Casein Paint vs Gouache: Which Paint Should You Choose (Explained)

If you’re a beginner artist, you might be wondering which type of paint to use for your next project. Two popular options to compare are Casein paint vs Gouache. While both are water-soluble and opaque, there are some significant differences between the two.

Casein paint has a creamy texture and dries uniformly, making it a great choice for murals. It also has good color retention capacity and can visually resemble an oil painting.

Gouache is more forgiving and can be reactivated with water, making it a pretty good option if you need to make changes or corrections to your painting.

When it comes down to it, the choice between casein and gouache will depend on your needs and preferences as an artist once you learn about both casein paint and gouache in a little more detail.

TLDR Summary

If you’re looking for a quick summary of the differences between casein paint and gouache, here are the key takeaways:

  • Casein is a protein-based paint, while gouache is watercolor paint with added white pigment.
  • Casein dries faster and is more moisture-resistant than gouache.
  • Casein is less manipulative than gouache, making it ideal for non-oily surfaces.
  • Both casein and gouache can be corrected, but casein is easier to correct with a damp cloth or weak ammonia and water mixture.
  • Color shifting occurs as casein and gouache dry, so doing test swatches is advised.

The choice between casein paint vs gouache depends on the artist’s specific needs and preferences.

Consider the surface you’ll be painting on, the level of manipulability you desire, and the drying time and moisture resistance of the paint.

With this in mind, you should choose the paint that will best suit your artistic vision.

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casein paint vs gouache – Pros and Cons


If you’re looking for a forgiving paint that is easy to work with, then casein paint may be the best option. It is water-soluble, which means that you can easily clean up your workspace with just soap and water.

This also means that you can easily add a bit of water to the paint to thin it out or create a lighter color.

Another advantage of casein paint is that it is water-resistant once it dries. This means that you can work on a painting without worrying about the paint smudging or running if it comes into contact with water.

Casein paint is also ideal for artists who prefer a matte finish. It has a creamy matte finish that is rich and non-sticky, making it perfect for creating depth and dimension in your paintings.


One disadvantage of casein paint is that it can be less manipulative than gouache paint. This means that it can be difficult to create certain effects or textures, especially if you’re used to working with gouache or other types of paint.

Another downside of casein paint is that it can be more difficult to find and purchase than gouache paint. While gouache is a popular type of paint that is widely available, casein paint may be harder to come by.

As casein paint is using a milk protein as the binder, it is not suitable for vegan artists. You’re better off using gouache paint instead.

Finally, it’s important to note that not all surfaces are suitable for casein paint. It works best on non-oily surfaces that don’t have any issues with water.

If you’re working on a surface that is oily or has a lot of texture, then you might want to think about using a different type of paint.

Casein Paint History

Casein paints have been around for centuries and have been used by artists since ancient Egyptian times. The paint is made from a protein found in milk called casein, which is mixed with water and pigments to create a paint that is fast-drying, durable, and permanent.

One of the earliest known uses of casein paint was in cave paintings, where milk was used as a binder for pigments.

Over time, artists began to experiment with different formulations of casein paint, adding other ingredients to improve the paint’s texture, consistency, and drying time.

Today, casein paint is used by artists around the world for a variety of applications, from murals and decorative finishes to fine art and illustration.

Several manufacturers produce casein paints, each with their own unique formulations and color palettes.

Some of the most popular brands include Holbein, Richeson, and Shiva. These paints are available in tubes, jars, and other containers and can be used with a variety of painting techniques, including watercolor, gouache, and acrylic.

Richeson produce their paints in small batch quantities to ensure the level of quality is controlled.

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Despite its long history, casein paint is often overlooked by artists in favor of other mediums. To be honest, until I started comparing various mediums with gouache I had never heard of casein paint and it was a pleasant surprise at how good it is.

Those who take the time to experiment with casein paint often find that it offers unique advantages over other types of paint, including its ability to be corrected and even drying consistency.

What Surfaces Can You Paint Casein On?

Casein paint can be used on a variety of surfaces, but you need to prepare the surface properly before applying the paint to ensure that it sticks to the surface and will last for a long time.

Here are some surfaces that can be painted with casein paint:

Wood: Casein paint works well on bare or previously painted wood surfaces. However, it is important to sand and clean the surface before painting to ensure proper adhesion.

Plaster: Casein paint can be used on new or previously painted plaster surfaces. It’s important to make sure that the surface is clean and free of dust before painting.

Masonry: Casein paint can be used on brick, concrete, and other masonry surfaces. Make sure that the surface is clean and dust free before painting.

Metal: Casein paint can be used on metal surfaces, but it is important to use a primer specifically designed for metal surfaces before applying the paint.

Canvas: Casein paint can be used on canvas surfaces, but it is important to ensure that the surface is properly primed before painting.

Overall, casein paint is a pretty versatile and durable paint that can be used on a variety of surfaces with proper preparation.

Casein Paint vs Gouache – Wrap Up!

So, now that we have looked at the differences between casein paint vs gouache, what can we conclude?

Firstly, both casein paint and gouache are water-soluble and opaque. However, casein paint has a more creamy texture and dries uniformly, which is not the case with gouache.

Secondly, when it comes to color retention capacity, casein paint is better than gouache. If you want your artwork to last for a long time, you might want to consider using casein paint instead of gouache.

Thirdly, gouache is a great medium for layering paint from dark to light, correcting mistakes, and cleaning up edges. It allows for more spontaneity compared to regular transparent watercolor.

Fourthly, if you are using gouache, be careful with the colors you choose. Some of the colors in the range are not lightfast, so make sure to check the manufacturer’s guide before using them for finished works.

Lastly, if you want a water-resistant option, you could consider using acrylic gouache or casein paint. White gouache is also a popular choice for highlights and adding details to your artwork.

In the end, the choice between casein paint and gouache depends on your own preferences and the type of artwork you want to create.

Both mediums have their strengths and weaknesses, and as always I say it’s up to you in the end as to which one suits your needs best.

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