Watercolor and Gouache: 3 Ways to Combine Them for Incredible Vibrancy
Apr, 22 2022
Updated: Jul, 8 2022
5 min read

Watercolor and Gouache: 3 Ways to Combine Them for Incredible Vibrancy

Curious about mixing mediums? Skillshare Top Teacher Rosalie Haizlett guides you through making masterpieces with watercolor and gouache.

Discover how watercolor and gouache interplay together to create stunning natural paintings. Artwork by Rosalie Haizlett.

As an illustrator, I’m always looking for new ways to mix up my style and continue to grow as an artist. I’ve been using watercolors since I was an art-obsessed little kid, and I now feel really confident with them. I even wrote a book about painting with watercolor! 

But in early 2021, I decided to dip my toes into gouache painting to see what I might be missing out on by being so singularly focused on watercolor. With butterflies in my stomach, I bought a new set of gouache paint and committed to painting only with gouache for about three weeks during an artist residency in the Mojave Desert. I was ready for something fresh, but I was nervous! 

What I didn’t realize at the time was just how similar gouache is to watercolor. In fact, another name for gouache is “opaque watercolors.” It’s basically a thicker, bolder version of watercolor paint. 

While it feels similar to watercolor while you’re working with it, you can achieve dramatically different results if you want to. I quickly learned that working with gouache was not starting from scratch! If you’re even somewhat familiar with watercolor, you’re perfectly poised to venture into the world of gouache.

A non-intimidating way to get started with any new artistic medium is to slowly begin incorporating it into what you’re already familiar with. Since that initial foray into gouache last year, it’s become an essential extension of my watercolor palette. The two mediums combine beautifully to make my watercolor art look more funky, vibrant and playful.


3 ways you can spice up your watercolor art with ✨gouache✨ from nature illustrator and Top Skillshare teacher @rosaliehaizlett 🌿🎨 #EarthDay

♬ original sound – Skillshare
Rosalie Haizlett walks through ways to integrate gouache into your watercolor practice in this TikTok.

When I look back on my work from previous years, I am struck by how muted many of my paintings looked. While I still like that traditional style and use it in some of my work, I’m also grateful that I’ve gained the confidence to incorporate bold colors into my art. 

When you open yourself up to mixed media art, the creative opportunities are truly endless! And mixing the two mediums is easier than you may think. 

Note the details in these gorgeous Rosalie Haizlett pieces before adding all of the gouache details when we can really see how watercolor and gouache work well together.
  1. Add a Pop of Colorful Gouache to the Background

    I painted this white trillium wildflower with watercolor, then added a bold lemon-yellow oval behind the flower using gouache. When deciding on a flat color for the background, try to choose one that will complement the subject without overpowering it.

    I chose the lemon-yellow background because the center of the trillium (the focal point) is bright yellow, and a yellow background enhances it.
A lemon-yellow background at the center of the trillium provides a gorgeous contrast in this watercolor and gouache composition by Rosalie Haizlett
  1. Identify the Most Colorful Areas of Your Subject and Enhance Them with Gouache

    I first painted this mushroom using watercolor, and despite using my boldest reds and yellows, it didn’t quite have the traffic-stopping vibrancy that I noticed when I spotted this mushroom on a hike in the Smoky Mountains.

    To remedy this, I selected an intense red and yellow gouache and added just a few small touches to the cap and stem as the very last step.

    This addition of gouache to select areas of the painting brings out those hues while still maintaining the nice earthy subtleties of watercolor.
See this mushroom come to life under Skillshare Top Teacher Rosalie Haizlett's expert hand.
  1. Add a Funky Patterned Background Using Gouache

    I decided to go a little wild with this watercolor painting of fiddlehead ferns that I saw growing along a trail in North Carolina last week. Since fiddleheads are so weird to look at already, why not make the painting even more playful?

    I came up with a gradient light tan-deep pink color scheme because green and red are complementary colors and I knew that the subtle greens of the fiddleheads would still stand out against those rich reddish colors.  Then I just sketched out simple wavy lines and filled the space between with the gouache colors that I’d selected.

Rosalie Haizlett complements rich reddish colors with gorgeous tans in this fiddlehead fern painting, blending watercolor and gouache.

If you enjoyed these tips, you’re in luck! I recently created an entire Skillshare class all about seamlessly combining watercolor and gouache. I’d love to have you in my class!

See the power of watercolor and gouache together in these gorgeous Rosalie Haizlett creations.

Happy painting! 

Written by:

Rosalie Haizlett

Your creative journey starts here.

Get Started for Free
  • Unlimited access to every classUnlimited access to every class
  • Supportive online creative communitySupportive online creative community
  • Learn offline with Skillshare's appLearn offline with Skillshare's app

Related Posts

12 Macramé Patterns To Help You Shape Your Own Style
May, 30 2023

12 Macramé Patterns To Help You Shape Your Own Style

It’s impossible to express your unique style with mass-produced textiles—but making your own is easier than you think, thanks to these 12 macramé patterns.

Join Skillshare

Join today for unlimited access to thousands of classes and more.

Try Skillshare For Free
Image of green swirls





  • Download on the App Store
  • Get it on Google Play
© Skillshare, Inc. 2023
  • Help
  • Privacy
  • Terms