The Gouache Files: How to combine Gouache Painting, Pastels and Pencils in nature inspired artwork | Kate Cooke | Skillshare

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The Gouache Files: How to combine Gouache Painting, Pastels and Pencils in nature inspired artwork

teacher avatar Kate Cooke, Textile Designer and Illustrator

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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.



    • 2.

      The Class Project


    • 3.



    • 4.

      A Colour Plan


    • 5.



    • 6.

      Paint Exercises


    • 7.

      The Artwork encoded


    • 8.

      Final Thoughts


    • 9.

      Bonus Lesson


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About This Class

In this class, we will be focusing on how to make a painting combining gouache painting with pastels and coloured pencils.

 Gouache is a fantastic medium to combine with other things, it’s a very versatile paint and makes friends easily with other materials, use it both in a watery and a flat graphic way to achieve great contrasts in textures and effects.

This class is the second in a series of classes I’m calling The Gouache Files, but you can take them in any order.

We will start this class by discussing what materials to use, how to plan a colour scheme, then we will find some inspiration reference and get stuck into a few paint exercises before making our final piece of artwork, plus there’s a special bonus class at the end to give you some ideas of what else you can do with your finished artwork.

This class will cover:

  • What materials you will need
  • How to choose a limited colour palette
  • How to mix your paint
  • Where to look for inspiration for your subject matter
  • Making fun paint, pastel and pencil exercises to get you in the creative zone.
  • The joy of semi abstract art using an instinctive and organic approach
  • A few ways to use your artwork other than on the wall!


I’ll talk you through the materials I use for the class and how you can do the class project with just a few paints, pastels and coloured pencils without having to go out and buy lots of new materials…unless you really want to!

I’ll also show you the way I find some great colour combinations to use and keep a limited choice of colours to give maximum impact.

We will look for inspiration reference on the internet and in books and I’ll show you some of my favourite sites and publications, I’ll also show you how I like to make simple drawings of flowers and leaves in my garden to use as a reference and I’ve put a copy of some in the class resources if you want to use them.

By doing some of the paint exercises it will get us in the right frame of mind to carry straight on and create a wonderful painting with our mixture of mediums using an instinctive, relaxed and organic method to create a semi abstract painting inspired by flowers and leaves.

The class is suitable for everyone, beginners through to experienced artist as I use a simple and fun approach that will feel very un-daunting yet interesting enough to appeal to artists looking to try something different.

This class is for you if you’ve:

  • Have used one or all of the mediums but have never thought to use them together.
  • Love using mixed media and want to do more.
  • Like the idea of using nature as inspiration
  • Want to try a semi abstract approach to making art.
  • If you just love experimenting!

So, follow me on my gouache journey as I investigate this wonderful medium and by the end of the class, you’ll have:

  • A much better understanding of how to use gouache.
  • A method of using paint with pastels and pencils.
  • Confidence to try mixed media
  • A good idea of where to find inspiration for your subject matter.
  • A plan for creating a colour scheme.

Class Materials:

Gouache used:

  • Windsor and Newton Designers gouache in Turquoise blue, Ultramarine, Indigo, Linden Green, Olive Green, Primary Yellow, Orange Lake Light, Permanent White, Red Ochre, Pale Rose Blush.

Coloured pencils:

  • Faber and Castell Polychroma pencils in a variety of colours.


  • Caran D’ache Neocolor II Aquarelle water soluble pastels in a variety of colours.


  • Fabriano A4 200gm paper, available in artist packs of 100 sheets.


  • Pro Arte Series 50 pure squirrel, size small
  • Pro Arte Prolene plus 008, size ¼”
  • Pro Arte Prolene plus synthetic filbert brush series 009, size 4
  • Pro Arte round brushes, size 2 and 4


  • Plastic flower palette

Pencil Sharpener:

  • Swordfish Ikon Manual sharpener

See you in class- Happy painting!

You can check out my other Skillshare classes here:

Adventures in Gouache: Painting and Pattern Making Techniques

Gouache 101: How to Produce a Bold and Decorative Design

Expressive Gouache Landscapes: Exploring a Limited Colour Palette

Creativity Experiments: Mixed Media Abstract Painting

Paint to Print: Digitize a Gouache Floral design for a Greeting Card

The Gouache Files: How to mix Watercolour and Gouache Painting like a Pro

You can also follow me on:




Meet Your Teacher

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Kate Cooke

Textile Designer and Illustrator

Top Teacher

Hi, I'm Kate, I live on the south coast of England near Southampton.

For many years I lived and worked in London as a textile designer working in the UK fashion industry, but the call of the sea was strong and about 15 years ago I settled in a little village on the banks of The Solent where I live with my husband, daughter and various dogs.

I've designed for lots of different companies including Marks and Spencer, Topshop, Debenhams, Boden and The RNLI.

Along with a friend I set up a company in 2012 designing home ware, stationary and gifts all with a nautical theme and that's where I turned from textile design to illustration.

More recently I've gone back to working freelance, so I can indulge my passion for hand painting and creating new things every day.See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction : This is the second class in my series, the Gouache Files. And this time I'm combining gouache with wax pastels and coloured pencils. I think the combination works fabulously well. I'm going to show you the way I like to use them together, which brands I like to use, and how to produce a beautiful piece of artwork to show off this great combination of materials. I'm Kate Cooke, artist, illustrator and top teacher here on Skillshare. I find inspiration for my Arte everywhere in galleries, books, and especially when I'm traveling. But in this class, we're going to let nature inspirers and use flowers and foliage to create a semi abstract picture. Join me for a FUN, inspiring, and quite frankly genius work producing a really on trend mixed media picture. You'll be very proud of. Gouache can sometimes feel a bit daunting to use. Lots of people told me they can't seem to get it right. And a frustrated with this paint. I'm a massive fan of it. I've used it all my working life. When I started out as a textile designer many years ago, it was the paint I was trained to use to design with my experience and love of it as maybe you want to share how to use this brilliant medium. And in this class I'm make it really easy and accessible when we use it in conjunction with pastels and pencils. Now you're going to love creating with this combo. So don't feel like you need to have a ton of experience using any of these mediums. You can be a complete beginner, someone who's dabbled a bit, someone's used this stuff 1 million times. I'll show you a new and interesting way to tackle a picture with them. First, I'm going to tell you about the Project I'll set, which is basically to Produce a picture similar to the one I'm making the class. We'll start with the practical load of exercises so you can really get to grips with all the mediums we use and ease and gently to creating our final piece. I'll give you lots of great tips along the way to get you hooked and help you with your creative decisions. Now, I'm going to talk about the class project. See you in the next lesson. 2. The Class Project : The class project. For this, I'd like you to first of all decide on a color plan. I'll be showing you how to do this in the color lesson. It's just a case of finding a good source of inspiration, either from the internet, books or something you found that you liked the colors of. Next, gather some reference. I show you how to do this in the Inspiration lesson. Again, use books, the internet, or get out in the garden or local park and do some simple sketching. Then using the ideas I show you in the class exercise lesson. Have a go at some play with paint, pencils and pastors that yourself go and just have fun with the different colors and mediums, making marks and patterns. Once you feel confident with them, you can move on to making a piece of artwork using your chosen color palette and reference material. It's an organic and instinctive process. It's great fun for any creative ability. There are no boundaries, as it's a semi abstract composition that I show you how to make in the artwork lesson. Once you've done the class project, I'd love you to share it in the class gallery below. Show me your exercises as well as the final piece. And I will always do my best to respond with feedback. I love seeing your work, so don't be shy. I know you're going to find this fun. So have a go. Watch the class and you'll find all my hints and tips to get your painting with gouache and doodling with pastels and pencils. Here's a quick recap. Choose a color palette, gather some reference, make some class exercises, and create your artwork, then upload it to the class gallery. Next, I'm going to show you all the materials I use. See you in the next lesson. 3. Materials: Materials. For this class, we're going to need a few different materials. The first one is some gouache paint. I like to use Windsor and Newton as it's very good quality and I know it will behave beautifully. There are lots of other brands, some just as good and some a bit cheaper and not quite so good, but still fine to use. Just be aware, you get what you pay for with paint. Some of the cheaper brands mean that the pigments aren't quite so vibrant and the consistency of the paint isn't quite so great. If you don't have any gouache, but want to buy some, I suggest you just buy a few colors to work with or a small set, as it can get expensive if you buy the full range. The type of gouache I use is water-based. You can get acrylic gouache, but this is slightly different. And whilst I use that to, in this class, we're going to stick to the water-based stuff. We will also be using some pastels. I like using my Neocolor water-soluble wax pastels by Caran D'ache. As I have a big set of them and I love the diversity of colours. However, you could use another brand, oil or soft pastel. Just be aware, they all react differently. And the soft pastels can get a little messy. We will also use coloured pencils. And I like to use my Faber Castell Polychroma. Most pencils, which Have a lovely pigment consistency. They're all based and waterproof and smudge proof. There are lots of other brands, so just use what you have. But again, be aware the cheaper quality, the less pigment, so they may not work so well on top of other mediums. Next, we will need some good quality paper. I like to use the artists paper packs of a4 to hundred gram paper by Fabriano. But any smooth watercolor paper that's around the same weight will work fine too. Just don't go using lightweight papers. It won't take the paint so well and end up buckling brushes. The ones I use a fairly mixed bag of brands, shapes, and sizes. I think you can happily buy cheaper brands are brush as long as you look after them, clean them properly and don't expect them to last forever. The one I love to use is the Pro Arte Series 50 pure squirrel wash brush in a size small. It's a joy to use and I highly recommend splashing out for the flat brushes. I also like to use a Pro Arte Prolene plus zero is 08, brush size quarter an inch and a Windsor and Newton septa go to brush in a size ten millimeter. Also, a Prolene plus synthetic filbert brush, series 009, size four. I have many different brands of round brushes. These use whatever you have in a size four and a to the ones I use or all by Pro Arte. I've written this down in the class notes. You will also need a pencil Sharpener. I love my Swordfish, Ikon, Manual pencil Sharpener, but just a regular one would do a palette. I use a Plastic flower shaped palette. They're cheap and I like the deep individual paint wells. You could also use cut down plastic cups or yoga pots, or just something that has a degree of depth, but not a flat plate as the paint will spread out and dry too quickly. Some tissue and a water jar also. So that's all the materials. Now we will look at making a colour plan, saving the next lesson 4. A Colour Plan : Making a colour plan. There were lots of ways to get color inspiration. The obvious one is the internet. Sites such as Pinterest are great for finding interesting color mixes. Just such colour combinations and all sorts of interesting Palettes come up. You could also look at fashion sites such as Pattern bank, as they have loads of color stories. I'm always snapping photos of things often in shops or Art Gallery's. If I spy some great colors, it's just a case or of a membrane to add them to a file so you know where to find them when you need some inspiration. Another ways from Color books, I've got this great little book is Japanese. I can't understand a word of it, but you don't need to, as it's just all about colour and has some brilliant Palettes suggestions. I really recommend it for any colour plans you need. It's called a dictionary of colour combinations. And is by second Shaw. I can't really say that. I bought it in the UK bookshop, but I think it's easy to find online. I'm going to use this book to inspire my color choices today. I've chosen a colour scheme of four colors that I like. And I'm going to start mixing them up. We're going to start with this lime green. And I've got a tube of gouache called Linden Green, which is a pretty good match. I'll mix some up on my palette and paint a swatch of it. I'm going to add a bit of olive green as I think it needs to be slightly greener. That looks about right now. I'm going to mix up greeny gray khaki color. I'm using more of the olive green again, but I need to dirty it up so I'm using one of my favorite colors, Red Ochre. The reddish brown is a great way to muddy up a green that's too bright. I'm also going to use a bit Indigo, another favourite as I want the green to get a bit bluey gray. That looks okay. I'm not going for an exact match to the book. I'm happy with just a similar color. Now I'm going to use that Red Ochre to make the cleric colour is not a bad match actually is just needs a bit of Permanent White to make it a little opaque. I've decided that I want some more tones of these colors. I'm going to mix a paler version by just adding more white. It's good to have a variety of tones that will work on top of each other. You want a darker couple of mid tones and some lighter colors, I think. Now for that minty green color, I'm starting with some Pale Turquoise and then adding white and also a bit of that dark green I've mixed. I'm also going to mix a darker tone of the same color by just recreating it with more of the color and less white. It's turned out a bit more Turquoise. But I quite like that. I just want one more tone. So I'm going to do a really pale pink. I think that makes for good combination hopefully. Now we're going to look at Finding inspiration for some reference ideas. See you in the next lesson. 5. Inspiration : Inspiration. I use a few different ways of finding reference and inspiration for this sort of artwork. I'm not looking to paint botanically correct, realistic flowers and leaves. What I do want to find our shapes of them to use. The artwork I create will be semi abstract and composition that will evolve as I created and being organic and freestyle. My first method is simply to go out and draw what I found in my garden. It's early summer here in the UK at the moment. So a perfect time to go out and look around for flowers and foliage. I take my sketchpad and a pencil, that's all you need and I draw whatever takes my fancy. Here you can see I've got a page of ideas to use. The second way I look for reference is in books. I've got a host of different books on flowers and plants. I'm always looking in second-hand and charity shops where you can often pick up books on gardening and plants. You can also find some in your local library. There were a few I bought that I can highly recommend. Flower Color Guide and flower color theory, both published by fade-in, are a great source of reference and easily available. They're full of color inspiration to especially the flower color theory. As it gives you the swatches of color at the edge of the page. I also loved this book, wildflowers of Britain. There's quite an old book. I've had it for years, but I liked the way the plants have picked and laid out on a plain background. So it's really easy to see their shape. Just a general garden, but would do. So see what you've already got. The third way to find some reference is the internet. I like to use Pinterest because I can search for photos and then pin them to a board. I have a board called flower reference. You can either draw some shapes from your reference photos or have your screen nearby when you're painting. I've made a sheet of flower and leaf shapes to make it really easy. You can find these in the class notes. If you don't want to bother looking for your own reference, then just use these sheets to inspire your picture. So now you've got the tools, colours, and reference ideas. We can get started with some Exercises. See you in the next lesson. 6. Paint Exercises : So let's do some paint exercises. I've got all the colors I'm mixed and a sheet of a4 smooth watercolor paper. And my big wash brush. I'm going to paint squares of all the different colors I've mixed and then I'm dry. The only one I haven't included is the pale pink, but I'll use that on top of the other colors. I've also got my selection of brushes and I'll aim to use all of them. I'm going to start with a small round brush size two and just play around with all the different colors. I've started with that Claret onto the lime yellow. It's pretty cool. I've got Pinterest app on my PC screen so I can look at lots of leaf and flower shapes. But really I'm just ADD living and being quite instinctive with my marks. So don't worry too much about having reference in front of you. Play with shapes and marks and see what your brushes can do. I'm going to switch between the colors brushes and experiment with slightly drier brush versus a wetter one. To see how many textures I can get with the paint. Just remember to not get to watery with it as it will reactivate the base paint. And you'll start to get some murky colours. So now I'll turn up the music and you can sit back and watch me doodle. Now I'm going to use some of those coloured pencils and just play around with different marks and shapes. Still using the reference from Pinterest to inspire my choices of Mark. So there you have it. Some things work better on top of other things. But it's just the case of experimenting and seeing what looks good. So now I'm going to mix a second colour palette. And I quite like this color combination of Turquoise and sort of marine blue and a lime and a gray. And I'm going to start by mixing Turquoise, blue, and Permanent White. My palette and just swatch a bit of that. The next one I'm gonna do is that lime and I'm using the Linden Green again, one of my favorite colors, and a bit of Permanent White, and another swatch of that. And then for that blue, so I'm going to use Ultramarine. Again, a tiny bit of Permanent White, looking a bit too bright. So I think I'm going to add some indigo to that. Should dirty it up enough to make a nice sort of marine blue. And then finally, that gray. My plan with that is just to add a bit of all the colors to Permanent White. See what sort of colour it goes. And I think I'm going to have to probably use something like a sepia in there to make it more of a TOP gray. Quite like that color combination. Looking quite nice. Question is, do I need to lighten up that Turquoise a bit eight feels like it's it's probably too on the same tone. Is that marine blue? I just want it to be a bit lighter, so I've got a can paint on top of it. Now, I'm going to take my Neocolor pastels and find some corresponding colors. I'm sort of Turquoise, he blue and a nice mid blue, and gray and green and a white. And I'm going to do the same with my coloured pencils. So that's quite a nice-looking colour palette. Now I have this painting that I did awhile ago and I really like that sort of reddish brown that I used in its, so I'm going to find a corresponding pastel color. And now I am just going to doodle and play with the paint first of all, in quite a watery way. And I've decided to do this kind of circular composition. Quite sure why, just quite like the idea of curves. And I'm, I'll start with all the colors of the paint. First of all, don't mind that some of it is sort of blending into one another a bit. Once that's dry, I'm going to use some of the pastel colors on top of it. Just like I did before. Doodling away. I'll speed this better and play some music so you can just watch me doodle. So that's exercise number two finished. And I think we're about ready to move on to making our final piece of artwork. See you in the next lesson. 7. The Artwork encoded: Right time for the artwork. I've got my reference sketches and my colors all mixed in a palette. I've chosen a new colour plan, again using my little Japanese book. This time, I've gone for one with orange, bright blue, a sort of Tilly Turquoise, and a yellow. I've watched all the colors and I'll quickly run through what colors I used. This lovely bright blue I made using Ultramarine. The teal went a bit more Turquoise, and I used cobalt turquoise light with a word of Turquoise, blue and Permanent White. The pink was a Pale Rose Blush with a touch of opera rose. The yellows, a bit of Linden Green and Primary Yellow and white. For the green, I used Olive Green plus a touch of white and the orange was Orange Lake Light with a touch of white. So there we have them all mixed. I actually decided to add in a neutral as well, but I'll show you how I do that later. Next, I choose some of my Neocolor pastels to correspond as closely as possible with the paint colors. It's nice to just switch these colors too. And I'm going to add in a black, so I've got a really dark contrasting color available. Next, it's the pencils. And again, I'm choosing the nearest colors I have to the paint colors. So I'm going to begin on a piece of A4 watercolor paper by taking one of the Pencils in the lightest shade to draw out a plan for my picture. I've got the pale pink by using a colored pencil rather than a normal graphite pencil. I don't need to erase it and it becomes part of the picture. I'm not putting any detail in just getting a rough feel for where things will go and drawing in some flower shapes. It's quite important to get those in, as I will be painting around some of them and letting the white paper show through. I'm also putting some of the larger areas in that I'll paint. I like to use quite organic, curvy shapes that give a nice rhythm to the composition. I'm not going to be Painting right up to the edge of my paper. I want to leave a border around the outside. I decided to add in a more neutral tone as a contrast all bright colors. And I've mixed this by just adding a bit of all the colors together with some Permanent White. And it ends up a sort of murky potty gray is quite a good way of mixing something that will sit well with all the colors because it's made of all of them. I'm starting painting and using my big wash brush. I'll use the painting quite a watery way and begin with the pale pink. I like to start with a lighter colors and build up to the darker ones. I'm painting in a couple of those big flower shapes and putting the pink and few other areas. And now I'm going to use the neutral tone. I'm trying to get it fairly evenly distributed around the composition. Next, the Turquoise. Remember I'm going to be layering up the colors and this is just the base layer. I also don't mind the paint bleeding together a bit as it's giving her an interesting effect. Next, I'll change to that larger flat brush. And I liked the way I can use it to go around some of the flower shapes with the bright blue. It makes a really nice graphic shape. And that contrasts quite well with the watery shapes I've made previously. I've let the watery layer dry before I've done this. I'm not trying to make any very realistic representations of flowers and leaves. I'm just using the reference sketches to inspire me. I'm using the orange deal with the flat brush to reinforce the pink flower shapes. And again, making sure I've got an even distribution of each color around my composition. So it's nicely balanced. I quite like getting some texture in with a slightly dry brush as well as it's an interesting contrast. I want to make sure I leave some of the white paper as I think the negative areas are an important part of the picture. And I want some of those flowers to be white. Next I use the green and I put in some little centers to the flowers. I also liked the bold lines I can make with a flat brush. Hits beginning to look a bit mid-century, like something from the Bloomsbury Group, which wasn't intentional, but I like it. Next, I'm going to move on to using some of the pencils. I'll start with the lightest and use the pale pink. I'm just looking to add some detail in the flowers using simple lines to suggest that the petals, I've got my pencil Sharpener at the ready so I can keep my pencil sharp. I try out a few different marks and then move on to using a similar color in the pastels. This gives a bit more texture and works better over the top of some of the dark colors. You just need to experiment a bit and see what works well on top of what. Some of the Pencils probably won't work quite so well on the dark paint. But I'm, the pastels are much better for that. This is a very organic and instinctive way of working. You don't really need to overthink things. Just flip between pencils and Pastels using all the colors and see what works. Well. I'll just let you watch him play some music while I carry on. I'm using the black to get some dark contrast in around the flowers and leaves. I don't want to use too much, just enough to make it all pop a bit more. So I'm just adding little bits here in there. Then finally, I'll use some white Postel in a few places on top of some of the dark colors. So I think that's it. I'm quite pleased with it. There's a good balance of color. I've used lots of different marks, so there's a good level of contrast everywhere. Next, I'll do a little recap of what we've done. See you in the final lesson. 8. Final Thoughts: Final Thoughts. So I hope you've enjoyed the class and feel inspired to have a go at the project. You should have all the tools and ideas to get you started. We've covered quite a bit in lots of easy steps. So you know what materials you need, how I tackle making a colour plan, and where to get colour palette ideas from. How to mix your paint and experiment with different brushes using color on top of colour. I'm trying out pastels and pencils on top of paint. We've also found out where to find inspiration for your reference. And then how I go back gathering it from books, websites and drawing from real life outside in my garden or local park. Taking my subject matter from nature and enjoying the beauty of leaves and flowers. And finally, how I make a piece of semi abstract artwork using gouache, pastels and pencils, using an instinctive and organic process. That's great FUN and very rewarding. If you follow my ideas and have a go yourself, I know you'll get hooked and want to keep creating beautiful works of Arte. Go on, take the plunge and do my class project. Post it in the Gallery 0 and have a look in the class notes, my page of reference, flowers and foliage. Plus you'll find out how to follow me here on Skillshare, instagram, and my website and see all the other classes I teach. This is the second class in my series, the Gouache Files. I hope you enjoyed it. I've loved teaching you because you're so great. I've made a bonus lesson on what else you can do with your lovely artwork. It's not just for hanging on a wall. Check it out. And if you have any ideas for turning your pictures into other things, don't keep it to yourself. Share it in the class gallery. I love to see what you come up with. See you in the final lesson. 9. Bonus Lesson : I already night my picture that I've made, but I'm just wondering, rather than just to get in a folder or maybe put it on the wall. I could make something with it. Bandwidth. Okay, so I've come up with a few things. Number one of bookmark, I've just cut a section of my picture into an oblong 15 cm by 5 cm. I'm using a craft knife on a cutting board, but you could just use scissors. Then using a hole punch, I've put a couple of holes at one end. And I found a bit of yellow ribbon, which I think coordinates well with the colors. I just thread it through the holes, leaving a loop at the front and then push in through the loop to secure it. I think it works great as bookmark, perfect little gift for anybody that appreciates Art. Another idea is to cut a similar size bit of Painting and edge it with some coloured washi tape. This looks pretty cool to number two is a postcard. I cut around an old postcard I already had. I liked that. I can use the edge of the painting. So I've got some whitespace. I'm going to use this as a little thank-you card. I found a marker pen in a coordinating color. You could use a pencil or a pastel. And I've just written thank you. At the top. You can then just write little note on the back and pop it in an envelope. Perfect for a heartfelt thank you note. And finally number three, how about making some gift tags? I just use what I had leftover and cut them into gift tax shapes. And I put holes at one end with a hole punch and threaded a bit of string through. Now they're already tapped to attach to a gift. So there you go. A few alternative ideas of how to use this sort of artwork. I'm sure you can come up with more. So if you do, please post your photos and explanations in the class gallery so I can marvel at your genius. That's all for now. See you next time.