Gouache Painting (upskill)

For my FMP, I decided to really push the boundaries of my capabilities and try out new mediums I’ve never used before. The first medium I decided to experiment with was gouache. When I use a medium for the first time I don’t tend to research much, I just find out what materials and utensils I need and see what I can create.

The following image is a page filled with my first experiments – they were painted on a dark grey cardstock, as I had heard that gouache allowed you to easily paint over dark surfaces and I wanted to test the theory. Each number corresponds with an explanation below.

1 numbered

  1. This was the first thing I did when I sat down to paint. I knew that gouache was water-based and supposed to hold the properties of both acrylic and watercolour, so I first laid down a stripe of shiny blue paint I had mixed together. I then added some water, mixed it into the paint, and laid down another stripe. I repeated this process 5 times, just to see how the paint acted as it became less viscous. The paint reacted by becoming more opaque, and then when there was more water than paint the paint pooled up and became more opaque again.
  2. Here I laid down a strip of paint that I had mixed up. I cleaned my brush, saturated it with water, and tried to pull the paint along with the water. This created a fading effect.
  3. Here I mixed up two paints and painted them on top of each other, diluting each paint after each layer. The result at the beginning was just lines of paint on top of each other, but as the paints became more opaque the colours mixed together, creating a sort of gradient.
  4. Here I painted two stripes of colour, and attempted to create a gradient by mixing them in the middle with water. This didn’t work very effectively, as it muddled the original stripes of paint too.
  5. Here I attempted to retry making a gradient. This time I painted a box of magenta paint, and while it was still wet I cleaned my brush and loaded it with white paint. I then brushed the while onto the magenta in vertical strokes, painting more strokes the further across the box I went. Painting over the same spot over and over mixes the paint, creating the gradient I was looking for.
  6. When gouache is diluted enough, I found that it was fluid enough to hand letter with. Here I wrote “hello” in a modern calligraphy style, but I found that the paint was diluted too much and appeared to be washed out. I added a highlight to the middle of the letter strokes with a watered-down pearl white acrylic, but that didn’t improve the legibility as I had hoped it would.
  7. I laid down a patch of blue paint here to test how the pearl white acrylic reacted to being watered-down. No matter how much I diluted it, it didn’t seem to change the appearance of the paint.
  8. This was another take on a gradient. I used the same white-magenta colours to create the gradient, starting with a very pale pink. I painted a line of colour before mixing a little more magenta to what i was already on my brush. I painted a line with the new, more saturated colour and continued this process until I reached the pure magenta colour. I think this looks effective as it stands, but blending the lines together with a slightly damp paintbrush could produce some interesting effects.
  9. This dark corner is where I first used a pallet knife. I used the knife to mix together two new colours I created by using small amounts of other colours from the paint tubes. This is arguably one of the most effective ways of paint-mixing in terms of time and in economy – it doesn’t take a very long time to achieve a uniform colour, and it hardly wastes any paint as a brush would.
    I put down a swipe of blue paint, let it dry, and then applied a swipe of red paint over that. Just as it worked with the brushes, the paint was opaque enough to produce two blocks of colour.
  10. All of the swipes of paint surrounding this one were experiments into creating textures and patterns by not mixing paint all the way. I made sure I mixed together colours that were in similar colour families so that the resulting colours weren’t muted or muddied.
    The mixes of colours I used were light blue, dark blue, and white; dark blue, maroon, purple, and pearl white; light blue, light green, dark green, yellow, and white.

[Pictured above: the making of pallet knife swipes in number 10, from my instagram]

My second page of experiments was on a more greige piece of scrap, used card, as I had already tried painting on black. Neither colour of cardstock really affected the paintings.

4 numbered

  1. This was my attempt at a sort of galaxy-looking piece. I roughly mixed black, blue, purple, pink, and pearl white on a pallet knife and applied it to a square that had already been drawn onto the card (it was a scrap piece I decided to reuse). I applied it in horizontal lines, letting the colours spill out of the black and play around and muddle with each other to create an interesting pattern. While I think this looks effective, I would use less black if attempting it again. It overwhelms the piece.
  2. Here I attempted to mix two watered-down blobs of paint by laying them down next to each other, cleaning my brush, and putting water in the middle. I spread the water out and mixed the paint into it, creating a purple colour from the red and blue.
  3. To do this I really, really watered down a pinkish-purple paint and laid down a square of it. I let that dry, and overlapped a corner of it with another square from the same watered down piece of paint. On the overlap, the paint is much more opaque, which may be helpful in creating some of my final pieces.
  4. The three yellow squares here are all derived from the same tube of yellow paint – the furthest to the left has the least amount of white added to it, and the one on the right has the most white added to it. I painted these to see how much the paint lightened after it dried, as it was visible during the drying process to see the wet paint and the light paint side-by-side. It doesn’t matter how saturated, desaturated, light or dark the paint is, it will always lighten somewhat after it’s dry.
  5. The same experiment as above, but with green and blue hues this time.
  6. This line is straight off of a paintbrush I used to half-mix some colours together, creating a slight marbling effect in the paint. While the pallet knife can create sharp definition between strips of colour, the effect is much more muted and soft when done with a paintbrush. However, this does seem to waste quite a bit of paint.
  7. Some more hand lettering, this time with bolder colours that I didn’t water down so much. These turned out a lot more impressive than my first attempt above, as they are more legible and do not blend into the paper.
  8. A very abstract approach to see how gouache would look while using one point perspective. The colours would look very bright on a building, so would have to be muted slightly to look more natural in a scene.
  9. Another gradient here, this time with blue and maroon. I used the same technique here as I did on number 5 on the darker card.
  10. An attempt at creating a pallet knife paint swipe within a circular frame. To do this I roughly mixed some colours on my knife and applied them piece by piece, connecting the small sections to make it look seamless. My first attempt at this was to do it in one fell swoop by putting the knife to the middle of my circle and spinning the cardstock, but this proved to be ineffective and didn’t look good at all.
  11. This was another attempt at number 10, but this time with more colour and within a bigger circle. Here I used colours that do not belong to the same colour family, challenging myself not to let the opposing colours blend with each other and become muddy. I think I did this quite effectively, and the reaction to this rendition from my peers has been nothing but positive.
  12. Here I attempted layering yellows, oranges, and reds to create a fire-like texture. To do this I laid down a base layer of orange, let it dry, and then mixed up a new colour to dab on top of it with a brush. I repeated this 5-10 times with different colours to produce this effect. I don’t know where I could use this within my work, but it does look very effective.
  13. Here I mixed light green, dark blue, and purple on a pallet knife. I made sure to keep the blue in the middle, as blue is used to make both purple and green and would, therefore, look good next to either colour. However, I made sure to keep the green and purple separate so that they didn’t mix and become muddy. I think this looks very visually interesting, especially the broken-up section of paint.
  14. Finally, I laid out a dab of every colour in the rainbow (ROYGBIV) next to each other and mixed them slightly using the pallet knife. I then swiped it onto the cardstock vertically, making sure not to mix the colours too much, but enough to produce a nice blend between each one.

In order to help other people recreate these gouache techniques, I created an Upskill document and shared it with my peers via Google Drive. I have included screenshots of the document below.

Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 13.37.50Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 13.37.58


Sources used:

Instagram.com. (2017). emma davidson (@arcaneemma) • Instagram photos and videos. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/arcaneemma/ (Accessed 28 Apr. 2017)


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