Gouache vs. Acrylic Paint: What is the Difference?

Gouache vs. Acrylic Paint What is the Difference

Different paint types are available to artists and crafters. If you’re trying your hand at painting, you’ll need to choose the best paint for your project. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast gouache vs. acrylic.   

Differences Between Gouache and Acrylic Paint

You’ll get different painting experiences if you apply these paint types to your project. You must know which is ideal for the project you want to paint.

Formulation

Gouache is an opaque paint that acts like most families of watercolors. The paint is composed of both natural and synthetic ingredients. Gouache is a composition of natural pigment, binders, such as dextrin or gum arabic, and water. It also includes other extra additives and inert materials. It can be rewetted and reworked. 

Acrylic paint is a byproduct of a mixture of synthetic pigments. Made from quality bonds, acrylics contain minute plastic resin particles that are suspended in pigment and water. The acrylic emulsion comes from a polymer (acrylic resin). 

Drying time

Acrylics dry faster than gouache paint. This is why acrylic paints are harder to blend. Meanwhile, you can trickily prolong the drying time by misting your acrylic paint with water or adding a retarder. Gouache also dries relatively fast but not as fast as acrylics. With water, you can reactivate the paint to make blending a lot easier even after it’s dried.

Brightness and color vibrancy

Typically, acrylic painted projects shine more brightly than paintings made with gouache paint. If you create and paint surfaces with watercolors –gouache is a family of watercolors – they’re considerably less bright than with the acrylic painted projects. This gives rise to why acrylics produce more color vibrancy than gouache paint will produce. Typically, you shouldn’t apply acrylic paint on a transparent medium as you would watercolors. 

Dried finish

Gouache paint has a matte finish when dry. On the other hand, acrylics usually produce a wide range of finishes when they become dry. They include matte, resin, glossy, and satin finishes.   

Don’t forget, gouache paint has to be on the back of the glass. This will enable water to reactivate the gouache paints. This is not the case for acrylics. They don’t have to be behind glass. You can add a few additives or mediums to alter the finish, texture, and consistency of acrylic paint. 

Tendency to crack 

There is a high possibility that the thick layers of gouache paint may crack. This is especially so when you apply the paint on flexible and thin paper surfaces. However, gouache applied in thin layers and on a regular surface won’t crack. You should apply gouache only in thin layers as a general rule of thumb.

However, acrylics won’t crack. It doesn’t matter whether you apply it in thick or thin layers. It is an incredibly flexible paint type. You can apply it in thick or thin layers. 

Rework 

While you can rework and rewet watercolors and gouache, acrylics are not flexible to reworking. This makes acrylics a lot more relatively expensive than their gouache counterparts. 

Durability

Generally, acrylics are more durable than their gouache counterpart. The science behind it is the acrylic polymer emulsion that serves as a binder to offer durability. The paint is also dust resistant, making it strong enough to withstand debris and prevent corrosion and rusting. In addition, acrylics are waterproof and water-resistant when dry.  

Application surfaces

Although it’s formulated to be applied on thin paper surfaces, gouache can also be used on many other surfaces. However, it has to be applied in a thin layer. Acrylics are best for various surfaces, including plastic, glass, paper, canvas, and more. You can apply acrylics with little or no water. This helps to reinforce the smooth stroking with the paintbrush. Besides, the painting becomes stunning and denser.  

Binders and pigment

The binder of acrylics is an acrylic polymer emulsion that comes from acrylic resins. Hence, the acrylic paint can hold out against light and is durable with the binder. The pigment of gouache comes from dextrin or gum arabic. This makes it water-soluble like other watercolors. On the other hand, the acrylic polymer binder makes acrylics water-resistant when dry and water-soluble when wet.

Pros and Cons of Acrylic Paint

Pros:

  • Thick and deep: Acrylics are more forgiving and impulsive. 
  • Dried acrylic: You can apply acrylic paint over a surface when it’s dry. You will get the desired motif and color vibrancy. 
  • Wet Painting: When wet, you can easily wipe off and clean the paint with a rag soaked in soap and water
  • Permanence: dried acrylic stays permanently on your fabric surface
  • Multiple applications: perfect for glass, paper, canvas, and a host of other surfaces 
  • Crisp painting allows the creation of letters and work lines to produce a great result.  

Cons:

  • Dry off quickly
  • Not flexible to reworking when dry
  • Relatively costly

Pros and Cons of Gouache

Pros:

  • Great for flash wash: The gouache paint will be the right pick if you create a flat wash of colors that dries matte.  It’s perfect for direct, action, and gestural paintings. 
  • Bright colors: Gouache paint typically produces brightness when applying light colors over dark.  
  • Flexible: although opaque, gouache can become translucent with the addition of water. Plus, you can either build up the paint’s consistency or water it down. 
  • Dry to matte: the finish and visual effect are brilliant and bright colors with a matte.
  • Amenable: you can rework the gouache paint after completing the artwork. 

Cons:

  • Doesn’t allow freedom to use more tools like a palette knife
  • You can’t create letters or work lines with gouache paint

Similarities Between Gouache and Acrylic Paint

Despite the array of differences, gouache and acrylics have things in common. These similarities range from formulation to benefits, application, and surface. Here are features that match

Water-based

Although they contain different binders that suspend their respective pigments, both gouache and acrylics are water-based. Essentially, you can clean them easily with soap and water. 

Appearance

The appearances of acrylic and gouache paints are the same in that they show a vibrant look. However, gouache looks flat and soft when dry, while acrylic paint shows some glossy and sparkly appearance.  

Dry to matte

Acrylics and gouache paint dry to matte. However, acrylics dry to touch based on texture, including matte and other areas of transparency. The combination of acrylic and gouache dries matte and flat.

Vibrancy of colors

It doesn’t matter whether you use acrylics. You can be sure the visible result of your painting will produce highly vibrant color.  

Which is better: Gouache or Acrylics?

In general, acrylics are better than gouache. However, the formulation of each paint type is different. In the same way, the two paint types also have different properties and serve different purposes. 

Acrylic paint lasts longer on surfaces and is more durable than gouache. In addition, acrylic paint can hold out against dust and light and resist water. It dries to a matte, resin, glossy, and a host of other finishes. 

On the other hand, gouache is water-medium, opaque, and water-soluble paint. It’s best for creating a direct painting. While it dries to a matte, gouache paint has a limited application.   

FAQs

What is gouache paint?

Gouache paint is opaque watercolor paint that remains water-soluble when dry. If you add water, it can become translucent. Although it’s designed to be opaque, gouache is similar to watercolor because it dries to a matte finish. As a water-medium paint type, gouache paints consist of large particles. These make it denser, heavier, and more opaque than other paints out there. 

Is gouache paint the same as acrylic?

No. Although they share some common properties, gouache and acrylics are not exactly the same. For instance, whereas gouache paint dries to a matte finish, acrylics dry to a wide range of color hues, including glossy, satin, or matte finish. Because it is opaque watercolor, gouache paint retains its water solubility after drying. However, acrylic is both water-soluble and water-resistant after drying.   

Is gouache good for beginners?

Yes, gouache paint is pretty easy to use for beginner artists and crafters. As a beginner, you’ll need to get the supplies needed to mix and apply the paint. The best way is to start with the primary colors. Add white and black to these colors. From there, you can mix a wide range of other color hues. 

Can I mix gouache paint with acrylic? 

The direct answer is Yes. You can mix gouache paint with acrylic. It all depends on the effect you seek in the end. The two paint types are water-based. However, you’ll need to use an acrylic additive or a hybrid of two paints. When you mix them, the byproduct (acrylic gouache) is creamy, fast-drying, and works as a flat finish and well in layers.

Final Thoughts 

When thinking about gouache vs. acrylic, it is best to explore the right paint for your project. The similarities don’t mean you can replace gouache with acrylic. On the other hand, the differences won’t debase the great result each of these paints will produce.

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