Difference Between Gouache Paint and Acrylic Paint |15 Differences|

Acrylic and gouache paint may seem similar at first glance, but their differences lie in their composition, application, and output you wanna get. 

In this blog post, you’ll be given a clear understanding of both these paint mediums in detail by comparing their various aspects, which will ultimately help you in deciding which one is better for your project. 

But before dwelling on the post, let me clear to you that the information provided here comes from the manufacturing companies of these two paints, including Telens Art Creation, Schmincke Horadam, and Liquitex. 

Moreover, the knowledge is verified by our team of professional artists and painters in collaboration with Julie Mehretu, Cecily Brown, and Neo Rauch.  

So let’s go deep into the difference between gouache paint and acrylic paint.

Gouache Paint Vs Acrylic Paint:

Gouache and acrylic paint are both popular mediums used by artists, but they have some fundamental differences in their composition and characteristics. Here is the main comparison between gouache and acrylic paint:

  1. Composition

What is gouache? Gouache is essentially opaque watercolor. It consists of pigments, a natural binder (usually gum Arabic), and additives to enhance its properties. 

Acrylic paint, on the other hand, is made up of pigments suspended in a synthetic polymer emulsion, which acts as a binder.

  1. Opacity

Gouache is known for its high opacity. It provides solid, vibrant colors that can effectively cover underlying layers. 

Acrylic paint can be both opaque and transparent. It depends on the specific formulation and how it is used. 

It can be thinned with water to create transparent effects or applied more densely for opaque effects.

  1. Drying Time

Gouache dries relatively quickly because its binder is water-soluble. Once dry, it remains reworkable to some extent and allows for adjustments and layering. 

Acrylic paint dries through a process of evaporation. The drying time of acrylics can vary depending on factors such as thickness, humidity, and the use of mediums.

  1. Flexibility 

Acrylic paint has inherent flexibility, which allows it to adhere well to a variety of surfaces without cracking or flaking. 

Gouache, due to its Arabic gum binder, can be more brittle and may require a more flexible surface or additional measures to prevent cracking.

  1. Color Range

Both gouache and acrylic paint offer a vast range of colors. However, due to the differences in formulation, some colors may appear slightly different between the two mediums. 

Acrylic paint tends to have a broader range of available colors, including more metallic and iridescent options.

  1. Mixing and Layering

Gouache is known for its ability to be easily mixed and layered on paper. It can be reactivated with water, which helps you in blending and smooth transitions. 

Acrylic paint can also be mixed and layered, but it dries quickly, which makes it difficult to blend colors directly on the canvas. 

However, acrylics can be extended with mediums to increase their working time and facilitate blending.

  1. Surface Compatibility

Gouache is commonly used on paper and illustration boards, as it works well on absorbent surfaces. 

Acrylic paint can be used on many surfaces, including canvas, wood, metal, and more. This makes it a versatile choice for various applications.

  1. Lightfastness

Gouache paints tend to have lower lightfastness compared to acrylics. 

Lightfastness refers to the resistance of paint color to fading or changing when exposed to light over time. 

Acrylic paints generally have better lightfastness ratings, meaning they are less prone to fading.

  1. Texture and Finish

Gouache has a unique matte finish when dry. It dries to a velvety, flat surface with minimal sheen. 

Acrylic paint, on the other hand, can dry with various finishes, including matte, satin, or glossy. It depends on the type of paint used and the additives or mediums incorporated.

  1. Water Resistance

Once gouache paint dries, it can be reactivated with water and becomes soluble again. This characteristic enables you to rework and blend even after the paint has dried. 

Acrylic paint, once dry, becomes water-resistant and cannot be reactivated with water. This property makes acrylics more suitable for creating layers without disturbing the underlying paint.

  1. Clean-up and Storage

Gouache is easy to clean up since it is water-soluble. Brushes and palettes can be cleaned with water which makes it a convenient choice for artists. 

Acrylic paint, once dry, becomes permanent and requires solvents or specialized cleaners for proper cleaning. 

Additionally, acrylic paint can be stored for long periods without drying out, while gouache can dry up if not properly sealed or kept moist.

  1. Versatility

Acrylic paint is highly versatile and can be used in a wide range of techniques, including impasto (thick application), glazing (thin layers), pouring, and more. 

It can also be mixed with various mediums to produce stunning effects, such as texture gels or pouring mediums. 

Gouache, while versatile within its own limitations, is primarily used for flat, opaque applications and may not offer the same range of techniques as acrylics.

  1. Cost

In general, gouache tends to be more expensive than acrylic paint. This is partly due to the higher cost of pigments used in gouache formulations and the manufacturing processes involved.

  1. Retouching

Gouache allows for easy retouching and corrections. Since it remains reworkable even after drying, you can make changes or touch up areas without much difficulty. 

Acrylic paint after drying, becomes more difficult to retouch or change without additional layers or reworking the entire surface.

  1. Surface Preparation

Gouache works well on porous surfaces such as paper, illustration boards, and watercolor paper. These surfaces enable the paint to bond properly and provide good coverage. 

Acrylics generally require less surface preparation and can adhere to both absorbent and non-absorbent surfaces.


FAQs – Acrylic Vs Gouache Paint

Can I use acrylic instead of gouache?

Yes, you can use acrylic paint as a substitute for gouache. However, note that acrylics have a different consistency and may not get you the same opaque, matte finish as gouache. Adjustments in technique and color mixing may be necessary.

Is gouache paint similar to acrylic?

While gouache and acrylic paint both possess water solubility and the ability to attain opaque layers, their differences lie in the binder and drying characteristics. Gouache contains an Arabic gum binder, resulting in a matte finish upon drying. On the other hand, acrylic paint utilizes a polymer binder, leading to a permanent, flexible, and glossy finish when dry.

What is special about gouache paint?

The special thing about gouache is that it is made with a natural binder, and it has been used for decades. Although modern gouache is enhanced with effective properties, the traditional composition is about the same. 

Who is it better acrylic or gouache? 

Comparing acrylic and gouache is subjective, as they have distinct properties. Acrylic is adaptable, dries out quickly, and is more enduring, while gouache offers unique opacity and reactivity with water.

Why is gouache so expensive?

Gouache can be expensive due to high-quality pigments and the need for finely ground particles. Additionally, gouache often comes in smaller tubes, which affects the price per unit.

Can I mix gouache and acrylic?

It is generally safe to mix gouache and acrylic but keep in mind their different drying times and properties. Acrylic is permanent once dry, while gouache can be reactivated with water. Test the compatibility and evaluate the desired outcomes.

Which is good for beginners, acrylic or gouache? 

Both acrylic and gouache are suitable for beginners. Acrylic is more forgiving, dries fast, and contributes to a wide range of techniques. Gouache, with its rewetting properties, allows for easier color adjustments. Choose based on your needs and desired painting style.


Conclusion – Difference Between Gouache and Acrylic 

In conclusion, understanding the contrast between acrylic and gouache is essential for artists seeking the right medium to bring their creative visions to life. 

While both deliver unique results and own specific qualities, they possess distinct natures that set them apart.

When deciding between acrylic and gouache, consider the specific requirements of your project and experiment with both mediums to determine which one aligns best with your artistic style and intentions.

Jose Scott

Leave a Comment