As you can tell by the title: “oil vs acrylic vs watercolor vs gouache,” we have loaded this page with the frequently used mediums in the art world.
We are going to resolve the conflict among these paints by giving credit where credit is due, as well as bringing their faults to the spotlight.
I urge you to fasten your seat belt because it’s going to be a rough drive.
This article contains opposing viewpoints and rife with facts and opinions that will help clear any cancerous misconceptions that you have had of these mediums.
Oil vs Acrylic vs Watercolor vs Gouache
Just a friendly reminder: we are going to break down this article into 2 segments.
One will be oil vs acrylic. And the other, watercolor vs gouache.
We won’t be discussing acrylic vs watercolor, or oil vs watercolor here because we have ALREADY treated them as an individual topic, so endeavor to go check them out.
Without wasting any much of your time, let’s proceed.
Gouache vs Watercolor | Which to Start With?
Gouache and watercolor share traits that make them nearly identical.
For instance, they are both water-soluble and have similar chemical compositions like pigment, gum Arabic, and additives.
To complicate things even more, they are applied in the same ways (with water), available in small portions, and often share an aisle in the art supply store.
These confusingly shared characteristics are what make it rather challenging for most painters to differentiate them.
But don’t fret!
With what I’m about to tell you, you can recognize the subtle differences that exist between these two mediums, even if you have little or no knowledge about the subject.
With a simple look HERE and THERE in their origins, popularity, and features, you can smell their distinctive differences 15 feet away.
And here is a few ways how:
Watercolor Vs Gouache Opacity | Opaque and Translucent
As said before, gouache is a water-based paint that combines the best aspects of both acrylics and watercolors.
The striking difference between these two paints is that gouache is more opaque and reflective, whereas watercolor is translucent.
It has more pigment content and superior opacity to watercolor – this is what makes gouache opaque and prevents it from granulating.
Watercolor is more transparent and thinner compared to other water-based paints like gouache and acrylic.
Gouache artworks cover and hide the surface, but watercolor allows light to travel through the pigment and reveal what’s underneath them.
Now, I’m not saying that watercolors are garbage. They are also amazing for building special watery textures, experimenting, and more. But, when compared to Gouache, watercolor is often kicked to the curb.
Opaqueness is a substantial trait of gouache, so it’s imperative to use the right quantity of water to get that opaqueness and matte finish, or else you might not like the finish.
Too much water will make it look like a watercolor. However, too little water will lead to creaking on the paint surface once it dries. Thus, finding the right balance is critical when using Gouache.
The bottom line: the end result of the gouache painted piece radiates colorfully with a matte finish, unlike washy watercolor.
The Dry Time
Gouache and watercolor are both fast-drying solutions.
But since Gouache uses less water, they dry much faster than watercolor, acrylics, and oil-based paint.
Gouache comes in tubes only. Meanwhile, watercolor comes in pans set, liquid, as well as tubes – although both colors are usually mixed in a palette.
There is no doubt these paints are relatively easy to use and are less toxic due to they are water-soluble, unlike oil-based solutions.
But the big question is between gouache and watercolor, which one is simpler to use?
Well, it depends on the technique you want to achieve.
But generally, Gouache is more forgiving. Since they are opaque and can be layered, it is easy to get away with mistakes as you can simply paint over them to perfection.
On the contrary, you will have a hard time layering watercolors, as you’d have to exercise a little patience for the first layer to dry else the color will bleed together.
Additionally, mistakes are almost impossible to rectify.
SURE you can remove excess paint with a dry brush or paper towel –there is no denying that –but if you accidentally paint on the wrong spot, that is it! There is no correcting that.
Therefore, any mistake will result in an unintended blot on your drawing that you would have to accept.
Furthermore, watercolors are ideal on paper – although working on the thinner paper will be frustrating. As for dark papers, the paint won’t surface since it’s too translucent.
But if you’re using Gouache, you can get away with mixed media paper or sketchbook paper art.
While Gouache might seem so tempting to use, do not forget they are more complicating to blend since the colors don’t bleed when they touch.
Watercolor blend effortlessly. Besides, the paint is fluid and easy to work with since it flows on the brush much freely.
From my perspective, it takes a very skilled hand to learn how to perfect Gouache.
Aside from that, you need white gouache to make lighter gouache instead of water, which makes it quite a task for beginners.
Other significant features to consider
Under paint pen drawing
The transparency of watercolor will allow you to pencil draw and paint over it. Whereas, gouache deprives you of such benefit, as the opaqueness of the paint erases any visual traces of pen sketches and vice versa.
Watercolor paint is susceptible to water. It will always alter the shape and tone of any watercolor.
For Gouache, the story is quite different. Gouache is very resistant to water – just like acrylic and oil-based paints.
Read Also: Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Stained Wood?
Oil vs Acrylic Paint
While Gouache and watercolor are trickier to distinguish, what differentiates oil-based and acrylic paints is a no-brainer.
Oil paint is a slow-drying paint that contains particles of pigment suspended in a drying oil (commonly linseed oil) that forms a tough, color film when exposed to air.
Acrylic, on the other hand, is a fast-drying medium made of pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion.
It might be water-soluble, but they become resistant to water when dry. Acrylic paint is a joyous medium that can resemble a gouache, watercolor, or even oil painting depending on the thinner or modifier used like acrylic gel, pastes, or mediums.
The significant difference between oil and acrylic is their dry time.
Oil paints are a slow drying medium that takes days before the pigment fully sets. Acrylic, on the other hand, dries only a couple of minutes before they set. And both drying time influences other aspects of painting.
For example, due to acrylic’s notorious drying time, they are not ideal for portrait painting or other pieces where there’s always a need to reflect and make tiny adjustments.
Also, they don’t adhere to the “fat over lean; thick over thin,” rules which only favors the less experienced painters.
However, if you’re working on a graphic style or prefer finishing your craft in one sitting, acrylics will do the trick.
As for oil paints, they have the power of layers.
Oil paint takes a decent amount of time to dry, which allows you to build layers, add depth, and meaning when creating something like textured waves or the leaves on a tree.
It is the most fascinating feature of the oil-based solution.
Acrylics can’t layer because as soon as you draw a stroke, they are already drying. No is a little window to layer and correct error, which can be problematic.
When it comes to mixing paint, I think oil paints are the clear winner. Mixing acrylic is daunting compared to oils because dries rapidly.
However, with oil paints, you can luxuriously mix colors for days on end, producing subtle color variations.
Clean up and toxicity
In terms of clean up and toxicity, in my opinion, acrylic edges out oil paint.
Acrylic is way easier to clean and are less toxic compare to oil paint. More importantly, the only thing you’ll ever need for cleanup is water.
Whereas oil paints require some quality cleaning materials to make your life easier like turpentine or Mineral spirits –that is still considered toxic.
Aside from the toxicity, you’d have to sweat your guts out, trying to clean it off the surface.
Lightfastness and Longevity
First and foremost, lightfastness is the quality of a colorant that describes how resistant the paint is to fading when exposed to light. And oils and acrylics respond differently to light conditions.
If you were to expose them to light, oil paints would be the first to give up their vibrant colors
If you’ve ever come across an old oil painting, you might notice that they appear somewhat yellowish. It is because the pigment grows duller as time tick past, and the oil binder becomes visible.
On the contrary, Acrylics have excellent lightfastness and will look pretty much the same years to come.
But when it comes to the survival of the fittest or who can stand the test of time, oil paints are always the sang heroes.
Oil paints have a proven historical track record for longevity, as most iconic paintings in history like the Mona Lisa and Van Gogh’s Starry Night crafted by the best minds in the world are still alive and kicking.
Read Also: Watercolor Vs Oil Paints
Oil vs Acrylic vs Gouache vs Watercolor | Final Comparison
I think it’s high time I slam the gavel against the block and end the crisis between these mediums.
There is no doubt both paints have their unique properties and offer ample benefits that will lure almost any artist to using them.
But your choice should depend solely on the effect you want to accomplish in your overall craft because these mediums bring blessings alongside a curse.
If your mean objective is to create a piece of art that is vibrant, deep, luminous, and display something real, then opt for oil paint.
Also, oil paints have a distinct advantage for those who like to take their time and strive for perfection.
However, for a simpler and more direct form of art where restrictions of bold shapes and deep colors are necessary, Gouache is the best bet.
In addition, you get to explore to enjoy being able to make flat, colorful shapes very quickly.
Acrylic and watercolor, on the other hand, are less toxic, fast-drying, and also have what it takes to create a beautiful masterpiece – only if you harvest its qualities properly.
Read Also: Acrylic Paints Vs Watercolor
What are the difference between oils watercolor gouache and acrylics?
The major difference between the two paints is that the particles of pigment in gouache are larger and the ratio of pigment to binder is higher. Unlike acrylics or oils, gouache cannot be applied thickly to create texture—if a layer of gouache is too thick, it will crack when it dries.
Which is better watercolor or gouache?
Even when thinned out with water, gouache offers a bold, flat wash of color, while watercolors are more transparent and light. Gouache is a versatile paint, so there’s really no one standard recommendation for when to use it, but in general, it’s ideal for creating large, bold areas of color.
What’s the difference between acrylic gouache and watercolor gouache?
What is the difference between acrylics and gouache? Gouache paint is opaque watercolor then remains water soluble after it dries. Acrylic paint is water resistant when dry and you can use it on a variety of surfaces. Gouache dries to a matte finish and acrylics can have a matte, satin, or glossy finish.
Which is better oil or acrylic?
Oil paints have much slower drying times than acrylic paints. You will have more flexibility with oil paints due to longer the drying times. Oil paints can take up to a year to dry completely. With acrylic paints you must be decisive with your strokes, as the paint quickly dries once applied.
Should I buy gouache or acrylic?
Acrylic paint offers more durability than gouache or watercolor paints in that it will not dwindle as fast when exposed to light, they can withstand dust, and are waterproof. Paintings made with acrylic paint will be considerably brighter than those created with watercolors.
Do professional artists use gouache?
Professional artists favor gouache for its versatility. It can mimic the look and feel of acrylic, watercolor, and even oil paints! So how do artists work with gouache paint to create beautiful paintings?
Why is gouache unpopular?
Gouache paintings are fragile, they can crack if not painted or mounted on a rigid support. Both types of paints are available in brilliant colors. Artists quality gouache is expensive and can be hard to find in some places.
What is easier to paint with acrylic or watercolor?
Acrylics are much simpler to use than watercolors. They are much more forgiving of mistakes. Watercolor has the reputation of being the hardest to learn of all the mediums. It has more elements to learn and handle than acrylic paint.
Which is better watercolor or acrylic?
If you want bright paint, watercolor is the option for you. The pigments are bright and produce a light, tinted effect. Acrylic paints are more vibrant in color. Because you can layer lighter colors and whites over dark acrylic shades, you can create brighter works of art.
Is gouache more expensive than watercolor?
(The gouache is a cheaper range than the watercolour. However, gouache is not as watered down when I use it which means I use more paint than when I am using watercolour.)
In summary, the purpose of the post is to brighten your knowledge about these paints.
And from what you’ve gathered so far, deciding between oil vs acrylic vs watercolor vs gouache –won’t be difficult anymore.
Believe it or not, every artist (including you) is on a journey to discovering their unique artistic style. And on your way to that promised land, you will have to explore different mediums.
So take your time to review them, if need be.
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