DOODLEWASH REVIEW: Oh My Gouache!

Caran d'Ache gouache studio 15 pan palette and Holbein artists gouache set of 18 tubes

Today’s post features a couple of brands of water soluble gouache.   There is acrylic based gouache out there that once dry, does not reactivate with water, or other layers being applied on top.  Might be another post on that another day.   The two brands presented today are Holbein Artists’ Gouache and Caran d’Ache Gouache Studio.  And hey- this post is a shorter one!

Basically, gouache is an opaque type of watercolor, but that’s the simplified version.  It is described by many manufacturers as consisting of pigment and gum Arabic.  But it may often contain calcium carbonate, which is the technical name for chalk, and sometimes dextrin, which is a potato starch, these help to give it opacity.  It is a medium that dries with an opaque, matte finish.  This post is to give some swatch comparison examples, and point you in the direction to more info to help you decide if this medium might be something that you would like to try.

Holbein Artist Gouache- set of 18 5ml tubes- around $40 on Amazon.  Also referred to as Designers Gouache. Considered artist grade and it comes in 89 colors of 15ml individual tubes and various sized sets.  Here is the color chart with lightfast ratings.

According to their site info, the composition is a mixture that may contain- pigment, gum Arabic, ox gall, polyethylene glycol- which is a water-soluble polymer that has lubricating qualities, and benzisothiazoline, which is a microbicide and fungicide used as a preservative.

The set I have came with:

Carmine, Flame Red, Juane Brilliant, Permanent Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Permanent Yellow Orange, Yellow Ochre, Terre Vert, Permanent Green Deep, Emerald Green, Peacock Blue, Ultramarine Deep, Prussian Blue Chinese Orange, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Ivory Black, Permanent White.  I added in two other colors to my palette, Opera and Geranium.  There is also some Pebeo gold & silver shown in my palette swatch.  There is a much larger swatch of the rest below.

holbein artists gouache set of 18 5ml tubes in a mijello mission palette, swatch card.

My favorite gouache product is Holbein’s Brilliant Gold.  I’m telling ya’ this stuff is like magic on paper.  I recommend only using it from the tube, it doesn’t rewet all that well.  Here are a couple of examples of it with watercolor on Yupo.  More on luminous and gold paints and inks can be found here.

Caran d’Ache Gouache Studio 15 pans- around $37 on Amazon.  Other tube and pan sets are available.  It says 15 pans, but it comes with 14 pans, and a tube of white and a size 8 synthetic hair brush.  They stained the paper slightly more when I was doing the swatch- I put down color, then went in to dilute it some towards the bottom and part of the paint that I just laid down did not quite blend in.  This can be seen on the brown, blue, and grey swatches, bottom left on the sample below.  The only documentation I could find on the composition was here, it states- “Synthetic organic and inorganic pigments (without lead, cadmium or other toxic chemical compounds) Natural or synthetic binders, waxes and additives Natural mineral fillers.”  This means it contains kaolin and chalk, but they are still super bright. They sell a professional line called Extra-Fine, but it’s not easy to find, the online retailer I found was in Europe and it was out of stock.

There are no color names in or on the box.  Through doing research, I believe these are the correct colors:

(240) Lemon Yellow; (010) Yellow; (060) Vermilion; (080) Carmine; (090) Purple; (059) Brown; (035) Ochre; (230) Yellow Green; (210) Emerald Green; (180) Malachite Green; (170) Cyan; (140) Ultramarine; (005) Grey; (009) Black; and (001) White (tube)

Here are both sets swatched. Top four rows are Holbein, bottom three rows are Caran d’Ache.  I mean pow!  Look at the intensity of the colors.  Hits you right in the retina!  So invigorating!

Swatch on Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor paper.  Black line under the paint to show opacity and another line drawn on top after it dried.

Caran d'Ache gouache studio 15 pan palette holbein artists gouache set of 18 5ml tubes in a mijello mission palette, swatch card

I wish I never put the Holbein Artists’ Gouache in this Mijello Mission palette.  The palette is great, but not for this. The paint cracked up and went everywhere. I wish I would have left it in the tubes until I used it and maybe squeezed it onto a butcher tray or other small porcelain palette.

holbein artists gouache set of 18 5ml tubes in a mijello mission palette

Gouache dries with a matte finish.  It also dries very quickly once applied or mixed around in the palette.  I only used my synthetic brushes with this because there is a bit more force to pick up pigment from the rewet gouache, versus watercolor.

Caran d’Ache rewets nicely.  I spritzed both with water first. Between the two, the feel, bendability and vibrancy are slightly better with Holbein.  Ease of use, rewetting and portability are better with the Caran d’Ache.

The medium I’m most familiar with is watercolor.  I rely on it doing its thing on the page.  I don’t even want to show my examples with Gouache.  But, I present these couple of super quickies to give an idea.  The ones I “tried” on, well there needs to be more time with this medium.

There was a point where I sold one hobby’s supplies for another- this one, painting and making art.  I gave myself permission to try anything that I wanted.  Mystery solved of how I have all this different stuff to review.  I’ve had the gouache for a while, but didn’t used it much.  Before a review, I spend a certain amount of time using all of the supplies if I am not already super familiar with them.  I think that the gouache might work better than watercolor in certain sketchbooks, so I plan on using more going forward.  I know watercolor and gouache are viewed as similar- but they are not the same!  I had a little bit tough time.  My tendency is to go bold…

Caran d'Ache gouache studio 15 pan palette and Holbein artists gouache set of 18 tubes desert orb painting by jessica seacrest

Desert Orbs

This is a very helpful post from James Gurney’s blog GurneyJourney, he is a gouache artist.  If you are interested in this medium- I highly recommend reading his post prior to venturing into it. He also has other info about this medium on his site, and of course, awesome paintings. Read about his communication with Caran d’Ache about their gouache products here and communication with other manufacturers here.

Supply posts are every other Saturday.  I have one supply that intimidated me so much that I have been putting off the review for months. I plan to present it next time.  I’ll give a clue- think flying saucer 😉

I can be found on Instagram- @jessicaseacrest, where all my creative outlets are entertained, and sometimes telling signs of what will be reviewed next can be found.

Caran d'Ache gouache studio 15 pan palette and Holbein artists gouache set of 18 tubes mandala painting by jessica seacrest

Gouache and Ink Mandala

All previous review posts can be found under “Reviews” on the menu or click here.   Doodlewash has a Facebook group called World Watercolor Group.  Huge variety of folks from all over, and a wide variety of painting styles and skill levels. The group is large and growing every day! We have a lot of fun over there, and there are many kind and helpful people in the group.  If you haven’t already, please join in and share your watercolor creations!

Hi I’m the Doodlewash Supply Blogger and offer reviews of various types of art supplies, watercolors, and helpful tips. I approach artistic expression with a light-hearted point of view. I love to see, and support others opening up to, and embracing their creative process with any medium or creative expression. Follow me on Instagram!

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31 Comments
  1. Bernadine 1 year ago

    Those colors look so beautiful!!!😀

  2. Teri C 1 year ago

    You covered this subject so well! Your mandala is awesome! Love it. And the gold sounds like something I need 😄, of course.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

      Thanks Teri 🙂 Yes, the gold is amazing!

  3. ybromfield 1 year ago

    The only gouache I have is the white.. but I’m that gold looks fun! Thanks for the review!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

      Thank you Kari 🙂

  4. I used to be a watercolor purist…then I tried gouache. Now I’m hooked and can’t wait until I can afford a larger palette of colors. The five I have are fun, but I am lazy and don’t really like mixing up colors that much, at least with gouache. I don’t think I will ever be a purist again, haha.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

      Ah Ashley, a kindred artist soul, I also do not like mixing colors! I only have so much time, and I don’t want to spend it mixing if I don’t have to.

  5. anngrasso 1 year ago

    I appreciate your boldness to go where it might be a bit intimidating. Holbein gold is now on my purchase list. Thanks as always!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

      Thank you Ann! I really appreciate your comment! And that gold, definitely a must!

  6. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 1 year ago

    Another terrific review, thank you, Jessica. Gouache is not for everyone. I find the matte aspect rather lifeless, but there are good uses for this medium. Thanks for the color swatches. Your desert night sky is lovely, shows how to use the metallics without overloading the painting.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

      Thanks Sharon. That desert painting was hard for me to include, so I appreciate your comment on it. Sometimes it’s not easy putting it out there. But it’s all for the sake of experimentation, learning and sharing 🙂

  7. M. L. Kappa 1 year ago

    You’re a terrible influence, Jessica, every time I read your reviews I have to buy something 😬 I simply must have that brilliant gold now. I don’t really use gouache much, only white for highlights and if I’m doing teabag paintings. So I only have a few colors… But for journals also they could be useful

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

      Oh my you must have that Brilliant Gold! It is so worth it, and it will last a long time. It’s so lovely I can’t help it, I sneak it into a lot of things.

  8. dorkboycomics 1 year ago

    Fantastic review as always Jessica!! Thank you for posting these – very helpful!! 🙂

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

      Thanks so much Damian! I’m happy you found it to be helpful 🙂

  9. Nell 1 year ago

    Great review! A friend gave me a set of student grade gouache….I’m going to have to pull them out and see what they can do. Thanks !

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

      Yay, fun that you have them to experiment with! Thanks Nell 🙂

  10. MAGNY TJELTA 1 year ago

    Awesome post, thanks so much for sharing. I like Gouache paintings a lot but I dont ​know much about the paint. And thanks for the review!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

      You’re welcome. Thank you for your comment 🙂

  11. Jill Kuhn 1 year ago

    Can’t wait to try the brilliant gold!! 🌟 I like the Holbein gouache but have been frustrated when it dries in the tray I use. I like your idea of using it fresh from the tube. Love the vibrancy in your paintings. I especially like your Mandela! 💜

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

      Thanks Jill! I hope you love the gold gouache too!

  12. dianegklock 1 year ago

    Thanks so much for sharing , looking forward to trying gouache . I had been thinking about it but this post is the encouragement I need .

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

      Great Diane, I’m happy that this was helpful for you! Thanks so much for your comment 🙂

  13. Susan 1 year ago

    A long time ago when I was a design student and later an apparel designer, I used gouache a lot as it was more refined and precise than markers. Talens was what we used back then, but I hear Holbein is another excellent brand. We used a little bit of Ivory dish detergent to thin the gouache to help it stay wet and flexible as we mixed colors to match our fabrics and yarns for boards, attitude illustrations, etc.–thinning with water made the paint dry too quickly. Now there are probably mediums to help extend the paint, but it seemed to work best right from the tube. I just dug out some VERY old Talens tubes from my art stash, and the paint still smooth and vibrant!

    Gouache is a very different medium from the watercolor paints I love now–much more controlled and predictable, but extremely useful for so many types of painting. I didn’t know there were pans of gouache until today–which is just one reason why I love your reviews!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

      This was helpful Susan, thank you! I’m wondering how it would work with Ox Gall. I have some, but have never used it. So many things to try, so little time! Ha!

      • Susan 1 year ago

        Ox gall probably works great! It’s very soap like, and won’t have all the chemicals they put in dish soaps. Although adding just a little water is fine for most illustrations. What I like about gouache is the opposite of the unpredictability (and wonderful craziness) of watercolor–it creates an even, opaque surface of color. We used markers or colored pencil to add stitching and draping marks on top of the paint, and white gouache for buttons and highlights, etc. It’s pretty obedient and plays well with others 🙂 and makes it easy to work in minute sizes. I just looked through some old portfolios of my fashion illustrations and found that most of the marker sketches are quite faded, but the gouache ones are still pretty vibrant.

        So I’ve been playing with my ancient tubes of gouache paint–amazing one can do with the oddball colors of melon, magenta and chartreuse and some scraps of hot press. Now I want to try to combine watercolor and gouache! As you said, so many things to try, so little time!

        • Author
          Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

          Sounds so fun and interesting Susan! I’m happy that your gouache has been reinvigorated into use! 🙂

  14. Elizabeth Metz 2 months ago

    I’m finding this late and you may already know by now, but…

    If you’re squeezing tube gouache into pans or a palette that you want to rewet for travel, use a toothpick to mix in literally just a scant drop of liquid gum arabic with your paint. It won’t dilute it, but it’ll keep it from cracking when it dries. (Or, rather, from crumbling. It’ll still crack, because of the stuff in it that makes it opaque.)

    Or just use M Graham, since that doesn’t really dry for a loooooong time. Just keep it stored flat or you’ll have one heckuva mess to clean up. (Ask me how I know….) 😀

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