Gouache vs Watercolor vs Acrylic: Do You Know the Difference?

Michael Daly
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Gouache Paint

This particular technique most closely resembles an oil or acrylic paint. It dries quickly and is best suited for images with lots of defined details. However, it is more opaque than watercolors and so it tends to cover up the interiors of darks better than watercolors do.

Watercolors, on the other hand, are an opaque paint that require more water to create the paint. This technique has a softer hand but takes a longer time to dry. They also require a lot of water to compensate for their softness and because of this, they use up the paint quickly. What’s more, is that they dry up slowly, making them ideal to use on subjects that will require time to dry, such as fresh flowers or nature illustrations.

Acrylic paints are more transparent than Gouache or Watercolors. In this case, the paints are more diluted with liquid and so drying is a little slower than the other two techniques. It also takes a little more practice to learn to paint properly using acrylic paints. If the layers are too thick, the paint becomes stiff and strident. However, this is the technique that has its own greatest advantage. It dries the fastest, and a complete painting is done in a day.

Watercolor Paint

All three are water based, but there are subtle differences between watercolor paint and gouache paints on one hand, and acrylic paints on the other.

While it can be fun to blend and experiment with all three, deciding which colors and water paints to use for what purpose requires a little knowledge and experience. Let’s start with a quick overview and then we’ll dig into the details.

Watercolors are easily the most talked about and used water paint, and with good reason. They’re great for depicting detailed images, and the amount of colors available in watercolors is much greater than acrylics and gouache.

Gouache paints are similar to watercolors in that they’re also hybrids that give the rich tones you’d expect from oil paint but without all the weight (and mess).

Gouache paints take time to dry and can’t be mixed with other kinds of paint. This means they’re not for every purpose, but they are perfect for backgrounds and highly-detailed images where bleeding isn’t such an issue.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is water based paint that comes in both liquid and pigment forms. It was originally developed in the late nineteenth century as an alternative to oil paint. Acrylics are water-soluble and are not made from natural products which makes them have a lower VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) content, a factor that makes these paints more environmentally friendly than oil paint. When mixed with water, acrylic paint creates a watery solution that blends easily with one another and dries quickly.

One of the most important advantages of acrylic paint is that it does not yellow over time, a factor that artists are concerned with since yellowing of paint over time can ruin an artwork. The disadvantage of acrylic is that it dries slowly and is not considered as durable as other paint types. Acrylic paints are generally used for limited projects and canvases like illustrations as well as pieces that will not be viewed for long periods of time.

To Wrap Things Up On Comparing Gauche vs. Watercolor vs. Acrylics

Gauche, watercolor and acrylic are three paint mediums you can use for doodling and coloring in your spare time. Each of these painting mediums has its own individual properties that make each of the medium unique and appealing to different types of doodlers. Each of these mediums as well as mixed media has its pros and cons.

You can distinguish watercolors by their thin consistency and transparent colors. Watercolors are waterwashable and can be easily wiped off. You can produce transparent layers and show a range of colors in your design using this medium. A disadvantage of watercolors is their propensity to fade. Watercolors fade if exposed to sunlight over a long period.

With gauche, you have more time to blend and create smooth gradients through layering. This paint medium is generally stronger than the two other mediums. The disadvantage of this medium is that it’s harder to mix and you will usually require more layers for color.

With acrylics, your artwork is easier to repair. The mixture is thicker and the colors tend to be more vivid. Acrylics dry quickly and are easy to layer. The disadvantage of this medium is that it is stiffer than watercolors and gouache. Large surfaces tend to crack when soaked with a water-based medium.

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