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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Gouache techniquesApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2018-11-23 13:28:45 ... Most recent comment 2018-11-26 16:12:11
    Gouache Watercolor Ink Pencil Varnishes Matting, Framing, and Glazing


    I would like to ask multiple questions, since it is about mixing gouache with other techniques.

    1. Since many say that gouache is basically opaque watercolor (with more gum arabic binder?), is there any proper way to use it with watercolor? For example, is it ok to paint first layers with watercolor and then to finish the painting with gouache? When switching from watercolor to gouache on the same painting, is there any right way to do it, or i just simply paint with gouache over watercolor? 

    And is it possible to switch process, to glaze with watercolor over opaque gouache? 

    2. When doing underpainting with Ink, and then painting over that with gouache, which type of Ink is best suited for mixing ink wash technique with gouache technique? And how much can Ink be diluted with destiled water? 

    examples of this technique:

    3. When doing a drawing with black chalk or graphite, and then doing wash with brown or black ink, and then painting with gouache on top of that, is there a right procedure to do it, or i just simply switch from one technique to another as mentioned above?  And, what type of fixative is best suited for preserving a chalk or graphite drawing beneath ink, and gouache? 

    examples of this techniqe:

    4. When switching the process and doing watercolor underpainting, gouache painting, and then adding chalk, graphite in the final stage of painting, is there some sort of varnish or fixative that is best suited, so that graphite/chalk would not be smeared over the painting? 

    example of this technique (Graphite (Chalk?) was used in shadows and lines, in the final stage of the painting )):

    5. Can gouache be mixed with acrylic painting?

    6. How should gouache, or mixed media (ink,gouache,graphite) be framed?   

    Thank you in advance!

    Kind regards.

    Marko Karadjinovic

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​In dealing with some of your questions regarding fixatives and framing options, we would refer you to these older MITRA threads here (you may also find more info if you enter terms like "fixative" or "framing" into the search field): 


    As for your specific questions regarding technique I will contact some of the other moderators so that they can hopefully address some of these questions.

    Kristin deGhetaldi
    2018-11-23 14:58:46
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    So I can try to answer a couple of the first questions and possibly question no. 5. First of all gouache was originally opaque watercolor, either opacified via high pigment load or by the addition of certain filles (like chalk for example). More recently gouache has been bound with things like dextrin, which is a modified starch (as well as other possible binders). This is sort of immaterial when it comes to its handling techniques, at least in my opinion. But others might be able to prove me wrong on that one :)

    So for no. 1 it seems in both of these examples that the ink being used is not "co-mingling" with the gouached per say and therefore their different solubilities are not relevant. However, one could use a very standard "India ink" which is generally composed of lamp black bound in a shellac-soap binder. This is not soluble in water and can be purchased in almost all art stores.

    For the rest of your questions it seems that Kristin has already guided you to other relevant threads. Please get back to us after reading these over should you have additional questions. 

    But as for no. 5....Yes I believe gouache can be mixed with acrylic painting. I do not know of any negative long-term effects but perhaps some of our colleagues at Golden can weigh in on this one.
    Brian Baade

    2018-11-23 22:31:04
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    In terms of technique, the key difference between gouache and watercolor is whether the source of white in the painting is paint or paper. Depending on the degree of orthodoxy one invests in the process, mixing with white is avoided in transparent watercolor.

    A traditional, transparent watercolor painting is constructed with strategic use of the paper as the source of white which reflects through the paint, preserving the full luminosity of colors. In transparent watercolor, white paint is generally reserved for "heightening" passages, meaning the white paint is used to exceed the brightness of the paper (e.g. reflections on water, glass or metal). Overpainting is limited in transparent watercolor, though beginners sometimes employ a more incremental approach where passages are developed gradually from multiple layers. Experienced painters usually eschew this method in favor of bold, deliberate applications.

    Gouache technique primarily involves mixing colors directly with white paint, though almost all gouache painters also use transparent applications, with thinner layers denoting background, and thicker passages projecting forward. 

    When gouache is layered, darker colors tend to show through lighter ones. This can be frustrating to artists new to the medium, because it limits correction and overpainting, but experienced gouache painters learn to incorporate this property into the process. Gouache is also prone to drying darker than its apparent wet color, but again, this is something the artist masters with experience. Beginners sometimes manage this effect by applying light colors first, and work gradually toward darks. One "cheat" that's strictly for beginners is mixing PVA glue with the paint to reduce intermixing (essentially making a poor-man's vinyl emulsion paint).

    One exciting property of gouache is the difference in body between straight from the tube and diluted with water. Gouache is sticky and ropy from the tube, but becomes creamy when water is added on the palette. By dragging undiluted paint over dry passages, broken impasto-like effects can be created. 20th century illustrators often used this technique to highlight figurative forms. 

    One important factor to consider with gouache is the degree of optical color change induced by fixative. Even a light coating of any sealant or varnish will deepen colors dramatically, irreversibly boosting value contrast well beyond the original appearance. 

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2018-11-25 13:13:00
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you very much Kristin, Brian and Matthew for you answers!  I was reading these articles about fixatives, varnishes and i think i need to read a lot more to find a solution for protecting mixed media works on paper. I guess i will need a fixative, or varnish that works fine with ink, gouache on one paper, watercolor,gouache and graphite on top, also on one paper. I have posted these images, since they look amazing after all those years, and if anyone knows a bit more about how these works were done and protected, i am more than happy to hear it. 

    So if i understood well, in terms of mixing ink and gouache , or mixing ink , watercolor and gouache it is ok to use any ink (Indian Ink. maybe W&N Black india ink) , it is important just that upcomming layers of gouache or watercolor will not lift the previously drawn/painted ink? 

    I am trying to achieve totally different effect with mixing watercolor and gouache, so the orthodox approach is fammiliar to me , but not needed in this case.  Since the gouache is basically opaque watercolor, i guess then that mixing it will mean just switching to another technique. For example, i can paint first layers with watercolor (like underpainting), then on top of that  continue painting with gouache , and if needed, i could do a subtle glazes with watercolor over gouache?

    As for these artworks that artists saved the drawing beneath , watercolor, gouache i guess i will have to read more and wait for someone to maybe write here , what is the best fixative maybe to use to preserve drawing done with pencil/black chalk, and that is also ok to paint over that fixative/varnish with watercolor or gouache, or ink? 

    And also if someone knows what the artist  Georgius Jacobus Johannes van Os had used as fixative/varnish to protect the graphite, chalk on top of this watercolor/gouache still life painting, or maybe some other artist that used similar mixed media technique, i am more than happy to hear it. 

    Thank you all once more!

    Marko Karadjinovic

    2018-11-26 12:10:44
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Regarding India ink, yes, W&N Black Indian Ink is a waterproof, shellac-based formula, as is Higgins #4415. Avoid "fountain pen india ink", which is not waterproof, and may be dye-based rather than pigmented, depending on brand. 

    Sometimes, it is possible to whisk a light watercolor wash over gouache that is very dry, but it quickly wets and intermixes with a second application. It works best when the gouache layer has enough white pigment to quickly draw the water out of the wash without wetting the paint beneath. 

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2018-11-26 16:12:11
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you very much! 

    2018-12-02 20:13:49

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