What Is Gouache?

Before the advent of computer-generated design, gouache (the word is French and is pronounced ‘gwash’ or ’goowash’) was the most popular painting medium in professional design studios, where it was widely used to create crisp visuals and illustrations in solid colour that reproduced well in print.  Gouache is, in fact, a refinement of the more familiar poster paints, but the quality and permanence of pigments used in good brands are far superior.  Also known as body colour, gouache is a water-based paint with chalk or blanc fixe added to create opaque colour with good covering power, which can be further enhanced with the addition of Permanent White. It dries to a matt, chalky finish and can be used on its own or with transparent watercolour.  Considering it is so versatile, gouache is an underrated medium. Use it in dilute washes to achieve attractive misty effects. Thicker gouache creates a more rugged finish, ideal for bold, energetic paintings. A starter palette might include Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, French Blue, Raw Umber and Yellow Ochre, plus Permanent White.