Gouache Compendium: Notes from Roz Wound Up Posts to Accompany My Gouache Demo

November 25, 2012

Above: Pen and gouache on non-receptive paper in a Moleskine Sketchbook. (I had this piece at my demo.) Even on non-receptive paper you can have a lot of fun with gouache, whether it’s filling in facial details or scribbling in a background color.

On Monday, November 26, 2012 I gave a 2-hour free demo at Wet Paint in St. Paul. I always get asked the same things over and over during these demos. Sometimes it is difficult for everyone in the audience to hear the complete answer. Sometimes when I’m painting it’s hard to keep my thoughts on answering the question and painting, especially if the question’s answer involves listing things, like colors I like to use, or brush names. Also it’s difficult for the audience to listen to me repeat the same information over and over as new people stop buy and ask a question that’s already been addressed.

To make things easier for everyone I have compiled this page of gouache related references. Some of them (or all of them) might get referred to in my demo, some might be omitted—but all were in my mind when I was thinking about what I wanted to say and show.

So if you saw the demo and wanted to find my list of favorite colors or you wanted to know what brushes I used, or you were looking for a gouache painting along with a detail shot showing a close up of the brush strokes the following links will help you find all that.

And if you couldn’t go to the demo, well in these gouache posts you’ll find out some of what I said to those present. It’s not the same as watching someone paint and explain about water use and paper impact. But these posts will give you a place to start your own exploration.

And because I love gouache so much these are of course just a sampling of my raves and rants about gouache on Roz Wound Up. I hope you enjoy reading them. And I encourage you to dig more into Roz Wound Up for additional gouache posts that might be of interest. I hope that you give gouache a try.

Selecting a Gouache Palette

Travel Palettes  shows the range of palettes I use for my travel/field sketching needs.

And this is my newest travel palette for gouache. I took one of these to the 2012 MN State Fair.

Fun of the Best Kind: Work—Choosing a Palette walks you through selecting colors to be on your personalized palette. 

Which White Gouache explains zinc and titanium whites and when each is useful.

Look here if you want to find a lot of posts about journal pages and gouache—it’s a page on my “Weirdo Journal.  

Here’s an eggplant in gouache on a preprinted background.

Here’s another view of that eggplant as it deteriorates.

To see partially painted over pen sketches see this page. It includes some details.

To view gouache used in light washes on toned paper see this page, which includes details.

Here’s a dog portrait using gouache in heavy layers on toned paper. It includes a detail photo so you can see overlays of brush strokes. 

In my demo I’ll talk about painting on preprinted backgrounds and you can see one of my favorite bird paintings on a preprinted background here

Read a post about how I built a page spread using gouache (on a pre-painted background) for a journal exchange. This sketch was used in a recent advertisement for Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media paper.

Brushes are important with gouache so if you want to see what my favorite brushes are you can read about them at the links provided on the page “Brushes: Some Brushes That I Use.”

Other Ways to Find Gouache Related Information on Roz Wound Up


If you use the categories in the left column of the blog you’ll see one for “Gouache” that will bring up all the posts on gouache—sometimes these are about using gouache and sometimes they only have images using gouache and no discussion of the painting.

“Paper” is a good category to find more posts on gouache, as well as tips on selecting paper for use with gouache.


If you use the search engine in the left column of this blog you’ll be able to locate gouache related posts. I simply type the keywords into the blog’s search engine without quotation marks, separating terms with commas. Here I’ve used quotation marks to set the terms out.

Obviously “gouache palette” is a good one to start with (I gave you some of those posts at the top of this page).

Searching for posts on “Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper” is also a good search for locating gouache related posts because I love to paint with gouache on that paper.

Searching for “toned paper” will get you a lot of gouache related posts including this one which shows a finch on Stonehenge Kraft brown paper

Other terms to search “preprinted backgrounds,” “painted backgrounds,” “pigeons” (which will also get you to this fun spread, scan to the end of the post to see the finished work)

“Spatter” will get you to a lot of Spatter Dog paintings like this one.

Paper plays an important role in the use of gouache. See this spatter dog painting to compare with the one immediately listed above, which was on different paper.

And now see gouache used in light washes and heavy on Fabriano Venezia.



After the demo I was talking with a friend and it became clear I wasn’t clear when I talked about going from light to dark or dark to light with gouache. So to be very clear here—I hold off on white and tinting of any kind until the very end of a painting, or the final layers of light blending, because it’s very difficult to come back with very dark darks after that (unless you are constantly cleaning your brush as you work—something you’ll get a feel for as you work in gouache).

When I talked of working from light to dark I was referring to moving from diluted or light translucent washes to darker colors and heavier washes which you can easily do with the wonderful Schmincke goauche. But the “light” in that context was light application which is still lighter in value—at least on white paper—because the paper is showing through, but is not light because it is a tint mixed with white paint.

This has probably confused you even more if you were present, so do this—make a swatch of either of your white paints and let them dry and then work your colors in on top in one of the ways I discussed (wet blending, dry brush, hatching). See how much white you pick up when you stroke and work to change the pressure to minimize that. And see what effect the whites have on your paint. Then add dark colors, full strength on top of that and see how difficult it is to not pick up some white that migrates up as you brush the color on in any area of any size. It is difficult but not impossible to manage. You need to practice that. And frequently clean your brush. Because of that I only paint that way at the end. (Maintaining my fun factor.)

(The exception to refraining from using the white paint until the end would be if you were working in a high-key subject and all your colors were used as tints.)

It is more common for me to paint with dilute (light in the sense of not opaque) washes like I started with in the dog painting, and then work up from that base with colors that are both darker in value and heavier in texture.

The thing to remember is that there are always going to be exceptions and while we can have approaches that work for us we should always be experimenting to find better ways to expand our visual vocabularies.

As soon as I wrote that “clarification” I of course realized that in today’s sample image (Finch) I’ve added a tint of blue (made with white paint) and then on top of that I added more blue (with a clean brush and only blue pigment). I was then able to lift up, intentionally, some white from below to lighten that blue paint but maintain a darker area of feathers from the eye to the opening of the beak. On another day I might have put down dark pigment everywhere and then worked white paint into it as you saw me in the demo, omitting new work in the darkest area. You need to practice both because you never know when you might need one over the other.

What I would really hope you came away with is the sense that if things are working you can always fix them with gouache! You saw me mix colors directly on the paper—with gouache I don’t have to worry about getting the color or the value right, exactly right, because I can always adjust it with more paint. It is easier to adjust if the white hasn’t been added in yet, but even under those circumstances, you may still be able to pull it back.

If you dive in with this idea that you can always fix things in gouache firmly in your mind I think you’ll have way more fun and zero fear, and that’s the experience I’d like you to have with gouache. 

I would also like to encourage you all to start working with your paint relatively fresh from the tube. When you finish your work session cover your palette with plastic wrap, first putting a small folded square of wet paper towel on the center of the palette (maybe an inch by an inch). In this way you’ll create a moist environment for your paints and they’ll be “fresh” at your session the next day. I’ve kept paint tube fresh for about 4 to 6 days that way.

If you learn with tube-fresh paint to do the exercises I showed at the demo it will be easier for you to move to working with your own pans made of hardened tube gouache, or just the hardened gouache on your palette.

Most of the people I talked with last night who had trouble using the travel palette of gouache had problems because they couldn’t manage the water to resoften the paint yet, while in the field.

So be a bit easier on yourself and learn with the soft paint first. Then you’ll easily adapt to the other. (But I don’t recommend that you make pans with any brands except Schmincke or M. Graham.)

Addendum Tuesday, November 27, 2012
I was sketching with a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and people can find out more information about that pen at this link. 

Additionally I did a 5 part series “Project Friday: Getting Used to the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen” which some might find interesting. (And as a fun coincidence the first post in that series opens with a brush pen and gouache painting that employs light [dilute] and heavier applications of gouache just like I was talking about at the demo.)

Someone at the very end of the wrap up asked about the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist’s Calligraphy pens, because they were one of the “staples” that I asked Wet Paint to lay out for you to look at. Other people jumped in with other questions and we didn’t get back to this pen. It comes in 3 colors (Sepia, a Wine-Maroon red, and black). I use them all, but mostly the black. I love it because the tip is wide enough to make a bold line when drawing large drawings, but you can slip it around in your hand and make thin lines on its edge. A very versatile pen—delivering the wonderful rich black ink of the Faber-Castell pen line, which is waterproof almost immediately (of course depending on the paper you’re using)

I rarely put this pen down, as evidenced by recent posts like “Survivor Philippines,” or “Frenchie on Gutenberg Paper,” or this sketch of Adam Scott,  or any of the many squash drawings I did this fall like this one. You get the idea. There is huge fun factor with this pen on a variety of paper types.

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