About Gouache

Gouache (gwash – rhymes with squash), also referred to as opaque watercolor, is paint that is heavier/thicker than traditional transparent watercolors.  Its use is centuries old.  From the Italian “guazzo”, meaning “water paint”, it appears to go back some 800 years, used originally to illuminate manuscripts.  Nineteenth Century European landscape painters used it as an outdoor sketching medium, and it was used extensively during the golden age of magazine illustration because of its fast-drying characteristics.  It continues to be used today by artists and designers in the film industry.

It was used only rarely for finished landscape paintings, and declined in popularity for many years, but in recent years there has been a resurgence in interest in it as a fine art medium.  Very few painters paint landscapes exclusively in gouache today.  That, combined with the distinctive technique that I’ve developed, makes these paintings unique.

I often varnish my finished gouache paintings, which restores the brilliance of the original color, and allows the painting to be placed directly into a frame, eliminating the need for a mat and glass.


9 responses

  1. Alex Strychalski

    Ralph: You say that you varnish your finished paintings. Would you please tell me what type of varnish you are using. I would like to varnish my watercolor paintings, eliminating the glass.

    July 16, 2010 at 2:09 am

    • Alex, I use Krylon Kamar Varnish. It’s a spray varnish. Please, please… test it on a painting you don’t care about first! You may not like it.

      July 19, 2010 at 12:52 am

  2. Jim Hill

    Ralph, I love your paintings. My question is about the gouache. I am only familiar in using watercolors and acrylic paints. Is gouache purchased ready-made or is it, or can it be, diluted acrylic paint?

    Thank you,


    March 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    • Thanks Jim, gouache can be purchased in different forms, but yes, it’s ready-made. Most people, myself included, buy it in tubes. Check out any of the major art suppliers (Dick Blick, CheapJoe’s, etc.) and search for gouache. It can be used transparently or opaquely (I tend to use it more opaquely, but also use a lot of washes). Diluted acrylics would probably give you a similar transparent wash effect. One of the reasons I like gouache is that it can be rewet and reworked. Unless it’s “fixed”, it will remain active, seemingly forever.

      March 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm

  3. Elinor

    Hello Jim

    . Your paintings are beautiful. Just wondering if you paint on canvas or paper or some other support.

    June 12, 2011 at 11:41 am

    • Elinor, I paint on cold press Crescent illustration board. Thanks!

      July 4, 2011 at 1:19 pm

  4. Rebecca Novelli


    Your paintings are beautiful. What kind of brushes do you use and is there a particular brand of gouache that you prefer?


    September 6, 2011 at 4:02 am

    • Rebecca, I use a wide range of brushes, both sable and bristle, although I tend to use the bristles more. Most of my brushes are inexpensive. Gouche eats up brushes quickly, especially with the painterly approach I use. Thanks so much for the compliment!

      September 6, 2011 at 1:07 pm

  5. Eugenia

    Ralph, thank you so much again for inspiring. I keep scrolling down the gallerries and all I repeat is “amizing, amazing, amazing…” I especially like you landscapes, they resemble much Ukrainian ones, thaw and autmn

    January 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s