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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Look at DaVinci Gouache

Left: A Pentel Pocket Brush Pen Sketch on Fabriano gridded paper (sheets stitched together with washi tape), and painted with DaVinci Gouache. (A sketch which ultimately went into my 2013 fake journal.) Click on the image to view an enlargement.

I know a lot of readers on this blog love experimenting with new media and often wonder about certain products. I like to review products when I test them out to give people an idea what's out there and also enough information so that they can save their money if something isn't going to suit their working methods.

Each year in April I keep a fake journal. It's a project that I took public in the early 2000s with my students and then went public with on the internet in 2009. You can read about it on the Official International Fake Journal Blog.

This year my character (because it isn't "you" who keeps the fake journal) was someone who didn't care at all about archival issues, and who worked quite a lot in mixed media. I decided to work in DaVinci gouache in the book for a host of reasons that I detail in my complete review on DaVinci Gouache here.

Left: A Pentel Pocket Brush Pen sketch on Sumi paper, and then painted with DaVinci Gouache. Click on the image to view an enlargement. You can see a description of the process of this image and additional photos here

One of the most fun aspects of this project and my testing of the DaVinci Gouache is that I used a different palette of colors than I would normally use (the line doesn't include some of my favorite pigments).

I remain a die-hard fan of Schmincke Gouache, and M. Graham Gouache is a close second (if only they would produce PB60 in their line!). But after working for several weeks (I filled my journal up before the end of the month) with DaVinci Gouache I have to say it's a fun and interesting paint to work with.

It is extremely tacky and has different handling properties from the two gouache lines I typically use. It also doesn't wash out to light washes with the same saturated clarity as the other two gouache lines do. But I found painting with it kept me on my toes and I  had fun.

If you want to get into gouache and just experiment before you start kitting yourself up with a complete set of paint, I think DaVinci might be a good place for you to start inexpensively. The large tubes are reasonably priced.

I would recommend that you take extra pains to really mix up the quantity and consistency of paint you need to cut down the tackiness (which I think for new users who don't know how gouache can work will be frustrating). If you are experiencing too much drag (and you see your brush is beginning to show a lot of wear) take the time to use more water until you can find a level of paint and water that works more smoothly. (In my top image I've used the paint in a dilute fashion, in the second image I've used it more opaquely.)

I have some reservations about the paint line because of the tackiness, the finish of the painted pieces, and the pigment selection as you'll read in my review at my other blog. But I think this is a fine paint for sketching with.

I would recommend, however, if you want to start painting a lot in gouache and archival issues and ease matter to you that you switch out to Schmincke Gouache when your budget allows. Your satisfaction level, the mixes you'll be able to achieve, and the brush handling will all be instantly improved. While DaVinci Gouache does have a smooth buttery consistency straight out of the tube, and it retains its softness for quite some time on the palette there is a tackiness that over the long haul is annoying. Schmincke Gouache (and M. Graham) both have a smooth buttery consistency without that tackiness (M. Graham is a little more tacky than Schmincke because of its formulation) and I think most people will find it easier to control water/paint levels to get the results they want with either of those other two brands.


  1. Love your top drawing that looks like Shawn on Psych. I've tried sketching him before. Thanks for the tips on goauche. I have some really cheap gouache from the craft store that is very chalky when dry, but fun to experiment with anyway. Of course, your French bulldog is wonderful.

    1. (I moved my comment to your comment up here in hopes that you'd get notified I'd commented. I just found your note.)

      Thank you Unknown! It is indeed James Roday—who is for the me the actor currently on TV who is the most fun to draw (now that Adam Goldberg isn't on a show that I know of). He has a plastic face, and he believes!

      Really cheap craft store gouache can be OK to dabble a bit in but right away, because of all the extra stuff they put in the paint you're going to run into problems that will be less than satisfying, so if you get a chance and can upgrade even a little, to something like DaVinci, you'll see a big, big change. And of course Schmincke—the most fun ever.

      Glad you like the pup too. That's my muse Sophia Grace, a local Frenchie who is too, too cute (though in this image I changed her coloring—but her mom didn't mind at all!).

  2. This is exactly the information I have been seeking. Thanks so much for writing about the best gouache options!

    1. Connie, I'm glad that you found this post on gouache helpful. There are lots of options out there and I want people to enjoy gouache so I try to break things down as much as possible. I hope you have some fun sketching with gouache.

  3. Roz, thanks for the review and suggestions! You do wonderful things with gouache...


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