I’ve been learning watercolor for a year now and I’ve been wanting to experiment with gouache and it’s opacity. I enjoy the transparency and delicacy of watercolor, but I like the idea of layering light values onto dark as opposed to dark over light the way watercolor functions.

I decided I could make gouache myself to experiment and wanted a number of colors to play with in a particular range of hues. I fished out my watercolor tubes, a large tube of White gouache (Zinc White Gouache by Winsor & Newton—also referred to as Chinese White), and started mixing. I swatched out the colors with multiple tint levels to see what hues and values I wanted.

After determining my shortlist of colors and tint levels, I started mixing the paints in small half pans. Some of the colors are mixed only with white, others are combinations of watercolors to create specific hues I wanted then mixed with white. I created multiple tints of some of the colors so I would have light and dark mixes for each. For a few of them, I only have one mixture because I only preferred it with one tint level. For the dark values, I did mix a bit of white to add opacity, though I’m not sure how much of a difference this makes.

After letting them dry a bit over night (only the surface was dry), I wiped off paint that had gotten on the edges of the pans with a bit of water, assembled them in a metal palette and made a swatch card.

Now I’m ready to play!

Here’s what I learned while researching and painting with gouache:

  • Most gouache paints get very dry and crumbly when left to dry in pans, so we’ll see how this goes for my new palette
  • There are 2 distinct white watercolor/gouache paints—Chinese white, also called Zinc white, and Titanium white. Chinese white is more transparent with lower tinting strength, whereas Titanium white is more opaque and will lighten the color faster with less paint.
  • Dark paints seem to have less white mixed in and are therefore more transparent. A video I watched (by mindofwatercolor) compared major brands of gouache, noting their dark colors having varying levels of opacity. I’m not sure if this is due to the content of white mixed in or some other cause.
  • Combining watercolor and gouache techniques/paints in a piece has an interesting effect due to the ‘light weight’ of watercolor vs the ‘heft’ of gouache. I suppose this can be used purposefully. It was interesting to experience it while creating a piece.

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