The difference between Watercolor and Gouache
September 25, 2019 6:26 AM   Subscribe

Watercolor is pigment in transparent media. Gouache is pigment in opaque media. Hajra Meeks paints two copies of an art nuevo drawing. Riety paints a face with each. The Art Hive paints two tigers. (youtube links)
posted by rebent (8 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
James Gurney did a little Q&A with some manufacturers on the differences as well.

Good place to share favorite youtube watercolorists? I'm a fan of Teoh Yi Chie.
posted by Think_Long at 6:53 AM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm rather more obsessed with ultramarine gouache than I should be. A good blue stops me in my tracks. I almost went down the rabbit hole of mulling my own lapis lazuli, but then I found that the real pigment comes from Taliban-controlled parts of Afghanistan and pigment sales fund their operations.

Gouche suffers from some weird naming: even some of the highest-quality gouaches from Japan and Korea are called "poster paints", which is typically the very lowest grade of elementary school paint here.
posted by scruss at 7:49 AM on September 25, 2019

Nomenclature is hard!

When my colleagues and I were in the throes of cataloguing and identifying media for our major book project, we went back and forth on what to call it - many museums use "opaque watercolor" - but came back to using "gouache." It can be difficult to tell them apart: while watercolor is usually translucent in a way that thick gouache isn't, how the artist handles the paint can really make it hard to differentiate. You can thin gouache down quite a bit, and you can make watercolor quite dense in its effect. When you have multiple media in the same work, it can be a frustrating exercise. Sample media entries in our book include "Gouache and watercolor on paper," "Ink, watercolor, and gouache on paper," "Gouache, ink, graphite, and pasted paper on paper," etc. We tried to indicate in the order of the different media which one was dominant in any given work (also a matter of opinion sometimes.)

The Getty Art Thesaurus is a good resource. Gouache appears one level below watercolor in their hierarchy, indicating that they consider it a sub-category of watercolor rather than coeval.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:23 AM on September 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

Thanks, these are neat. For some reason, painting videos are my favourite thing to watch brainlessly on YouTube. (Here's a 33 minute clip about colour matching that I wish was four times longer).

I think I first learned how gouache worked by reading the Famous Artist's School course materials when I was younger. So I always associate it with a kind of flat mid-century commercial style.
posted by rollick at 8:28 AM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

I remember when I discovered gouache it was like I'd added a secret weapon to my watercolor arsenal. I could now paint a little bit of light over dark! It was a revelation.

I'm still a terrible painter but I do own the same fingerless mittens as the artist in the video so I've got that going for me. They're great for drawing outdoors when it's cold.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 12:09 PM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Paintings of tigers? I'm in. Good paintings of tigers are good; bad paintings of tigers are AWESOME. You really can't go wrong.
I tend to use watercolor, ink, and gouache in the same painting, because I'm not usually doing a lot of planning. Being able to go back in with the light colors is great. The only trouble I've had was finding some that wasn't too chalky when it dried.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:34 PM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks for all the links, everyone! I love art tutorials and these are all so useful for me!
posted by bile and syntax at 9:40 AM on September 28, 2019

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