What Surfaces Can You Use Gouache On?

  • By: Artistic Bees
  • Time to read: 7 min.
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If you are familiar with painting with watercolor or have tried it before, you might have come across gouache paint along the way. This unique water medium might have inspired you to put your creativity to use and try out something completely new. But for beginners, it can be confusing to find out what surfaces you use gouache on. In this article, I will help you find out!

Traditional gouache offers you a more vibrant and opaque effect than classic watercolor and only adheres to surfaces with a certain level of absorbency, such as paper. If you want to apply it to other non-absorbent surfaces, you need to first prime them with the watercolor ground. Acrylic gouache is similar to acrylic paint and you can apply it to wood, metal, wood, and plastic.

Now that we are familiar with all the surfaces you can use gouache on, you might want to know which surfaces it works best on. In the rest of the article, I explore all there is to know about gouache paint and which papers work best as its surface. Without further ado, let’s get right to it.

Everything You Need to Paint with Gouache


Gouache painting has much to offer with its vibrant and opaque effects, quick-drying abilities, and flexibility. It also offers easy layering properties and a smooth matt finish, which makes it ideal for beginners and expert artists alike. Even so, surprisingly, gouache painting is very lesser-known compared to traditional watercolor.

But once you give it a go, starting a gouache painting is extremely easy. The process is quite similar to how you would paint with watercolor. Let’s take a look at all that you need to paint with Gouache:

1. Gouache Paint

Many refer to Gouache paint as “opaque watercolor” due to its obvious opaque effects. Similar to watercolor, it is a color pigment that needs to be mixed with a binding agent, such as gum Arabic. But in the case of gouache paint, a greater amount of pigment is added and mixed with a solid white pigment.

This gives you a heavier texture and a higher level of opacity compared to translucent watercolor. You will find different varieties and brands of gouache paint available on the market. It’s always a smart move to invest in primary colors first, along with tubes of black and white. This lets you create different hues and shades.

2. Paint Brushes


Typically, you won’t find many differences between watercolor paint brushes and gouache paint brushes. For those who are starting, only three brushes are essential: a large round brush, a small round brush, and a broad brush to paint larger areas or washes.

Natural and synthetic fibers both work great, but synthetic watercolor brushes work best when painting with gouache. Its soft texture allows better fluidity with the paint and lets you put in delicate details. However, as the artist, you have full freedom to try out and experiment with different types and sizes of brushes.

3. Mixing Trays

Mixing tray

Gouache paint comes in different individual tubes or trays. So if you want to create a spectrum of colors, a mixing tray is a must. There are different ones available at art supply stores.

But if you want, you can also create a mixing tray from ceramic dinner plates or use a disposable palette. Add a little pigment to the mixing tray and then add a bit of water or another color to get the shade you want.

4. Paper or Any Other Surfaces


When it comes to surfaces, there’s a wide variety of options you have available, including illustration board, watercolor paper, Bristol board, and thick drawing paper. Among these, watercolor paper might be the ideal option.

While canvas may also be a great option, it is a far better option for acrylic paint. If you are a beginner, you might want to avoid painting gouache on canvas.

5. Water

As gouache is a water-soluble paint, you will need some water to get started. Water is used to dilute the paint and make it more fluid. When laying down your colors, you don’t need a lot of pigment.

So, water works best to let you create the right consistency with all your paint. If you want a more opaque, watercolor-like paint, it’s best to use less water.

What Surfaces Does Gouache Work Best On?

I have already talked about all the supplies you need to get started with gouache painting. So you are probably aware of how vital it is to consider what type of surface you are going to use before anything. The best part about gouache painting is that it is a remarkably versatile paint and works great on both paper and canvas.

So if you prefer one over the other, you can choose which one you wish to go with. Let’s take a better look at both surfaces so you can understand which one works better for you:


Gouache can also be called “opaque watercolor” and tends to work best on surfaces that have a certain level of absorbency. This makes paper the ideal surface for gouache paintings. If I were to recommend, Reeves watercolor paper works perfectly for any beginner looking for what paper they should use.

The Reeves watercolor paper is designed to work best with water media and is solid enough for heavier types of paint to adhere to. If you want your gouache painting to have an opaque watercolor effect, this paper is ideal to hold up the extra pigment. Of course, you can try using watercolor paper as the working surface, as many prefer it when using gouache paints.


Gouache is famous for being versatile, and you aren’t limited to using it only on paper. If you want to create more exciting and bold paintings, you can try using them on your pieces of canvas. However, beginners might find the rough texture of canvases a bit harder to handle. If you love painting on a piece of canvas, it should be fairly easy for you to get used to.

But I recommend using canvas only if you want to use a lot of layers or want to spend several weeks finishing your project. If you want to use gesso-primed canvases, it’s easier for the gouache paint to get applied to the surface. However, don’t overstretch the canvas or paint in a humid environment.

Choosing The Best Paper for Gouache Paint

You can use gouache paint on any paper that has been developed for watercolors. When using this paint, you must use paper that is at least 200 grams per square meter (gsm). Choose a fine grain paper with a smooth surface that will hold the paint nicely.

Satin-finished papers are great for projects that demand a high level of attention to detail. For a rough grain look, use coarse-textured paper. It’s best to use 300gsm hot press sheets with this paint. If you don’t want to buy individual sheets, you may buy the same-weight paper pads instead.

In the end, whatever type of paper you choose should be of professional quality. You can try experimenting on different tiny pieces of paper to find out which one suits your style and handling best.

Top 3 Papers To Paint with Gouache

Let’s look at some of the best papers you can use to paint with Gouache paint:

1. Canson 400061697 Watercolor Art Board Pad

The Canson Plein Art Board Pad works amazingly well for gouache painting. The artboard pad is perfect for both outdoor and indoor painting. The texture is somewhere between hot and cold-pressed paper, which allows you to make extremely fine details with a dramatic effect.

Since the paper has an acid-free composition, all your finished gouache paintings should be fade-proof. I find the board format extremely useful as you don’t need to pre-stretch the paper before you start painting.

2. Canon XL Series Watercolor Pad

The Canon XL Series Watercolor Pad features cold-pressed and textured paper that can be used for a variety of projects. With 30 sheets of 300 gsm paper, the pad is the perfect option for gouache painting.

The papers can also withstand multiple washes and are completely acid-free. So it can lift colors extremely well and doesn’t buckle even under multiple washes. This premium-quality paper pad is worth every penny you pay for it.

3. Arches Watercolor Paper Pad

The gouache paint is super easy to use on the Arches Watercolor Paper Pad as it is 300 gsm, the perfect weight for this paint and doesn’t buckle. So unless you are spreading the paint with a brush, it doesn’t move towards any other part of the paper.

The fine-tooth makes creating extra-fine details and crisp edges easy as well. Since the moisture doesn’t absorb into the paper quickly, you have enough time to work with your paint. The paper is extremely durable as well and is best for mixed media applications.


Gouache painting doesn’t require any specialized or expensive supplies. But what you really need is the right type of surface. If you are not sure about what works best, I shared all the details about what surfaces you can use gouache on in this article.

I hope the article has helped you feel more enthusiastic about letting your creative side take over to start your gouache painting journey. Thanks for reading till the end.

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