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Want to try your hand at painting, but not sure what type of paint would work best for your project? Below, we’ll help you compare gouache vs acrylic paint, so you can better understand the advantages and disadvantages of each medium. 

Skillshare student Norma Jean Vela showcases the flat, matte qualities of gouache in this painting of a teacup. 
Skillshare student Norma Jean Vela showcases the flat, matte qualities of gouache in this painting of a teacup. 

Gouache vs Acrylic Paint: 7 Differences

Gouache and acrylic are common types of paint that you can easily find at any art or craft store. However, you’ll find that when you take a closer look at gouache paint vs acrylic paint, there are several important differences that may impact which medium you choose. 

Skillshare student Mary Ann used acrylic paint to create this painting of an orange. 
Skillshare student Mary Ann used acrylic paint to create this painting of an orange. 

1. Durability 

One major advantage of acrylic paint is that it tends to be more durable than gouache. Acrylic paint holds up better to light, can easily withstand dust, and is generally water resistant. Is acrylic paint waterproof? While it can’t be reactivated with water (in other words, when it’s dry, it can’t be changed), it can be damaged if it’s exposed to large amounts of water, like rain or snow. So if you plan to display your project outdoors, you should take the proper steps to waterproof it with a varnish. 

Gouache paint, on the other hand, is less resistant to light and dust, and is reactivated with water. While this can be an advantage for painters who want to make changes to their paintings (more on that below), it can also create limitations for how you display your art. It’s typically recommended that you frame gouache paintings behind glass to protect them from dust or droplets of water that could damage the image. 

Skillshare teacher Holly Hoffman showcases a vibrant gouache painting of flowers. 
Skillshare teacher Holly Hoffman showcases a vibrant gouache painting of flowers. 

2. Binders

Acrylic and gouache are both water-based paints that can be cleaned up with soap and water. However, each contains a different type of binder—the material that holds the pigments together and allows them to stick on paper, canvas, or other mediums. Gum arabic serves as the binder for gouache paint. This, which is the same binder that’s used in watercolors, is what makes gouache water soluble. 

Acrylic paints use acrylic polymer as a binder. What is acrylic polymer? Essentially, it’s a type of plastic. It’s this type of binder that allows acrylic paint to be water soluble when wet but water resistant when dry. 

3. Surface Texture and Application 

Gouache dries opaque and matte, and it can’t be watered down enough to look translucent, like watercolors can. If applied too thickly, gouache paint can crack. Acrylics, however, can be applied thickly enough to create surface texture. When dry, acrylics have a shiny, glossy appearance, while gouache is soft and flat. 

Acrylic paint can be applied thickly enough to create interesting surface textures, while gouache paint dries flat and matte. 
Acrylic paint can be applied thickly enough to create interesting surface textures, while gouache paint dries flat and matte. 

4. Suitable Surfaces to Paint On 

When considering gouache paint vs acrylic paint, it’s helpful to have a good idea of the type of your ideal medium. Gouache paint is best suited for paper, while acrylic paint has a much wider range of applications, including paper, wood, glass, and plastic. 

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5. Tools to Apply the Paint 

As a thinner, more water-based paint, gouache is typically applied with a paintbrush. You can also apply acrylic paint with a paintbrush—however, you could also choose something a little more unconventional, like a palette knife. 

Compared to gouache, acrylic paint can be applied with a wider variety of tools, including paint brushes and palette knives. 
Compared to gouache, acrylic paint can be applied with a wider variety of tools, including paint brushes and palette knives. 

6. Drying Time 

When learning how to use acrylic paint, you’ll quickly find that acrylics dry substantially faster than gouache paints, making them more difficult to blend. There are some tricks you can use to slow the drying process (like adding a retarder to your paint or misting it with water), but on their own, acrylics don’t give you much time to work and blend the paint. 

Gouache dries somewhat quickly as well; however, it can be reactivated with water, so blending is easy—even after it’s initially dried. 

7. Ability to Rewet and Rework 

Gouache paint offers nearly unlimited flexibility, as you can add water to the dry paint to reactivate it—ultimately allowing you to rework it and make changes to your painting. With acrylic paint, however, once it’s dry, you can no longer change it. 

This painting illustrates a gouache technique called wet-on-wet, which demonstrates how you can rewet gouache to blend colors and create subtle shadows. 
This painting illustrates a gouache technique called wet-on-wet, which demonstrates how you can rewet gouache to blend colors and create subtle shadows. 

Can You Use Gouache With Acrylic?

A common way to use gouache with acrylic is to use a hybrid of the two paints, which is called acrylic gouache or acryla gouache. This type of paint is creamy, dries quickly, and layers easily, providing some of the best benefits of both types of paints. 

Acrylic gouache paint dries flat and matte, while acrylic paint typically dries with texture and some areas of translucency.
Acrylic gouache paint dries flat and matte, while acrylic paint typically dries with texture and some areas of translucency.

Acrylic gouache was designed to look like traditional gouache (with a creamy, flat finish), but has the same base, or binder, as acrylic paint. That means it cannot be reanimated with water. This allows you to add new layers of paint without mixing colors from the previous coat, which makes it ideal for creating detailed, layered compositions with vibrant colors. 

Skillshare teacher Alanna Cartier used acrylic gouache to create these vibrant paintings with layers of detail. 
Skillshare teacher Alanna Cartier used acrylic gouache to create these vibrant paintings with layers of detail. 

Whether you choose acrylic, gouache, or acrylic gouache, you can have nearly endless opportunities to create vibrant, eye-catching paintings. By exploring the differences between gouache vs acrylic, however, you can ensure that you choose the paint that’s right for your particular project, artistic process, and style. 

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