Cue the battle music and the smoke machines: IT’S A DUEL! It’s time for a head-to-head comparison between gouache and watercolor!! In the video I’ll be showing you the same painting in both, showing how to create an effect in one medium then in the other. 

Tutorial: Watercolor vs Gouache / Atmospheric Perspective Paintings

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Atmospheric perspective in gouache

Creating the colors and values to depict (and even exxagerate) the depth in a scene in gouache requires mixing the colors. There’s no accidental mixing by colors moving around on their own – it’s all conscious desicsion-making.

Some of the big benefits of gouache are….

  1. It’s a slower process; water’s not causing panic as color flows.
  2. You can stop and take a break without having to worry that the paper will dry.
  3. You can paint over areas that didn’t work out.

Atmospheric perspective in watercolor

Since watercolor pigments move within the moisture on the paper, it’s easy to get a flow of color with softly blended edges. Thicker paint moves more slowly, wet mixes flood out into the area they’re dropped into. Less paint creates that desaturated, faraway look, and thicker mixtures are great for foreground detail.

Some of the big benefits of watercolor are….

  1. Quick flowing process; the watercolor took about 2/3 as long as the gouache painting.
  2. Soft edges easily can be created with wet-in-wet techniques.
  3. Detail can be added using my favorite needle (“inlaid liner” brush!

So which is better?

That’s all a subjective choice! I find there are some subjects that lend themselves better to one or another—and sometimes I don’t find out til I’ve tried it a few times. Ha! I love having the option to try the other water media if one doesn’t work. My gouache work is taking on a more loose, painterly, oil painter style, unlike many gouache artists who carefully exploit the “graphic” nature of shapes and color blocks that gouache can create.

Oil painting class

I’m in Samuel Earp’s Online School to learn gouache from studying the process that oil painters use. It’s really helping a lot already! While oils can get more blending than I can achieve with gouache (that may change as I explore techniques), I’m learning a ton about mixing colors for the right atmospheric perspective in landscapes.


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    1. Daniel Smith Watercolors:
      1. French Ultramarine Blue
      2. Payne’s Blue Gray
      3. Transparent Red Oxide
      4. Green Apatite
    2. Arches Cold Press Pad
    3. Winsor Newton Kolinsky Sable Series 7 Round #8 
    4. Da Vinci Maestro Kolinsky Brush – Inlaid Liner (Needle), Size 8 
    1. Daniel Smith Gouache:
      1. Ultramarine 
      2. Titanium White 
      3. Permanent Green Light 
      4. Hansa Yellow Deep
      5. Burnt Sienna 
      6. Lamp Black 
    2. Joybest airtight palette 
    3. Jack Richeson travel brush set –BlickAmazon 
    4. Canson XL:  BLICKAMZ

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  1. Karen L.

    Thank you so much for the comparison, Sandy! Lovely paintings! I learned a lot.

  2. Donna

    Love this tutorial. Great job on both.

  3. Kathy But her

    Love them both. I also loved learning about the brushes.

  4. Jan Mills

    Both are so interesting and the comparison was great. Learned a lot, especially the brushes.


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