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Gouache Colours: what they are and how to start

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Have you ever heard about gouache colours sometimes confused with tempera colors? No? Well,you are in the right place because i’m going to talk about this ancient technique of painting also known as “lean tempera” or gouache(from the french language). This painting technique dates back to  fourteenth century when it was used mostly for miniature because it highlighted in a great way the gold in the illustrations. During the centuries it was used especially to paint preparatory sketches which were used for big oil paintings,then afterwards,most of all since the nineteenth century,it was used in advertising signs and theatrical sets.Surely gouache is a kind of paint not easy and not for all and now we’ll see why.

  Gouache paint is a kind of pigment composed with a mixture of white lead(or plaster) and gum arabic( even if sometimes it used gum of animal origin).

As we said painting with gouache is not easy,but this can be a stimulus for artists who likes to experiment new techniques.What makes difficult to paint with gouaches? Well,first of all, gouache paintings dry quickly and they cannot be retouched as you do, for example, with oil paintings,thus you can’t paint with colours layers too thick insofar as can appear micro-cracks that will age painting taking away beauty and uniformity. It would be a solution to solve this issue, a medium called “aquapasto”which could reduce the risk of cracks on gouache paintings,but has the contraindication to further reduces drying time therefore it would be good to use it with caution without excess.What has been written till now,could be enough to discourage anyone,but you who are reading this article,you are a brave artists because you dared to browse my site,therefore you won’t be afraid to know the other difficulties about gouache paint,right? Well, so we can keep with another considerable problem to keep in mind when you paint with gouache, that would be an excessive drop of tone when colours dry; surely you will notice that gouache paint clears a lot compared to wet colour and that makes extremely difficult to find the right tonality. All of this makes gouache paint a really tough technique especially for beginners,and it suits well just for expert and fast hands,but you,oh fearless artists,you won’t become discouraged so easily,will you? It’s also because i’m going to talk about of the positive aspects of gouache colours,did you think there were only “cons”?There are even “pros” rest assured. Paintings with gouache, once drying,are extremely bright, so much that at a certain distance,they look like a oil paintings because of their pearlescent appearence due to white lead and gum arabic.Gouache colours are perfect for mixed media, indeed you can use them along with watercolours,soft pastels,coloured inks,with acrylics and oil pastels as well,enjoy to create paintings with mixed media,they are the most funny without a doubt! You can use them on several supports like paper,paperboard cardboard,plywood wood,masonite,canvas, but you must remember to prepare the fund to allow a better absorption of pigment and a optimum durability of painting during the time.

Gouache colours can be diluite with simple water,but you can experiment other ways as follows:

-If you use only water you can nebulizing gum arabic on painting to make it more vivid.

-You can also add 10% of gum arabic to water and a small amount of sugar powder.

-The third and last way consist in mix colours first with gum arabic and then with water.

 To conclude, it is always better to work with a palette very simple, i would advice you as follows:

The three primary colours( Magenta, Cyan Blue, and Primary Yellow) Burnt Sienna,Ochre Yellow,Ultramarine Blue,Cobalt Blue,Red Vermilion,Naples Yellow,Burnt Umber and Titanium White in addition, that should be used with caution due to white lead that composes gouaches.

As concerns brushes,you can safely use the ones you use for oil paint or acrylic.So my dear artists or aspiring,gouache colour dares you to be used,are you up to the challenge or not? I’ll leave to you the last world,i just hope that this post can be useful and that it can inspire you to paint with gouaches, for now i wish you,as always,good paint and see you soon.

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