Which is Better: Gouache Paint or Acrylic?

Nov 2, 2021 | 0 comments

There’s some confusion in the art community between gouache paint or acrylic, and if you are one of those people who wants to learn more about these two paint mediums, you’ve stumbled upon the right blog.

Both paints are water-based and they have common properties with each other. However, despite their many similarities, they have distinct differences. So you’ll need to learn how they differ before you decide which one you’re buying for your next project.

Let’s explore the difference between gouache paint and acrylic and see which one is better.

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What is Gouache paint?

Gouache is an opaque watercolor paint that has the flexibility of watercolor and the flow of acrylics. It is made up of water, pigment, and a binding agent (usually gum arabic) – just like watercolors. This paint can be used for basic art projects as well as commercial uses.

Read Related Article: A Beginner’s Guide on How To Paint with Gouache

Gouache Paints we love:

What is Acrylic paint?

Acrylic paint is another type of paint that is fast-drying and once dry, is waterproof and can’t be altered anymore. It is available in a range of finishes from gloss to matte and it can be applied using paint brushes, palette knives, rollers, or spray guns. Acrylic paints come in large tubes and bottles.

Acrylic Paints we love:

What are the similarities between Gouache and Acrylic paint?

Both are opaque water-based paints and they can be applied to a variety of surfaces such as canvas, wood, glass, paper, and more.

What are the differences between Gouache vs Acrylic?

There are a few key factors that differentiate gouache paint and acrylic.

Binders – Gum Arabic vs Acrylic Polymer

The quality of paints is determined by the type of binder it has. Gouache paint uses Gum Arabic for its binders, the same binder used in watercolors. Gum Arabis is the hardened sap of African trees and it is used in food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and more. It is water-soluble and cracks when used in thick layers.

While acrylic paints use acrylic polymer for binders. It is water-soluble when wet but is water-resistant when dry.

Durability

Acrylic paints hold up better to light and can withstand dust. It is also water-resistant once dried and so it is more durable than gouache.

Gouache paint is less resistant to dust and light and is not waterproof.

Water Resistance Comparison

As stated above, acrylic paints are basically waterproof and water-resistant when dry. You can add as many layers of paint as you want, there’s no limit. Acrylic will dry quickly within minutes so you can tweak your painting however you want.

As for gouache paint, it stays water-soluble much like watercolor. You can reactivate the dry paint when you add water to it and can work back on it. Although you can work in multiple layers with gouache, just be careful not to reactivate the previous layer.

Suitable Surfaces For Gouache and Acrylics

Gouache is usually painted on watercolor paper and illustration boards, but it can also be painted on canvas. It is not really suitable for metal, glass, and other slick materials. You also can’t paint it on fabrics because it is water-soluble and will be washed out when laundered.

Check The Best Watercolor Paper.

Acrylic paints are more versatile because you can use them on a variety of surfaces. You can use acrylic paints on canvas, paper, glass, metal, ceramic, walls, and more. You can also use it on wood and fabrics if you follow a few prep instructions.

Working on Thick Layers

Working on thick layers of gouache can lead to it cracking when it dries, especially when it is applied on thin paper. If used in a normal fashion, thin layers of gouache do not crack. Usually, using thick paper, like illustration boards, may help prevent this issue. Although it is not recommended for you to build gouache paint up to make textures like you would with acrylics and oil paints.

On the other hand, acrylic paint is flexible. You can work on multiple layers and it won’t crack at all. Working on thick layers will be a breeze.

Framing Options

You can put your gouache paintings behind glass frames to protect them from accidental water damage because even small water droplets can disrupt the surface of the gouache and leave a displeasing mark on it. Also, if not taken care of, the gouache painting surface can become scuffed.

With acrylic paintings, you have more options. Since it is waterproof when dry, you can display them with or without framing them.

Surface Sheen

Gouache paintings have a velvety matte finish. It doesn’t have glare so it’s prettier on photos. It also doesn’t take long as oil paints to dry so illustrators who have tight deadlines find this aspect very helpful. Avoid using varnish on your finished gouache painting. If you want to have a high gloss finish, it’s better to use acrylics or oils.

Acrylic paints have a variety of finishes. It can be matte to satin to glossy. You can also apply a coat of gloss medium to make your painting look glossier.

Blending – Gouache vs Acrylics

Acrylic paints dry quickly and because of their nature, they can be difficult to blend. You can’t also reactivate it with water when the paint dries so you’ll have to work quickly.

Gouache paint is easier to blend and you don’t have to work in a rush because you can always reactivate the dry paint with water to continue working on it.

Check: The Best Watercolor Brushes for Beginners

Texture

Acrylics have various textures and you can make them thicker to experiment. Gouache paints are smooth and have very limited texture. It’s similar to watercolors and you should only apply it in thin layers to avoid cracking.

Consistency

Gouache paint has a pasty consistency and it’s recommended to mix a little water in it to thin it out before starting your project. The paint consistency can also depend on the brand and you can just thin it out with water and apply in thin layers to build your colors up.

Acrylic paints are available in various consistencies. There are heavy body acrylics that have a similar consistency to oil paints which you can use to create thick textures. There are also fluid acrylics and acrylic inks which are thinner than heavy body acrylics. Choose the acrylic consistency that will work best on the techniques you are using.

Color Shift in Gouache and Acrylics

Both paints can color shift as they dry. Gouache paint tends to get lighter as it dries, while acrylic paint is known to become darker when dry.

Fixing Mistakes

Fixing mistakes in both is possible. For acrylics, you just have to paint over the mistakes you’ve made. As acrylic paints dry faster and are water-resistant, you can add multiple layers to them to correct your mistakes.

With gouache paints, you can paint over previous layers, too, but you need to be careful not to reactivate and move the underlayers. You can also use a wet brush to lift off colors to lighten your painting or fix mistakes just like you would do with watercolors.

The Pros and Cons of Working with Acrylic Paints

Pros

  • The colors dry more or less the same
  • Dries quickly
  • Water-resistant when dry
  • Suitable on various surface

Cons

  • Dries quickly so you’ll have to work quickly

The Pros and Cons of Working with Gouache

Pros

  • Water-soluble and can be reactivated with water when the paint dries

Cons

  • The suitable surface is limited
  • Colors may appear different when dry

Can You Use Gouache With Acrylic?

The simple answer is yes. It’s a common way, actually. Lots of artists use a hybrid of both paints which is called acrylic gouache. This paint is creamy, dries quickly, and is easy to layer. It’s the best of both worlds.

Acrylic gouache is like a traditional gouache that finishes matte but has the same binder as acrylic paints so it dries waterproof.

To Wrap Things Up On Comparing Gauche vs. Watercolor vs. Acrylics

Whether you choose between gouache paint or acrylic or even the hybrid acrylic gouache, you can have an endless possibility of artwork masterpieces. Both paint mediums have their own unique characteristics that give you vibrant and eye-catching works of art. As you explore both medium’s differences, you’ll get the feel of how each one works better on which project you’ll be making.

Just remember that acrylic paints are usually used for special projects. Projects when you want to paint over surfaces other than paper. While gouache is primarily just for painting and illustrating, and best works on paper.

We hope this article has been helpful for you. Don’t forget to visit our blog for more articles like this.

Related Article: Watercolor vs. Gouache: Their Similarities and Differences

Renee Alexis

20-something Filipina, an introvert who loves young adult fiction, brush pens, Taylor Swift, and Mobile Legends. Coffee runs in my bloodstream.
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