Getting Started with Gouache: Learn the Basics, Build Confidence

Anne Butera, watercolor artist, pattern designer

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15 Lessons (2h 53m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Materials

    • 3. What is Gouache?

    • 4. Swatches

    • 5. Stripes

    • 6. Quilt Part 1

    • 7. Quilt Part 2

    • 8. Cloudy Sky

    • 9. Leaves Part 1

    • 10. Leaves Part 2

    • 11. Dandelion Part 1

    • 12. Dandelion Part 2

    • 13. Bird Part 1

    • 14. Bird Part 2

    • 15. On Your Own


About This Class

Gouache is an opaque watercolor that is fun to use, but can be tricky when you’re getting started. In this class I’ll help you get acquainted with this medium.

We’ll start at the very beginning learning what gouache is and how to use it. Through a series of seven demonstrations I’ll show you how to build confidence and gain skills painting with gouache.


  • Handling the tubes. Squeezing paint onto your palette. Using a brush and water to take paint from the palette to your paper.
  • Learning how much water to use and how different amounts of water will create different effects with the paint.
  • Getting the feel for different brushes and using single brushes to create a variety of marks on your page.
  • Painting lines. Painting sections of a page and simple shapes. Painting wet beside wet.
  • Mixing and blending colors on the palette and on paper.
  • Painting large areas.
  • Reactivating and working with paint that has dried on the palette.
  • Painting one color over another dried color. Using lighter paint on top of darker paint (and vice-versa).
  • Painting details on top of painted areas with the tip of a round brush.
  • Working with and without a sketch.
  • Working from life, working from a photograph and working from your imagination.



I’ve chosen to paint seven demonstration pages that build in complexity to help you get a feel for the medium. Feel free to skip around and use the lessons that most speak to you. If you’re using gouache for the first time it’s a good idea to start with the least complex exercises first to avoid frustration.

  • Swatches – swatching your paint in a sketchbook is a great way to get a feel for the medium and to create a reference of colors for use later. 
  • Stripes – Painting stripes is a fun way to practice making marks and get a feel for painting large and small areas with a variety of brush sizes and shapes. 
  • Quilt – Creating a simple quilt-inspired page will help you get comfortable filling in areas with paint. In this lesson I also share color mixing and blending techniques. 
  • Sky – Painting a background, letting it dry and painting on top of it with a lighter color gives you a good feel for how gouache works to paint large areas and how lighter colors work painted over darker ones. 
  • Leaves – This exercise is a great way to learn about color mixing and gives a taste of painting finer details. 
  • Dandelion – Observing a live subject, simplifying a design and mixing matching colors are some of the main skills learned in this lesson. The dandelion painted in this demonstration is a fairly complex subject with multiple parts and you’ll also learn how to break down your subject and paint it piece by piece. Working with wet and dry paint and layering details are skills that will help you make any painting feel more finished and you’ll learn that here, too.
  • Bird – Being able to work from a photograph is a good skill to learn. (Link to the copyright free bird image is in the handout). In this lesson I demonstrate painting without an initial sketch. Color blending and making light marks with your brush help to create a realistic-looking bird, hinting at feathers without actually painting them individually. Being able to paint light over dark makes painting the designs on the feathers, shading on the beak and details of the eyes possible (which wouldn’t be the case if working with watercolor).