What are Watercolours?

Watercolours, also known as aquarelle, are made up of materials that are soluble in water. In French, painting with watercolours is an ancient manifest. In Eastern Asia, watercolour painting combined with ink is called scroll painting. Watercolours are more transparent than any other kind of colour. Watercolours are water-soluble and blot at the back of the paper. Due to its transparency, light easily travels through its pigments and thus reflects at the back of white paper.

Watercolour vs Gouache

What is Gouache?

Gouache, pronounced as “gwash”, is made out of natural colours. It is opaque and completely insoluble in water. Unlike watercolours, the nature of gouache is opaque and gives a matte finish, which can be rewetted before the use. Gouache colour medium is quite similar to acrylic & oil paint. It is known that gouache was the medium used for adding last last minute details in the 18th century. 

Properties: Watercolour v/s Gouache

Both the mediums mentioned, i.e. watercolour as well as gouache are reusable with water. In order to make gouache less transparent, a mixture of chalk is added with the pigment to achieve the opacity, too, that the gouache medium is known to have.

Paper: Watercolour v/s Gouache

Special watercolour papers are available in the market while painting with watercolour. Watercolour paper is a mixture of cotton and paper pulp. This is to achieve the absorbent texture that aids the absorption of water soluble pigments into the sheets. Watercolour application takes long to dry and cannot be easily paint layered. A trick to make watercolours look more opaque is to add chinese white to the pigments.

As mentioned earlier, gouache doesn’t get absorbed into paper and therefore acts opposite to watercolour. It is opaque and has the tendency to dry faster unlike watercolours.

History: Watercolour v/s Gouache

Watercolour painting is an ancient form of painting which grew in popularity only starting the Renaissance age. Modern watercolour painting started from the early Northern Renaissance where artists like Albrecht Durer used the English watercolour techniques for his plant and landscape studies. 

Botanical illustrations were trending during the Renaissance period. 

Gouache is taken from the italian word guazzo, which basically means — producing a painting by  an opaque medium. Gouache In Europe, most of the decorative artworks such as borders, initials & miniature illustrations were widely used. 

How Gouache was made?

In the 18th century, gouache watercolors were mixed with arabic gum and a white pigment to make it opaque. 

From the 19th century onwards, watercolours started being produced in tubes along with the “chinese white” tube that were also added to the boxes.

Ingredients in Watercolour paint

There are a set of ingredients which are used in making watercolours : pigments, gum arabic, additives like glycerin, ox gall, honey & preservatives.

Commercial Watercolours

Before the 18th century the artists had to make paints by themselves by the use of pigments. However, the earlier commercial paints were small. We can see the availability of the modern colours in two forms & they are tubes & cases. The paints which are sold at present in the market are packaged in tubes while case paints come in tray forms holding dried bricks of paint. Gouache paints are wet, creamy and give a matte finish.

Acrylic Gouache

A new addition that is very recent to painting mediums as technology advances is the acrylic gouache. The pigment of this paint is highly concentrated and resembles traditional Gouache. 

This medium consists of a mixture of acrylic binder and gum arabic into it. Once it dries up it gives a matte finish. Unlike acrylic paints, acrylic gouache consists of additives that provide its matte finish.


Watercolours make look much clearer than acrylics or oil paints because the pigment of watercolours are in the purest form. During the painting paper absorbs maximum of the gum binder. However, this allows binder not to change the visibility of the pigment. Therefore, watercolours are more transparent.

Differences in facts of Watercolour & Gouache

                   Here are some amazing & fun facts on..


  1. Did you know that all the paintings & artworks such as cave paintings are watercolour based.
  2. Before the 18th century, artists had to make their paint themselves.
  3. Basically they made use of pigment which was purchased from a pharmacy & it was mixed with water.


  1. The colour particles of Gouache are way more than the particles of watercolour.
  2. Gouache has stronger colour saturation as the opacity of Gouache is chalky and matty in texture.
  3. Many graphic designers, comic artists, and animators used it to make the colours look bolder.
  4. Amazing fact: you’d see many posters and animation cells of the twentieth century have Gouache.

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