painting sunsets | watercolor v. gouache | Erin Kate Archer | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

painting sunsets | watercolor v. gouache

teacher avatar Erin Kate Archer, art & illustration

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      painting sunsets | gouache v. watercolor


    • 2.

      water soluble mediums


    • 3.



    • 4.

      watercolor walkthrough part 1


    • 5.

      watercolor walkthrough part 2


    • 6.

      gouache walkthrough part 1


    • 7.

      gouache walkthrough part 2


    • 8.



  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

a primer on the differences between painting with watercolor & gouache. learn the assets of both mediums, and how to utilize them to create beautiful sunset paintings.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Erin Kate Archer

art & illustration


erin kate archer is a new york-based artist & illustrator with an ethereal, magical style. her work aims to calm, comfort, and transport. from immersive fairytale landscapes and glowing high-key celestial pieces, to charming flora & fauna and children’s book illustrations – erin makes what was once a static image a tranquil visual journey. 


erin has illustrated children's picture books; was selected for the sing for hope NYC piano painting project; is a skillshare top teacher, and has created work for a number of consumer brands. 


follow along with her on instagram, check out her portfolio for some finished projects, and visit her etsy shop to purchase prints... See full profile

Level: Intermediate

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. painting sunsets | gouache v. watercolor: Hi, I'm Erin Kate Archer, and this is paintings sunsets, watercolor versus gouache. In this class, we'll go over the different water-soluble mediums and how to use the best properties of both watercolor and gouache to make beautiful sunsets. This class is aimed at intermediate watercolors who are interested in expanding their skill set to working with gouache. By the end of this class, you'll have a better understanding of the differences between watercolor and gouache and what kind of pieces work best for each medium. You'll also be able to create watercolor and gouache sunsets like these pieces. Let's get into it. 2. water soluble mediums: A water-soluble medium just means that instead of using something like paint thinner or turpentine like you'd use to thin an oil paint, you use water to mix it up, and make it a smooth, spreadable texture. There's a lot of different types and they vary in capacity. First I'm just going to show you what acrylic will look like and you'll see how it completely covers my black line here and if I were to keep building us up, I would be able to do layer after layer. Unlike Quash and watercolor paints, acrylics are more forgiving and that they are deeper and thicker base paint, oppose to translucent, more water-based as Quash and watercolor. Acrylic paint is used by artists who are prepared to work really quickly because it drives very fast and attentively, because once you make a mark, you either have to wipe it off and be very decisive about it or, keep doing layer after layer which he eventually appeal if you produce for many. Acrylics are also a lot brighter than watercolor paintings. If you have worked with watercolor before, you might know that as it dries, it becomes a saturated. But they also have a shine to them which couldn't be good or bad depending on what you prefer. You can not rework acrylic paint wants to pieces completely dry like you with quash painting. It's also more expensive than water color and gouache. Then on the other end of the spectrum, we have watercolor, which is transparent. It can be so hard cakes as I'm using are in tubes It's then with water, it dries really quickly and it's almost translucent and produces a matte finish, which I personally prefer. Ours can also layer watercolor paint due to its translucency in order to create a brighter image. But once it dries, it does become a little bit less saturated then as it is what? It requires a thick paper. Whereas acrylic you can use with a thinner paper or it's often used with a canvas. It can be hard to cover up a mistake when using watercolor paints since it is so translucent. Then we have our sweet spot in the middle, which is quash , what she can turn out to be translucent like watercolor, or you can double down with and use less water to get a thicker application that looks more like acrylic paint. Quash has a lot of the opaque qualities of oil, but with easier clean up and has the water solubility of acrylic without drying out and running brushes, which is really great. Quash is a water-soluble, opaque paint and it's basically pigment combined with gum Arabic is most often used by illustrators and fine artists. It can also be a little bit more expensive than your typical watercolor. It can also be reworked on the surface long after the artwork is completed, which is amazing. Why do we want to use quash? Quash has the travel capability and setup ease of watercolor without such a strong need to plan and reserve the whites of the paper as you can layer it on more like acrylic. Quash can transcend the boundaries many mediums and you can do a wash like watercolor blend like an aisle and dry brush like acrylic. If paint dries on the palate like we have here, you can just spray on water and then rework it again. Quash paintings are really easy to photograph too, because they tried to a matte finish and there's no light glare off the painting, which is really great for illustrators, since it's almost dry, like watercolor and can paint map frame and hang all in one day too. You can also lift off areas of painting with Dan brush like you could with watercolor, or something that can be used like an ink with appointed pen, which is a fun technique. Now that we have a good background on our different types of paint, let's jump into. 3. supplies: Let's talk supplies. For gouache, it's actually just about the same as it is with watercolor, so we're going to have some watercolor paper. This is my favorite economy paper, which is from Canson. It's 140 pound cold press watercolor paper, and I will be sure to list all of my supplies so you can make sure you get exactly what you want and what you need. Then I have two round brushes here, I have a size two and a size eight. Then I have my water and my paper towel and one extra thing you'll need for gouache that you might not need for watercolor depending on the type you're using is a palette. Since I have tube gouache here, I'll need a palette to mix it on. For gouache I'm using the Arteza gouache colors, which are fairly inexpensive and really nice. For water colors, I'm using my trustee premium marketing classics palette. They have a bunch of different palettes that you can use. I always find myself going back to the classics ones, so I definitely recommend you start there when you're looking to purchase sparklers. 4. watercolor walkthrough part 1: To start our watercolor sunset, I have missed out the edges of my paper. I'm using the same pad as I talked about in the Supply Section. I'm going to do one more piece of tape. I'm just using regular wash tape, although I do prefer painters tape. It can be a little expensive for everyday use. Masking tape can work well but sometimes it can be a little sticky, and it can remove some of your paper. Just do a test before you use a masking tape. I'm putting it down here. We're going to focus on the sky and have a little bit of a reflection of the water in down here to take advantage of watercolors best qualities. I'm starting out with a clean round brush. I'm going to wet the whole sky. If you have a bigger brush on hand, you can also use that. You'll know your paper is ready when it's not puling anywhere, but you can see that still shiny if you look at it from an angle. Using basic watercolor principles, we got to start with the lightest colors and then move to the darkest. We're going to have our Sun placed in off-center, down here at the bottom. I'm going to leave that area white. I'm going to pick up just pure yellow and go around that circle. Because the paper is wet, it's going to blend in and create the lightest spot right there. I'm keeping in mind that my rays of sunlight are going in this direction, radiating out. I'm just taking a clean brush, moving in that way. Next, I'm going to mix up a yellow and the orange to get a little bit of a warmer. Yellow, warmer and darker and follow that same path and blended in to the previous layer. Then do the same thing. But this time we're going to add some red, get a really nice burnt orange color. You see here I have this hard edge. That means I didn't wet this space well enough, dried out a little bit before I got to it. I'm just going to add a little bit more water and soften it up with a clean brush. Cleanest brush, I guess I should say. I just want to make sure I maintain that middle section as the brightest. I'm keeping an eye on any paint that gets it out of its spot. Keep not space-based. As I start getting closer to the edge of the paper, I'm going to start making my brush in horizontal strokes. That goes for the side as well, the left side and the top. Next, I'm going to take that burnt orange red color we made and add in some blue and purple to get a dusky purple. Basically, adding the opposite color to the purple will give me a muddy or color, which is what I'm looking for right now. Transition color. I'm going to add that on boundaries. Start getting some nice coloring here. I'm not saying [inaudible] this bottom section because that's going to be where the clouds have lifted off. I'm just adding some little here, making sure that the edges are soft. Working quickly because the paper is going to be starting to dry. You can see my harder edges are happening here. Then I'm going to make a cooler purple, adding in some blue to that orange created mixture. Have that from this edge. Adding some dots in to create the effect of some shadowy clouds. I'm going to add some more clouds in this general area, before I pick up just a light blue. What the tiniest dot of orange in it? If you see much orange, it starts to turn like a muddy color or a green. Make sure you only use a little bit. I'm going to fill in those spots. Any spots that I see that are missing color, I'm just going to add it in this color here. It's like the blue of the sky is coming down. In the top corners, I'm going to make some black into a darker blue and just give it a little bit of up. Then I'm going to go back to my light-blue with attentive orange, and I'm going to add in a little bit down here. Still [inaudible] spreading. Do that and then I'm going to add in some more purples and some darker colors as the clouds dip down here. Here we're really taking advantage of watercolors luminescence properties. We have all of these layers that are blending together, and it starts to look like a mess at first. Then as you let them spread around and do their own thing, it starts to turn into something a little more recognizable as a sunset. Then all of a sudden it just comes together and looks beautiful. If it doesn't look right at first, don't flop. It'll do its own thing and eventually you'll get into something that you like. That said, it does have a mind of its own. If you don't like what you create in the first couple of go-arounds. Don't be discouraged and just keep on turning. Great. We'll let this sit and spread. While it does that, before we make any more changes, because it can be really easy to over paint a sunset, which can actually look better if you just have one layer. We're going to move on to doing the reflection. We're going to do something simple. I'm going to start off by wetting it, just as we did on top. Then I can keep that same spot opposite of the Sun, really bright. I'm going to let it be a little bit messier this time. Not so much about perfect half sphere. I'm going to do the same orange roundup. Then a want the orange, and then I want to fade out to a dark blue, darker than what we did before. I'm just using what I've already mixed on my palette. Just blend it. You can also see here how watercolor does dry so much lighter than when you first put down your paint. You can see the difference between this and this, which is the exact same color just to the straight up yellow from the Prima marketing classics pallet. Crazy how different color can be. You can see already how it's all blending together. The next step is to let this completely dry. We are going to come back into the mountains right here, and then just do a little bit of detail in the water. 5. watercolor walkthrough part 2: Going to peal off this tape for the horizon line, and now we are going to wet it. We're going to use that same yellow and keep this area bright. Taking advantage of all those luminescent watercolor properties, like its just bleeding right down into the water. I'm going to add a little bit of orange on the edges, but I'm not going to radiate it out as much. Just literally thinking of it as liquid gold, just pouring it down and just getting spots on this mountain. A little bit of the red as well, just on the edges. Then the rest, I'm going to go in with a really dark blue, almost black color. Just covering it up, the line we created for the horizon. Just blending it in here, letting the water do its stuff. I'm just using an unsteady hand, just holding my brush a little bit farther back so I have less control and do it using that to create the top of the mountain. Bringing this color in to blend it all together. You can still see those yellows and those oranges shining through the bottom. Just what's so nice about watercolor. While that dries, we're just going to take the same brush. You can use a smaller brush if you prefer. We're just going to create small hints of waves. If you've taken my watercolor seascape's class, this will look look familiar. Just doing your color and reflection. Don't want to take away from the main focus, which is this guy. I'm just using that same mountain color. Dark blue black, which I made by mixing the navy in the watercolor and classics ballot with a little bit of black. If you can, it's nice to keep these reflections or the waves a little bit lighter in color. Using a little bit more water closer to the sun, like the sun is washing it out. I'm going to let that dry and then I'm going to do another layer on the mountains to really darken them up towards the edges. I'm going back in with a clean brush, just some water on it to blend in the last bits. Now I'll just let this dry before I take the tape off. Here we have the finished piece. You can see how we've really taken advantage of the luminescent and layering properties of watercolor, especially where we have the light really coming up through the sky and reflecting on the water. 6. gouache walkthrough part 1: So now I picked out my color palette for our glosh sunset. So I've got here titanium white, noir, mauve pale, peach red, burnt umber, mid yellow and sky blue. Sky blue is going to be our main color. I've actually cleaned up my palette best I could for you guys. Normally, I don't do this and I just leave whatever colors I've been previously using in my palette to add a little bit of extra color to my work. But I figure not everyone's going to have the same pellet as I do because you're not working on the same exact pieces. So for following along, this is going to be the best. I have my white in its own section and my black in it's own section and then I've got my sky blue mixed with some black here and that's going to be what we're going to start. So I'm going to use my brush and mix this up. This is going to be our first gradient color. So we're going to start here for the gradient sky. What you want to do is make sure you mix it to a consistency where it's like cream. If it's too wet, it'll have streaky washes and if it's too dry, it'll crack off when it dries. This is something that just comes with practice. You'll know the consistency when you see it after you've done a little bit of practice. So I'm going to start here at the top. You can see I'm getting some of the texture of the paper. That's because I'm using a cold press watercolor paper. If that texture bothers you, it doesn't bother me, I really like the texture, but if it does bother you, you can use hot press watercolor paper and that eliminates that problem. So we've got our first bar of color. Next, I'm going to add a little bit more of the sky blue and I'm going to mix it only on one end of this palette because we're going to touch back on this color to make a smooth gradient. But I'm mixing more of the blue in here, I'm going to add a bar of color. Then I'm going to touch back on the darker blue to really blend that gradient together It's really helpful for gouache to mix your colors in big batches like this because it's pretty difficult to match the same color. Because gouache dries so differently depending on the color. If it's darker color, dries later, which you can already see happening up here. If it's a light color it often dries darker. So if you don't want to have a streaky wash, it's best to mix a big batch for your whole painting right at the start. So I'm going to just repeat that same process, adding more sky blue to my palette here, and then add another bar of color so that the sky, it lightens up gradually as we get closer to the horizon line. It can be helpful to go back in with a wet, clean brush and smooth everything out. Now I'm going to add a little bit of white into my color, to get a much lighter color. Again, just using my extra water on my brush to smooth everything out. Cover up the texture of the paper. You can see I've got a little bit of streakiness going on up here. I don't mind a little bit because it adds a little bit of texture to the sky. But too much and it becomes really noticeable. So I'm just going to take a wet brush and smooth it out. Great thing about gouache is that even when it dries, you can always reactivate if you notice any sections like that. Now we're going to start adding in some color. I'm going to add in some of the peach red, which is really more like a neon pink into that same exact mixture and we're going to get some nice purple tones. Want to make sure that my paint isn't getting streaky. I'm starting to lose some of my cream consistency so I'm going to add and mix in more of that same sky blue color. Make sure I have enough paint to work with. This color turned out a little bit darker than I wanted so I'm going to add a little bit of white to. that's one of the main differences between gouache and watercolor. For watercolor, you just add more water to make your paint lighter. For gouache you have to add white, which is why a lot of people will say if you are starting out with gouache, it's best to buy a cheap gouache set and then just buy a nice tube of white paint. A more artist quality brand because you end up using so much white. I've just noticed some water splashes here, so I'm going over with my brush to hide them. Okay, now we're going to switch it up and go the other direction. We're going to take some white mixed with a dab of the purple and the dab of the neon pink till we have a really bright, nice purple color. Then I'm going to start here at the bottom. I'm going to pull this up and then I'm going to start mixing these two colors together gradient between this dark and this light. I'm just making sure I fill in all the spaces and mixing where I need to with a clean brush, a cleanish brush I should say and adding more paint if it starts to become streaky, loose that cream consistency. Now I've got this nice gradient. I'm going to let this dry and we'll come back and do some clouds and some detail. 7. gouache walkthrough part 2: Now that it's dry you can see if there's any areas that bother you with their streakiness. I have a little bit more streakiness up here, but I feel like it adds to that painterly effect, something you really can't get with watercolors, and I like how the darkness of the sky looks like it's creeping in, so I'm going to leave that as it is. But if that bothers you, you can always change it. Don't worry if there's anything down here that looks a mess because we're going to cover that up with some slot and trees anyway. Now I'm going to pick up some white and add the tiniest bit of yellow to get a really nice butter cream color. I'm also going to use that same color and mix the tiniest, tiniest bit of the neon pink to get a fluffy cloud color. We're going to use just really loose shapes here. I'm going to wet my brush and hold it at the end so I have a little bit less control, and I'm going to down my brush here to make some nice wispy clouds. I have both the butter cream and the pale pink on my brush right now. Just mixing it wherever they want to go. Adding water as needed. Though letting some of the strictness shine through, adding to that fluffy effect. As I get closer to where the rising line will be, I'm going to raise my brush up at a little bit more of an angle to make smaller clouds. That contributes to the sky feeling like it's moving farther away from you as it gets farther. At this point, I'm going to move to a smaller brush. This is as a size 2 brown brush still. I'm going to pick up that butter cream and I'm going to add some more details. I'm thinking it's a backlit cloud. Just around the edges, add some of that butter cream, lighter color. Mixing up more as needed. I'm taking a clean brush with water on it, and just feathering out these edges, make these clouds look a little bit lighter. I'm going to do the same all over. At this point, you might find that you need to change off your water if the water is tinting your clouds in different color. It's a big difference between watercolor and gouache. I almost never change my water with the watercolor. I feel like the extra colors add some dimension, but with gouache, nothing ruins it faster than if you're trying to work in a pure white and you dip your brush in and grab some gouache paint, like a black from the bottom. It can be really frustrating. But then again, you can't paint clouds over a gradient sky in watercolor like you can in gouache. Now I'm looking at my composition. and I feel like we're missing something right here. I'm just going to add in a little bit more of that pale pink and then add just some tiny wispy clouds to make the composition feel a little more balanced. After I've just adding those little bits, I'm going to take my water and just fluff them out. Next one I'm going to do is I'm going to take a color that's actually really similar to this middle color here and add some shadows. I'm just picking up that same color. If you've mixed enough, you can just use that same one. I'm just going to add even less than that. Adding a little bit of white to it to lighten it up. Add in some shadows here just to make the clouds seem a little more full. Then softening out any lines I make. I'm noticing that these clouds are missing some highlights, so I'm going to add a little highlight back into them. It can be helpful to squint your eyes. It helps you see the values better if you are wondering if your piece is looking successful. I'm going to just keep fluffing these out until I'm happy with them and then we'll move on to doing this tree silhouettes. For the tree silhouettes, I am going to take my black and I'm going to mix some of the purple on it just a little bit just to give my black a little bit more dimension. What I'm going to do is I'm going to start here at the bottom. The beauty of gouache is that it's opaque, so I don't have to worry about doing a bunch of layers or it not being true dark enough to read as a silhouette. I'm going to start with by just doing a simple horizon line. That's going to be our base for our trees. Then again, holding my brush more towards the end so I'll have a little bit less control. I'm going to do some wiggly lines to represent the tops of the trees. In this instance, we actually love having a little bit of a dryer brush because the paper texture can help us read as leaves. I'm actually going to switch back to my bigger brush for this. I'm just making some wild lines. Tree tops are going to do what they like. I'm not shy about going over my clouds because I don't need to worry about leaving space for my darker colors. I don't need to worry about the gouache showing through. You can see how the darkness of the trees really make the brightness of the sunset stand out. I'm just taking my brush, I'm not adding any more water and I'm adding more dry dots. Each dot has a bunch of different brush texture, which really does look like silhouetted leaves on trees. It looks great because you can see the gradient poking through. Now let us try make sure the silhouette of the trees isn't too streaky before I call this piece. I'm noticing right here and here have too many horizontal lines and my trees are vertical, so I'm just going to add a little bit more paint and touch that up, touch that area up, blend it in to the rest. Doing that same vertical up and down motion. Then let this dry before taking out my tape. 8. outro: Congratulations on completing the class. I hope you have a better frame of reference for the differences between watercolor and gouache. I'd love to see your projects if you recreate these pieces or if you go out and find your own reference photos or maybe even sit outside, bonus points if you do that, and paint your own sunsets, I'd love to see them. Please post them in the class project and give this class a review if you have a moment. It really helps other students find the class. If you post your work on social media, I'd also love to see it there you can hashtag ekatearcher Skillshare or just tag me at ekatearcher across the internet wherever you post it. If you have any other ideas for what you'd like to see me teach in my next class, feel free to let me know and I will add it to my list. See you in the next one.