In the USA, Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache costs $6.35-9.75 with a few more expensive colors being $14.35. It’s cheaper in the UK at $6.05-$10.18 (probably due to the proximity to France where it’s manufactured). This means overall it’s on the lower-to-middle end of the (professional level) gouache price spectrum.
The company uses pure pigment in gum arabic binder without extra additives. I asked them if their gouache is vegan friendly, and they said yes except the following colors contain ox gall (animal biproduct): Intense Blue, Primary Blue, Burnt Umber, Ivory Black, Lamp Black, Prussian Blue, Sky Blue, Winsor green and Neutral Grey.” And of course, any colors which contain Pbk9 are not vegan. But this means the majority of their colors are vegan friendly. Yay!
The cap design is white and easy to open, and closes tightly. Even when dried gouache gets stuck on the rings, it seals tightly. I have some tubes that are over 3 years old and still moist!
As you can see on my swatches I have a couple of the “cadmium-free” colors. I got these to see how they compare to the normal cadmium pigments, and to be honest I was disappointed. They look a bit more dull than the original cadmiums. In addition W&N doesn’t reveal what pigments they use in those colors. I am doing my own lightfast tests on all of the colors I own including the cad-free ones, so time will tell how permanent they are. My core set of colors are lightfast, but they do sell some colors with known fugitive (fading) pigments, so be careful when you choose your set.
For my mixing card below I used:
- Cadmium Lemon Yellow
- Winsor Red
- Quinacridone Magenta
- Ultramarine Blue
- Cobalt Turquoise Light
- Lamp Black
Out of the tube this gouache is very creamy. Most of the colors are extremely opaque as well. It doesn’t seem to clog my brush hairs as much as some of the other brands like Royal Talens or Daniel Smith did. I’ve always been able to rely on the opacity of this gouache, and in fact it’s a competitor for ‘best opacity’ with Holbein which I consider to be the most opaque gouache. But I much prefer the consistency of Winsor & Newton.
Out of all the gouache I’ve tried, I think these mix with water the best. Some gouache becomes goopy or extremely transparent even with a tiny bit of water, but I find these play well with water.
Conclusion: Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache is extremely reliable, which is probably why I keep buying it after 5 years. In addition it’s very affordable, and the majority of the colors are opaque and lightfast. It performs really well and allows me to use it diluted and thick and opaque without issues. A winning combination!
Note on colors: Since I have the most years of experience with this gouache over all the other brands, I have more thoughts to share for those of you interested in growing your gouache collection!
I have to admit some of my tubes are quite old…over 4 years at least. I noticed some of my older colors are more sticky than the new tubes. The newer colors are brilliantly creamy and flow smooth over the paper, and are a complete joy to paint with.
Regardless of age, the colors are very opaque. This is a very good thing, since some of those older colors need a touch of water to flow better. So if this happens to you, just know it’s normal. What helps me is to load up my brush with whatever color I’m using, and touch the very tip/corner of the brush into the water. This gives it enough moisture to work like new.
Now for a couple specific color issues I’ve noticed over the years. W&N’s Cobalt Turquoise Light is one of my favorite colors of any gouache brand. However after buying at least 10 tubes of it over the years, I’ve noticed that it always seems to be gooey. OK, very gooey. Even sticky. However, it’s extremely opaque, so adding a tiny bit of water instantly creates a creamy flow and solves that issue (as long as you don’t add too much water). It also dries the slowest out of all the colors.
I noticed two colors in particular dry slightly shiny. Prussian Blue and Primary Blue. In my opinion, the Primary Blue dries too shiny to even call it gouache. It looks more like acrylic. Maybe I have a defective tube? I don’t use that color anymore, so it makes me wonder if the binder is old and that effects the matte quality? Curious…