Gouache: M Graham vs Arteza vs Caran D’Ache


After watching Mira Byler paint with gouache on youtube last night, I thought this morning I’d give it a try. Gouache paint is kind of a cross between acrylic and watercolor, at least in performance. It rewets after drying, like watercolor, so can be put into a palette to dry and easily be carried somewhere to paint. You can thin it as much as desired, but like acrylic it is opaque, and can layer light on top of dark. It’s almost backwards painting compared to watercolor, where you have to think ahead and leave any light or white spaces colorless while you fill in darks. In some ways it is simpler than painting with watercolor (at my skill level). It feels chalky after drying, and reminded me of poster paints and tempera paints we used as kids in school. Gouache can be a bit harder on brushes than watercolor, so I don’t use my very expensive brushes with it. And actually I think the slightly firmer brushes perform great with the medium.

You may (or probably DON’T) recall that last year towards the beginning of my 365 challenge, I tried Caran d’Ache’s pan gouache set… the only gouache set I could find not in tubes. Here is what I painted at the time, following a tutorial:


I was new to gouache, and to painting at all, and set them aside.

Fast forward to February of this year, I found an Amazon lightning deal on a 24 color Arteza gouache set, thinking maybe I’d like tubes better. And I also bought 4 M Graham tubes from a local art supply shop. So finally (only 6 months later, right?) I decided today I’d give them a shot.

Arteza result:


The lightning deal on Amazon in February was under $15. The regular price for this set is currently still $18.98, and I’ve linked them here if you want to look at them. 

And HERE is a link to a set of 5 M Graham primary gouache tubes for $24.88.

And HERE is the Caran d’Ache set linked , 15 colors including a small white tube for $33 on Amazon right now, in a tin, with a paintbrush.

M Graham result (ignore the blob, user error!):


Caran d’Ache result:


(I can tell you pretty positively, no matter what set you get, you’ll also want a nice big tube of white to add to it. Gouache doesn’t lighten with water the way watercolor does. White needs to be added to get any lighter values.)

Here I have compared two paints from each brand which use the same pigments: PY 3 (yellow) and PB29 (blue). Caran d’Ache doesn’t give me pigment numbers, but I chose the two that matched. To my not-very-trained-eye, the M Grahams, in the middle, seem slightly more vivid than Arteza, and they went on more smoothly. They also don’t feel as dry and chalky. There is a difference, but it is not significant. (to me) They are all three VERY CLOSE. I doubt I could label one accurately in a ‘blind’ test. The Caran d’Ache was very easy to wet down to a watercolor like consistency. I think I may be able to get heavier opaque results with the tubes, and thinner wet washes (maybe) with the pan set.




Honestly, my paintings in the end seem about the same.  This is very likely because I’m a complete gouache novice and they were all fairly crappy  🙂  I’ve read in reviews of the M Graham gouache paints that they dry very nicely in pans, and don’t crumble like most other dried gouache brands, due to the honey added. And I can tell you Caran d’Ache has figured out how to pan them up without cracking.



One more thing to consider… as far as I can tell, I can’t purchase Arteza gouache tubes or Caran d’Ache pans individually, to replace a color, only in sets. M Grahams are sold in sets and individually. Which do I prefer? I see benefits to using the tubes over pans, especially if you will be doing large areas of color. It’s tricky mixing large amounts with the dried pans… good to remember if I do pan up my M Grahams. AND I have trouble keeping the pans clean when mixing them. But honestly I enjoyed the Caran d’Ache paints best… they are super creamy and a dream to use. They don’t give me pigment information on the pans, however, and both tube sets do. Pigment numbers and lightfast ratings. I have to assume for that reason that the Caran d’Ache probably aren’t “artist grade”. Still these are the ones I’m more likely to use, I think.

But remember… $25 for 5 tubes vs $19 for 24 tubes vs the $33 Caran d’Ache pan set, 15 colors… this set also has a metal palette box AND a paint brush… I think it really depends on what you’ll be doing with them, how frequently you’ll use them, etc. Are you a crafter? A part time artist wannabe? A professional artist? A gouache newbie, just interested in checking out the medium? Do you prefer using your paint from tubes or from dried pans? Will you be doing very large areas of color? I fully expected to love the M Grahams and hate the Arteza… but I kinda love them all. In the end, for me… all three gave similar results, but the pan set is my favorite.


6/03/18 Day 3, 30×3- gouache clouds


[gwahsh, goo-ahsh]
  1. a technique of painting with opaque watercolors prepared with gum.
  2. an opaque color used in painting a gouache.
  3. a work painted using gouache.

(“A WORK PAINTED USING GOUACHE”? Really? How can you define a word using the word itself as a key point in the definition?)

Wikipedia defines it more fully: “similar to watercolor in that it can be re-wetted, it dries to a matte finish, and the paint can become infused with its paper support. It is similar to acrylic or oil paints in that it is normally used in an opaque painting style and it can form a superficial layer. Many manufacturers of watercolor paints also produce gouache and the two can easily be used together.” Basically, it is like an opaque watercolor paint.

Gouache is weird. I wasn’t a fan a year ago, but I think I may like it now.


Gouache. Yikes! A little more info than my long ago post.

noun: gouache
  1. a method of painting using opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with a gluelike substance.
    -opaque watercolor of the type used in gouache painting.
    -a picture painted using the gouache method

Gouache isn’t new… it goes back at least 600 years. But until last year I had never heard of it, or at least it didn’t register with me.

I’m trying out the set of Caran D’Ache Gouache paints I got last year, but feeling like I’m all thumbs. It’s so different than watercolor (OR acrylics)…  I have to think and act so contrary to what is natural with watercolor. The good news is, my badness at gouache makes me feel like I’m better at watercolor than I was previously thinking. 😉

Gouache acts like watercolor in that it can be rewet, even years later on the paper or palette, and acts like acrylic in that it is thick and opaque, covering whatever is beneath it. When gouache paint dries there’s generally said to be a considerable color shift, darks drying lighter and lights drying darker, so while the painter can continue adding, changing, or correcting as long as desired, mixed colors can be difficult to match once dried, if a color key or something similar wasn’t prepared. Also, in gouache painting, white can be added on top of darker colors, and different shades are created by adding chinese or titanium white to the paint…  many watercolorists don’t use white paint at all while watercolor painting. (most, I think!) Whites are created by being careful not to apply paint to areas that should remain white, and lighter more translucent colors are made by simply using more water.  So the way you plan out a piece with gouache vs watercolor is considerably different.

People seem to either love gouache or hate it. I hated it last year… but this year I’m hovering. I might be inclined to see its potential and kinda want to spend more time with it.

Here is my first attempt (well, first since my original two attempts a year or so ago) The one on the right is a watercolor from earlier this month, testing the new Schmincke limited edition watercolor set, the one on the left is my attempt to do a similar picture using Caran D’Ache gouache paint pans:

I used the paints kind of like I’d use acrylics. I definitely could do better with that background. Having to add white was messing with my brain. I miss the flow-i-ness and translucence of watercolor here.

Then i tried this, coloring in an ink sketch from January:


A different approach, using the paint as I would watercolor. It’s ok. But… I’m not using the paint as it should be used, really. And I know if I had used actual watercolor paint I’d like the result better. Gouache just doesn’t move. It isn’t made to move.  (also, please ignore the bird coloring… I couldn’t find the picture I took this from and don’t have any idea what colors the bird should be.) So… how to use gouache as gouache??? I’ll need to go back to youtube and watch more videos, and practice practice practice.

Still… I’m liking the medium and think with practice it could be really fun.

Caran d’ache is the only company I could find last year offering gouache PANS as opposed to tubes. Today I bought three M.Graham gouache  tubes to play with and see if tube vs pan makes a difference. (plus I got what I thought was a good deal on a big tube of titanium white gouache, which I can use to add elements to watercolor paintings as well if I want to: stars, highlights, etc) The pans seem to rewet well and become rather creamy, so it isn’t that I’m unhappy with them. Simply unfamiliar with the medium and looking at all possibilities.

Here’s a link to a fairly inexpensive Caran d’Ache pan set, 8 colors… it is currently just under $20.

Also to the set I have:

Caran d’Ache 15 gouache colors…  currently $32, down from a high of $41 in January. They offer the tubes as well for a bit more, but the pans seemed simpler for me to start out with last year, and I’ve since read good things about the company and its products on some online artists’ boards. These rewet really nicely and are rich and creamy. Put a drop of water on each before you begin painting.

And finally, here is an M Graham gouache starter set…  I can’t say whether I like these or not yet, as I haven’t tried mine, but I’ve only read great things about M Graham gouache paints so I’m expecting to like them. I don’t know if this is the best price available, though, for this set. It’s cheaper than what I saw for it today at the art supply store.

Disclaimer: if you purchase something from these links, I get a few cents from Amazon, but it doesn’t increase your cost at all. I ONLY include links for items I enjoy myself and believe to be quality products, at the best price I can find at the time, and will try to remove links for anything I ever decide for some reason isn’t a good product.

Have fun!!

Day 223 (Fri Aug 11) “Gouache is not for me… neither are coloring books, apparently”

Okay, I realize I haven’t given gouache a fair shake. Or coloring books, for that matter. But I don’t particularly enjoy either. I can think of times when gouache paints would be great… honestly it may really be these pans. No other company that I could find makes gouache in pans, and maybe that’s why…  I just don’t like the way they feel. I am not totally giving up on them. I think I’d really like my results if I do a few more things… but I so enjoy the way watercolor paint moves and feels that I think for now I will spend the little art time I have on ink or watercolor, or something I really like laying down on the paper. I’ll come back to gouache later, and I do think sometime I will try some tubes and see if I like those better.


I followed a video by Lisa Marie of Sketching Scarlet on youtube. Her idea. I tried it twice.

PS if you like to paint, and you like coloring books, you may like to try these pans. They actually were really good on the coloring book page and are super vivid. They go on and look like markers to me. Once on the page, you can’t really move the paint around much like you can with watercolor (see the dark green blob between the two fish?) And they layer like some of the alcohol markers do.


Day 222 (Thurs Aug 10) Gouache

I have been eager to try gouache paints. I’d never even heard of them before this year… a 600 year old medium, kind of a marriage of watercolor and acrylic in behavior. Can be watered down and flow together like watercolor, can be used light on top of dark like acrylic, can be built up in heavy strokes like oil… Maybe the best of both worlds? I found this set of caran d’ache gouache pans, the only pan set I could find… They remind me of tempera paints, and even say poster paints in one place. A kind of chalky finish of the final product I’m not crazy about. I can see the benefit to using tubes instead of pans, and being able to use thicker paint. It was strange after all this time learning to leave white spaces white, to now add them in with paint… I don’t know if I liked it or not!

The set came with a number 8 caran d’ache brush as well, which works nicely so far. I followed a video by Myriam Tillson, at a vlog called Myriam’s Illustrations on Youtube. Mine didn’t end up looking much like hers… but enough that I knew I’d better say it was her idea! I think tomorrow I may try a more coloring book type thing.