slight shadows on the surface of the paper.

Holbein Artists Gouache review

Conclusion: This highly opaque gouache is ideal for anyone who wants to avoid streaks or issues with dilution that come from the less opaque gouaches. If layering is an important part of your process, this gouache is excellent. Yes, you pay a premium for this, but it’s reliable and packed with color that doesn’t disappoint. It feels silky smooth and has a very high pigment load, perfect for building layers in your landscape.

Note: Holbein also makes Acrylic gouache, which I’ve discussed here.

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

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