How to Paint with Gouache?
The water mix, done right!

Gouache is a fantastic medium and is often known as 'opaque' watercolor. But does it need as much water as watercolor paints? Here's what you need to know!
How to Paint with Gouache? The water mix, done right! Thumbnail
How to Paint with Gouache? The water mix, done right! Thumbnail


Do you love water-based painting media? For us, it’s one of the easiest to work with since there are no extra solvents required. And among such art media, gouache stands out because of its rich texture. You could use it easily on watercolor paper and even apply it on top of a watercolor painting if you wish. The opaque nature of gouache also makes it a fantastic choice for other media to be used over the top.

Gouache is a water-based painting medium with an opaque finish. It uses a chalk binder to create the opacity, compared to watercolor. The right amount of water for gouache leads to a cream-like consistency rather than a river-like flow in the case of watercolor paints.

What amount of water mix is right for gouache?

A few drops are more than enough for gouache!

A jar with paint water and a paint brush

Gouache paints should have water in the quantity that doesn’t make the paint drip off the brush or too flowy.

Compared to watercolor, gouache paints require lesser water for the perfect opaque finish. 

The perfect water mix for gouache should be evident by the following:

  • The paint doesn’t drop off the brush like watercolor or ink.
  • The color remains consistent throughout
  • There is no apparent grain in the mixture of the gouache paint

Please note that some low quality gouache paints may have grain regardless of the amount of water you add. Such paints are usually inexpensive and low-grade because the pigments have not been grounded up to the mark.


keep a test sheet

Always keep a small piece of paper with you. Layout different swatches of paint to see which one is right before deciding on the mix. Some gouache paints are much creamier out of the tube compared to the rest.

So while the consistency should be creamy, there’s no certain quantity defined for all. How quickly you achieve the creamy consistency, depends on the quality of your gouache paints. So never hesitate to test some swatches on a separate sample of the paper you are using!

How do I mix water with gouache paints?

With gouache, a bit of water goes a long way!

A piece of paper with assorted gouache paints on it

A dropper can help achieve the right water mix for gouache, without risking an overflow.

What if you accidentally add a lot of water to your gouache in the palette? Well, you would need to add more paint to the mix which could be unnecessary. Especially if you’re using expensive, designer’s gouache paints, you could end up wasting a lot.

If you don’t already have a dropper, here is one that would work just right.

Ezy dropper for various purposes

You could use this dropper for other purposes as well, but we recommend keeping one separate for painting!

Amazon Prime Logo

Is gouache supposed to be used like watercolor?

Using gouache paints like watercolor can result in messy artwork!

Gouache has the capabilities of watercolor, but the technique is different.

With watercolor, you have three basic techniques: wet-in-wet, dry-on-wet, and wet-on-dry. However, applying the same techniques with gouache is going to yield different results. 

The best and easiest technique to use gouache paints is by doing color filling.  Move your brush gently but in a swift manner to cover one area as soon as possible.


Brush strokes

Have you been thinking of using gouache like watercolor paints? Don't attempt to do so because adding too much water will make gouache paints thinner but it will also leave behind many brush strokes. Your painting would look really messy!

Should gouache be as consistent as cream or ink?

Your gouache paints should flow like cream while you're creating the painting!

Paint brush and gold gouache on black paper

Gouache paints should be able to flow like cream or ink, but never like watercolor.

At times, you may be tempted to use gouache paints like watercolor. While adding a lot of water to gouache paints is fine and the texture resembles watercolor paints too, it doesn’t really give the same effect. With watercolor, you can go as thin as you want but with gouache, the result would be grainy. 

Since gouache has chalk, too much water could end up disorienting it. All in all, the painting could look muddy if you’re not careful with the amount of water you mix into your gouache paint!

If you’re looking for a unique set of gouache paints, look no further than this one

HIMI Gouache Paint Set (24 Colors)

This set of 24 gouache colors is good to get started with any genre of painting! It also has 3 brushes and a palette. The jelly-like consistency of the paint is easy to maintain and apply!

Amazon Prime Logo

Is it possible to use other media with gouache paints?

Yes, you could create mixed media artworks with gouache paints!

Florals painted with gouache

Gouache paints can be combined with other dry and wet media on paper.

Do you love using a lot of media? Well, then using gouache paints is good news for you. It’s fairly simple to use dry media over gouache. The right amount of water mix creates an opaque and solid layer that holds other art media quite well. You could use pastels, color pencils or even charcoal to add a plethora of effects to your masterpiece.


Do not use watercolor on top

Watercolor paints cannot be used on top of gouache. Since they require water and gouache can get distorted by water, it's impossible to use watercolor paints over gouache paints.

Is it possible to rework with gouache paints?

You can add a bit of water to adjust your gouache painting!

Gouache paints on black paper

Gouache paint can be adjusted using water. It is possible to thin down a layer and remove mistakes.

Have you made a mistake? Perhaps you have added more paint than usual. Or maybe you have added blue to a specific portion in the painting that would have been better off as red. Whatever it is that you want to change, you could easily add some water to make amendments. 

In this case, starting off with as little water as you can, will always yield the best results in reworking your gouache painting.


use a tiny brush

Do you love to rework your gouache paintings? Whether your piece is small or big, it's best to use a small brush instead of a larger one. With a large brush, you could end up adding too much water and also spread paint into spaces where you didn't want it to enter.


So when you’re using gouache paints, you would need to be a bit restricted with water. You can use a dropper to make the mixing easier until the consistency is just like cream or ink where the paint doesn’t drop off from the brush. With high-quality gouache paints, you would find the water mix isn’t that hard to achieve. Always keep an eye out for the gouache becoming grainy, as that is a sign you have added too much water! 

If you want to learn more about gouache painting, read this post on the differences between gouache and acrylics .

Is Gouache or Acrylic Right for You? 8 Main Differences!

Do you love using paint with thick textures? Gouache and acrylic paints are two fantastic choices for such painting media.

Jimena & Iñigo Picture

By Jimena & Iñigo

The Navarro-Rubios

My husband and I are learning how to draw and paint. We wanted to share this learning process with the world and have fun! That's why we created this blog. We'll have drawing contests every week and you'll decide who won that week! Follow along and learn with us!

Posted in:

Jimena & Iñigo Picture

Jimena & Iñigo

The Navarro-Rubios

My husband and I are learning how to draw and paint. We wanted to share this learning process with the world and have fun! That's why we created this blog. We'll have drawing contests every week and you'll decide who won that week! Follow along and learn with us!



You may also like:

Keep Learning!

Our Best Tutorials (for beginners), the Best Inspiration and Our Latest Projects Straight to Your Inbox! You can unsubscribe at any time, but almost everybody stays. We must be doing something right!