Illustration

Gouache Painting Tutorial: How to Mix Colors

Learn mixing techniques to create different shades, consistencies, and textures by experimenting with different base colors and pigment-to-water ratios

Gouache is a medium used by artists around the world thanks to its versatility and forgiving nature. The water-soluble paint was first referenced in France back in the 18th century and has since become a go-to material for artists of all specialties.

Along with watercolors, gouache plays an important role in illustrator Emma Block’s (@emma_block) creative process. She uses it to create colorful scenes inspired by the world around her. As well as working with publishers and brands like Airbnb and Etsy, she is passionate about teaching others to paint art that spreads joy.

In this video tutorial below, Emma guides you through the fundamentals of mixing gouache paint. Learn how to achieve different colors and consistencies that take your artwork to the next level using her expert techniques.

1. Evenly distribute water into pigment

Start a new page in your sketchbook. Emma then guides you through the process of adding a small amount of water to your gouache pigment to achieve a smooth consistency and avoid chunks of unmixed color. Then she demonstrates the same process with watercolor to highlight the differences between the paints and their variation in tone.

Add a small about of water to your gouache pigment and mix thoroughly until you achieve a smooth consistency.
Add a small about of water to your gouache pigment and mix thoroughly until you achieve a smooth consistency.

2. Choose your base color and add to it

Emma thinks of mixing colors like mixing a cake and always starts with the biggest ingredient. In this case, she creates a vibrant peachy pink by combining red, white, and yellow pigments. In the video, she shares tips for making the mixing process easier, paying attention to the quantities you start with to avoid mistakes later on in the painting process.

Emma creates a vibrant peachy pink by combining red, white, and yellow pigments.
Emma creates a vibrant peachy pink by combining red, white, and yellow pigments.

3. Mix well to avoid streaks

Throughout the tutorial, Emma shares her advice for achieving a well-mixed, streak-free consistency with your gouache. From rolling your brush, to using a round-potted palette, discover ways to evenly coat your paintbrush for the smooth, even, matte finish gouache is known for.

Explore techniques like rolling your brush to achieve a well-mixed consistency.
Explore techniques like rolling your brush to achieve a well-mixed consistency.

4. Test out varied amounts of water

Watering down your paint can make it easier to control, but can also result in a less even consistency. Experimenting with different amounts of water is a good way to find what works for you. Explore how adding water can make the edges of your paint less rough and, in large quantities, create a more transparent end result.

The amount of water you add will alter color, consistency, and how easy it is to control.
The amount of water you add will alter color, consistency, and how easy it is to control.

5. Always do a test swatch to check your colors

Notice how the colors of your gouache change while drying. The wetter the paint, the more its color will change from its appearance in the palette. With this in mind, Emma wraps up the tutorial by discussing the importance of swatching your paint before you begin the final artwork to ensure your colors appear as you want them to.

Swatching your paint before you begin the final artwork helps to ensure colors appear as you want.
Swatching your paint before you begin the final artwork helps to ensure colors appear as you want.

Want to learn more trips and techniques for creating vibrant illustrations with gouache? Check out Emma’s online course, Gouache Techniques for Sketchbook Illustration. Through the course, Emma teaches you how to use your sketchbook as a canvas to explore different colors, textures, and brushstrokes using gouache paint.

Explore more gouache techniques with these resources

- Explore all of Domestika’s online gouache painting courses to learn new techniques for sketchbooking, children’s illustration, and more.

- Download Emma's free PDF with gouache painting practice exercises to learn new techniques for creating texture and depth by different brushstrokes and mixing.

- Learn how to create atmospheric, layered scenes in Ruth Wilshaw’s course on painting landscapes with gouache.

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