Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache Review

Basic Information

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.

Winsor Newton Designer Gouache Review

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!


Winsor Newton Designer Gouache Color Swatches
Winsor Newton Designer Gouache Color Swatches

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
Winsor Newton Designer Gouache Mixing Chart


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.

Winsor Newton Designer Gouache Review
Winsor Newton Designer Gouache Review

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!

Winsor Newton Designer Gouache Review

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.

Winsor Newton Designer Gouache Review

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…

Winsor Newton Designer Gouache  Primary Blue Prussian Blue

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

8 thoughts on “Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache Review

  1. Hi Sarah,
    I have been binge watching your videos & I finally went out for my very first Plein air painting on Saturday. It went really well & I can’t wait to go again! You are an excellent teacher, thank you!!!! I bought a set of tiny Holbein tubes but plan to buy Winsor & Newton next. Would Indigo be a suitable substitute for Prussian Blue? They look very similar in swatches & I’ve read that Prussian Blue has issues with fading.

  2. Hi Sarah thank you for your helpful analyses! I have W&N gouache paints and some Schmincke. I completely understand and agree with your position on animal products; I just didn’t realise until recently what goes into some of these paints. I’m leaving a message because I have doubts about W&N gouache. I’m concerned about lightfastness and I’ve found it difficult to be sure what pigments they use. Watercolours seem to be more straightforward in this respect than gouache. Recently I came across the Derwent pastel palette. These are definitely student quality and several are not lightfast. My problem is that I’ve found them surprisingly useful for quick sketches, especially on the move, and I’m not sure how to replicate this with good quality artist’s gouache. I’m investigating whether or not it’s possible to put tube gouache into pans, as you can with watercolours

  3. What type of facial mask should I use to protect myself from chemicals/preservatives in W/N designer gouache?

    1. The pigment is not airborne once it’s in paint form. But if you have sensitive smell or skin you could work in a well ventilated space and wear gloves. That is not exclusive to any brand or type of paint either. Watercolor and gouache are probably the safest since you don’t need to use solvents (unlike oils)

  4. I second your thoughts on WN cobalt turquoise light. I’ve been wondering if I should let it dry out or if I should mix in some zinc white to thicken it up. I like WN, but I also like Holbein and it’s common here in Washington State. Turquoise is very runny and it separates from the binder so I have to stir it even after a day. Love your web and YouTube and Patreon. I’m sooo sorry about Vader. Lost my dog Snowy two years ago and I miss her terribly. Sara

  5. Hiya Sarah,

    In your main Database page, it states that the listed W&N colors are non-vegan because they have bone black, but here it states it’s because they have ox gall. Would you be able to clarify? It feels like in the hunt for vegan gouache, I will have to do some compromising if I want to also preserve lightfastness. For whatever reason, bone black seems more of an acceptable compromise for me versus ox gall.

    Thanks! Julie

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