Gouache vs Acrylic Gouache: Which is Best For You?

gouache vs acrylic gouache

I like experimenting with new mediums can be both thrilling and daunting. When it comes to painting, numerous options exist – including gouache and acrylic gouache. But what distinguishes them, and which should you select? In this article, I will go compare gouache vs acrylic gouache and explain the similarities and differences between gouache and acrylic gouache.

Acrylic Gouache vs Regular gouache: which is Better?

The answer to this question relies on your paint preferences. Acrylic gouache has several benefits over traditional gouache – for instance, it is water-resistant when dry and can be used on various surfaces. It is also less likely to crack than traditional gouache, which may become brittle over time.

On the other hand, traditional gouache boasts a velvety, matte finish that acrylic gouache cannot replicate.

It can also be rewetted easily, allowing for greater flexibility in layering and blending. In the end, choosing between the two depends on personal preference and your project’s specific requirements. To know more you have to read on a little bit more as I unlock even more facts that will make you want to try them out.

Acrylic Gouache: A Brief Overview

Acrylic gouache is a relatively recent medium compared to other traditional painting mediums such as oil paints. It emerged in the 1950s at the same time as normal acrylic paints. As the name implies, it merges acrylic paint and gouache.

Acrylic paint consists of synthetic pigments in an acrylic polymer emulsion, while traditional gouache contains natural pigments in a water-based gum arabic solution.

Acrylic gouache brings together the best of both worlds – it features the opaque, matte finish of gouache but also offers water resistance when dry, like acrylic paint.

This means that, unlike traditional gouache, acrylic gouache is suitable for outdoor murals or humid areas. It can also be used over dried acrylic paint without reactivating underlying layers.

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Gouache Explained

Traditional gouache has been used by artists for centuries. It is similar to watercolor in that it can be diluted with water but it contains a higher concentration of pigment. This results in a more opaque finish.

Gouache is renowned for its velvety, matte finish, which excels in creating depth and texture. It dries rapidly, making it perfect for layering and can be rewetted easily with water.

Although gouache dries matte, it can reflect a substantial amount of light which may produce an interesting shimmering effect.

Gouache is a preferred medium for illustrators and designers as it can be employed for both fine details and larger color areas.

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Acrylic Gouache Drying Time

Compared to traditional gouache and oil paints, acrylic gouache dries relatively fast. The drying time depends on factors such as paint thickness, humidity, temperature, and surface absorbency.

Generally, acrylic gouache can dry to the touch within minutes, but it might take around 30 minutes to an hour for the paint to become fully dry and stable.

To ensure your artwork dries uniformly and without issues, allow sufficient time for the layers to dry before applying additional layers or varnishes. Remember that external factors may affect drying time, so always test a small section of your work before proceeding.

Best Surfaces for Acrylic Gouache

Acrylic gouache can be used on various surfaces, but some are more appropriate than others. Popular surfaces for acrylic gouache include:


Heavyweight and acid-free paper, like watercolor or mixed-media paper, is ideal for acrylic gouache. These papers can handle the moisture and absorbency that the paint requires without buckling or deteriorating.

Hot-pressed paper has a smooth texture that is excellent for detailed work, while cold-pressed paper has a slightly rougher texture that is ideal for general use.


Primed canvas or canvas board can be used with acrylic gouache. Make sure to select a canvas that is primed with an acrylic gesso, as it will provide a suitable base for the paint to adhere to.

This will also prevent the paint from seeping into the canvas fibers, which could cause deterioration over time.

Wood panels

Smooth wood panels, particularly those made from birch, are another excellent option for acrylic gouache.

Before painting, apply an acrylic gesso or primer to create a uniform, non-absorbent surface that will accept the paint well.

Illustration board

This is a sturdy, thick paperboard designed for art mediums like acrylic gouache. It usually comes with a primed surface that’s ready for painting.

Acrylic primed surfaces: Acrylic gouache can be applied to any surface primed with an acrylic primer or gesso.

This can include surfaces such as glass, metal, and plastic, but proper surface preparation is crucial for good adhesion.

Keep in mind that the surface you choose will impact the final appearance and durability of your artwork. Always ensure proper surface preparation and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the best results.

Reactivating Acrylic Gouache vs Traditional Gouache

Unlike traditional gouache, acrylic gouache cannot be reactivated once dry. Due to the acrylic polymer in its composition, acrylic gouache becomes water-resistant and permanent when dry.

This means you cannot rewet the paint to reactivate or rework it, as you can with traditional gouache.

Traditional gouache is a water-soluble paint made from pigments and a water-soluble binder, like gum arabic. When it dries, it remains water-soluble and can be reactivated with water, allowing for adjustments and blending even after the paint has dried.

Acrylic gouache combines the characteristics of gouache and acrylic paint. While it has the matte and opaque finish of traditional gouache, it dries to a water-resistant finish like acrylics, making it a more durable and versatile medium.

Because of this, when working with acrylic gouache, it’s essential to work relatively fast and make any adjustments or blending while the paint is still wet. Once the paint dries, it will not be possible to reactivate it with water.

Comparing Acrylic Paint, Traditional Gouache, and Acrylic Gouache

To better understand the differences between these three mediums, let’s examine their key characteristics:

Acrylic Paint

  • Made of synthetic pigments and an acrylic polymer emulsion
  • Dries quickly and is water-resistant when dry
  • Can be used on almost any surface
  • Can be mixed with other mediums, such as gels or pastes, to create different textures

Traditional Gouache

  • Made of natural pigments and a natural binder called gum arabic in a water-based solution
  • Dries quickly and can be rewetted easily with water
  • Has a velvety matte finish that is great for creating texture
  • Can be used on paper, board, and other porous surfaces

Acrylic Gouache

  • Made of synthetic pigments and an acrylic polymer emulsion, like acrylic paint, but with a high concentration of pigment, like gouache
  • Can be used on a variety of surfaces, including paper, canvas, and boards
  • Can be mixed with acrylic mediums, like gels or pastes, to create different textures
  • Fast drying time. Acrylic gouache dries quickly, which can be both a benefit and a challenge. It allows you to work on layers without waiting too long, but it also means that you need to work relatively quickly and efficiently to make adjustments or blend colors before the paint dries.
  • Matte and opaque finish. Acrylic gouache has a matte, flat finish and is highly opaque. This makes it ideal for illustration work, graphic design, and fine art that requires bold, even color application without the sheen or reflection that you might get from traditional acrylics or oils.
  • Water-resistant when dry. Unlike traditional gouache, acrylic gouache becomes water-resistant and permanent once it dries, which means you can’t re-activate (re-wet) it with water. This also makes it more durable and less prone to damage from moisture.
  • Surface preparation. Acrylic gouache can be used on various surfaces, including paper, canvas, wood, and more. However, proper surface preparation is essential to ensure good paint adhesion and longevity. Priming your chosen surface with an acrylic primer or gesso will help create an ideal base for the paint.
  • Color mixing. Acrylic gouache can be mixed with other acrylic paints and mediums, but keep in mind that adding other products might alter its matte and opaque properties.
  • Dilution and consistency. Acrylic gouache can be thinned with water to achieve various consistencies, but be cautious not to over-dilute the paint, as this can affect its opacity and binding properties.
  • Cleaning and care. As with other acrylic paints, you’ll need to clean your brushes and tools with water immediately after use to prevent the paint from hardening and becoming difficult to remove. Also, be sure to store your paints properly, with tightly sealed containers to prevent them from drying out.
  • Lightfastness. Like any other paint, the lightfastness of acrylic gouache varies depending on the pigments used. Lightfastness refers to a pigment’s resistance to fading when exposed to light.

Aways check the manufacturer’s information on individual colors to ensure you are using high-quality, lightfast pigments.

Choosing Between Acrylic and Gouache for Beginners

If you’re new to painting, acrylic, acrylic gouache and gouache can be suitable choices. Acrylic paint is somewhat easier to work with, as it can be mixed with water to create a range of consistencies, from thin washes to thick impasto. It is also more forgiving, as it can be easily painted over if you make a mistake.

Gouache, on the other hand, can be more challenging for beginners because it dries quickly and can be rewetted easily, which makes blending and layering more complicated.

If you’re interested in illustration or design, gouache might be a good choice because of its velvety, matte finish and ability to create fine details.

Pricing Gouache vs Acrylic Gouache: Which is More Expensive?

The cost of both gouache and acrylic gouache can vary depending on the brand and quality.

Generally speaking, however, gouache is more expensive than acrylic gouache. This is because gouache is made with natural pigments, which are generally more expensive than synthetic pigments used in acrylic gouache.

It’s worth noting that if you’re used to working with acrylic paint, investing in a set of gouache or acrylic gouache can be a good way to expand your options and try out new techniques.

Gouache vs Acrylic Gouache – Wrap up!

In gouache vs acrylic gouache I have highlighted both their advantages and disadvantages. Acrylic gouache is an excellent option for painters who want the opaque, matte finish of gouache but need a water-resistant medium.

Traditional gouache, on the other hand, is perfect for those who want to experiment with creating texture and working quickly.

Ultimately, the choice between the two comes down to personal preference and the needs of your specific project. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, both of these mediums have a lot to offer, and trying out both might just lead to some fascinating results!

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