Mixing watercolour and Gouache….the transparent with the opaque.

“No Experiment is ever a complete failure.   It can always be used as a bad example”.   Paul Dickson. 

watercolour/gouache – view from the Rhiwiau in the Brecon Beacons Wales Viewfromrhiwiau1master.jpgcompI am always asked what is the difference between watercolour and gouache.

Watercolour is a transparent medium.    Gouache is Opaque.    Watercolour and Gouache are intermixable….

In this post, I will show examples of pure watercolour as well as the mix of watercolour with gouache.

Pure watercolour – Brecon Beacons Wales 20181029_115354  About eighteen years ago – I was in my studio in Wales going through a period of feeling blocked.     Always a difficult time for a creative!

Over the years I have learned that the best thing to do when this happens is PLAY.     I put out big sheets of inexpensive paper on long trestle tables.    Using large brushes and anything else at hand I began to throw paint around.      I found some gouache, something I had not used before and began mixing it with watercolour and voila……..I loved the results and have been playing with the mix ever since.

I noticed that the gouache was bleeding into the transparent watercolour producing some very interesting marks.

The top swatch of colour is Winsor Violet watercolour mixed with Permanent White gouache on an orange background.  (more about colour grounds in a minute)

The second swatch is pure watercolour. 20181029_122319

The following portrait sequence of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.….shows in the first example, pure watercolour – where all the white you see is dry white paper.20181030_090534The second example shows pure watercolour on an orange ground.20181025_095849The third example shows a mix of watercolour and gouache.     When painting this way, permanent white gouache needs to be applied for highlights because all the white paper has been covered.  20181025_102005It’s important to note, that no one way is the right way.    The whole point of being a creative is to experiment….as my opening quote points out.

When I am going outside to paint I will prepare some of the pages in my sketchbooks with a ground so that if I wish to use a watercolour/gouache mix, I am ready to do so….which was the case here.    Ground colour naples yellow with a little burnt sienna. 20181029_140537 So what is a colour ground?        

It is when we cover our paper or canvas with a colour.     When using watercolour/gouache it’s important to remember that paper must be grounded at least 24 hours before using so that it is totally dry.    

I often use paint left on my palette for grounding.    If at the beginning of the work day I am struggling to warm up…grounding paper will often do the trick.

As you can see from this example, the paint does not have to be uniform or all one colour.   I am known for my orange grounds, but often use naples yellow, burnt sienna or anything else left on the palette.   You can use both watercolour and gouache  separately or mixed together to make a ground. 20181025_095826I hope this helps those who are interested.     The key is to allow yourself to EXPERIMENT and PLAY,    Remember it is only paper……

I leave you with a magical hummingbird drinking from the sweet nectar of life.…paiinted on an orange ground using a watercolour/gouache mix. 20-11-15 - 1 (358)

A Bientôt.

59 thoughts on “Mixing watercolour and Gouache….the transparent with the opaque.

  1. David Redpath

    Beautiful works, Janet.
    I first became aware of the
    wonders of the medium when
    visiting the Picasso and Dali
    galleries in Spain. They both
    produced a multitude of
    glorious watercolours.

  2. Teagan R. Geneviene

    Another gorgeous and insightful post, Janet. I didn’t previously understand what a gouache was. All of these are beautiful but the first one took my breath away. I loved your thoughts on experimenting. Hummingbird hugs!

  3. Writing to Freedom

    Like Teagan, I love the first image. It is so rich in color and texture with more defined shapes than pure watercolor. It’s fun to learn more about mixing the two medias, which I had no idea could be done, especially with such lovely results. Your passion for both teaching and painting shines! Thank you. ❤

  4. Margaret Parker Brown

    Beautiful paintings and I really liked the explanation. I am aware of ground color for soft pastels and acrylics but never occurred to me that you can do this with watercolor. Of course as you mentioned, using a white is important for highlights. I also appreciate your emphasis on “playing” yes! I have been given an older set of gouache but I think that I rather use tube paint. What brand and colors would you recommend?

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you very much, Margaret. I use Winsor & Newton tube gouache. Permanent White and Naples Yellow are a must have. As for other colours – there is such a lovely range one could go crazy. However you can mix your own colours by simply adding some of the white to watercolour….HOWEVER, it’s vital to keep two palettes going. One for gouache and one for watercolour…otherwise the gouache will infiltrate all your transparent colours rendering them opaque! Other makers produce very good paints, but Winsor & Newton are a good staple. Janet

      1. janetweightreed10 Post author

        You are correct. What I meant about palettes was when you mix permanent white with watercolour – it’s best if you can keep it separate. Otherwise the white will find it’s way into other areas of your palette. Hope that makes sense.

  5. ShimonZ

    Lovely paintings Janet. For me, watercolor is a world by itself, but choosing between media is certainly a matter of taste. Truly a beautiful post.

  6. snowbird

    Such a wonderful post Janet, informative and fascinating! Oh….that painting of the Brecon Beacons is a masterpiece, it’s alive and glows, just LOVE the tree trunks and branches…all of it! And those hummers…I must try these two mediums such interesting results.xxx

  7. Bala Patel

    I have just seen your work. Amazing! Colourful but soft and moody. Looking forward to having a look at more of your work. Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  8. davidjrogersftw

    This I love–the sense I have reading this beautifully painted, clearly expressed in words blog from you, that I, a writer,, accustomed to the circuitry of a writer’s mind, am on the inside of a painter’s mind. I am fascinated. Janet. The art is so beautiful, all of it, nothing not-so, Thank you for thinking of doing this post. Best wishes, David

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning David…actually afternoon. I am so pleased you enjoyed this and that it was clear to you. It’s so important that when I teach people understand what it is I am saying.

      I am thinking of you enjoying an uninterrupted writing period as I am enjoying an uninterrupted painting and writing period. It feels so good.

      I am now about to ready your latest post. May your days be filled with creative bliss. Janet 🙂

  9. davidjrogersftw

    Thank you Janet.. So far today my day has been blissful–the writing going so well, the words coming of their own free will so smoothly,–so much so that I don’t want to have to stop for breakfast though my tummy says, “Hey, Dave, fill me up/” Good luck to you too today–well, always. David

  10. Alex

    Hi Janet! I like your posts very much. I hoped you would be so kind and write a few sentences about my blog. I would like to use it as sort of reviews to have in the sidebar. Just go too: https://www.like2read.blog/martyr/ and write it in the comments there if you’d like. I’d gladly return the favour if you want too…

      1. Alex

        I saw you commented. But I just thought it would be more of a review of my blog. Like: it’s exciting, fun, positive or whatever. But it’s ok. Im just glad you stopped by.

      2. janetweightreed10 Post author

        Hi Alex – would you change your settings re my following you so that I don’t receive e mail notifications. I can’t find where to do that. I will continue to read your posts. Many thanks Janet

      1. janetweightreed10 Post author

        I am about to check out your cat painting….Put out some inexpensive paper or even old paintings that you don’t particularly like (I have loads of them) and paint right over the top….the gouache is opaque and so will cover and with the watercolour will reveal some interesting effects. I look forward to seeing the results…..meanwhile have a lovely run up to the holiday season. Janet

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