Acrylic Vs. Gouache: Which Is Best For You?

Various types of paint are available on the market for painting artwork. While gouache is a relatively new product compared to acrylics, it isn't very clear when you are a beginner to determine which paint to use professionally. However, acrylic, gouache oil paints, and watercolor are the most common ones that professional artists use. But no one will tell you which paint works best for them.  

Here, we will discuss acrylic and gouache in detail to determine which works best. Despite both being water-based paints and opaque, why do people prefer any of these? Let’s debate and begin to explore acrylic vs. gouache.

Acrylic Vs Gouache Painting

Traditional Gouache

Gouache, pronounced Gwash as a whole, is a fantastic medium and definitely worth considering. It provides you with a unique texture that is rare with other paints. It has become popular among animators and designers. It has two elements.

  • Pigment

It consists of pigment particles suspended in a water-based binder. The pigments in gouache are similar to those used in watercolor but are often in larger quantities and more opaque. 

  • Binder

The binder in gouache is typically a mixture of gum Arabic (similar to watercolor) and an additional white pigment (such as chalk) that gives gouache its opaque quality.

Pros Of Gouache

  • Can Be Reactivated

Acrylic is waterproof. So, when dry, you cannot activate the color with a wet brush. Gouache, on the other hand, gets activated when a wet brush is applied. It can be activated and reactivated multiple times. From a painting process point of view, this permanence makes your life a bit easier. You don’t have to worry about reactivating paint because you want more layers on the top. 

Gouache activation with water test

Be mindful that when you are layering, you must be careful not to disturb the paint underneath. Otherwise, the top layer can be contaminated and potentially become muddy. So don’t scrub the paint too hard to avoid mixing colors. Also, when layering on top, make sure to use ticker paint. 

  • Opacity

When it comes to which color has solid, opaque characteristics, gouache is more opaque. The opacity of gouache is a result of its unique formulation and pigmentation. For example, take a piece of paper and draw a straight line with a permanent broad marker. By using brush paint on this line, you will see that only one quote of gouache will cover the line completely, and you can’t see through. At the same time, you need two to three layers of acrylic to cover the line. 

Opacity Test

Due to its opacity, gouache can block out the underlying colors, making it suitable for achieving solid and opaque coverage. This eases the process of painting for the artists. In addition to this, since the paint is water-soluble, you can achieve different opacities by using only a little bit of water to keep the shade more opaque and dark or by watering it down to make it more transparent. 

  • Adjustable

Because the paint is opaque, it can smooth the process of painting when you want to use a dark color on a light and a light shade on a dark. These colors are adjustable with any shade underneath. But be careful not to scrub it too hard to avoid mixing both colors. So it is much easier to repaint areas multiple times. You can color paper of any shade without any problem. 

  • Settle Smoothly

With an artist's quality gouache, the painting dries very flat and evenly, giving it a matte appearance. It is even more flat and smooth when you scan your art on the computer. It looks like digital art. This is the primary reason that you should go with a gouache.

Whereas acrylic has a little glossy shine after drying, you will see more brush marks on acrylic paintings. It doesn’t give as smooth a surface as gouache.

Gouache settled after painting is finished

  • Price

With traditional gouache, you can find budget-friendly brands offering student-quality paints with a lower pigment concentration. Conversely, premium, high-end, artist-quality brands also feature a rich and intense pigment load. 

A set of simple, student-quality 12-ml tubes can cost around $12 to $15. So overall, you can find any quality at affordable prices in traditional gouache. At the same time, the designer gouache of 15 ml can cost you $50 to $60. The price varies depending on the manufacturer and the quality of the paints. 

Student-quality gouache is not recommended because of the very small amount of pigment that does not provide the desired flat texture. So, if budget is an issue, the best option is to buy designer-quality paint but only basic 3 to 4 tubes with white and black paint instead of a whole set. 

  • Dry Quickly

Gouache dries very quickly. This is helpful when you are in a hurry to complete your artwork. Upon drying, dark colors become light, and light colors become dark. 

Cons Of Gouache

  • Drying Time

From one perspective, quick drying is a pro, as it saves time when you have to finish the project in less time. But it can also be a con because quick drying makes it difficult for the artist to blend the painting properly. 

Cons of Gouache

  • Limited Reactivation

Reactivation can cause two problems. On one side, it can make the color muddy when blended more, so a good technique and expertise are needed to apply it over painted layers. On the other hand, reactivation could also spoil a painting if water accidentally spills over it. So, varnishing the painting is compulsory. 

Gouache mixed with other color and become muddy

  • Color Shift

Gouache tends to dry slightly darker than when it is wet. This color shift can be important to consider when mixing and matching colors.

  • Cracking And Flaking

When applied in a thick layer (impasto technique), gouache paint develops small fissures or cracks on paper surfaces. 

  • Chalkiness

Some paint brands can give you a chalky feel when applied in thick layers. This issue is common in gouache paints. Sometimes, this chalkiness can give unsatisfactory results.

  • Price

High-quality gouache paints are pricier than acrylic paints. 

  • Cleaning

Since they can be reactivated with water, scrubbing the paintings with a wet cloth for cleaning is not recommended. These paintings can not be deep cleaned. However, you can dust it off with a bristle brush. Keep in mind that even with cleaning, you cannot expect an old painting to look as fresh as a new one.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint has two major elements in it. One is pigment, and the other is an acrylic polymer binder. They are combined to make the color waterproof and durable. Acrylics are more durable than gouache and can withstand hard wear and tear. 

Pros Of Acrylic

  • Durable

Acrylic paint is known for its durability. They are more durable than gouaches. Once dried and cured, they form a tough, flexible, resilient surface without cracking or flaking. Acrylics are water-resistant, bear light well, and are easily cleaned from dust. But they should not be exposed to harsh weather conditions. The life of an acrylic painting is longer than that of other types. Varnishing it over increases its durability even more.

Example of Acrylic painting

  • Thick Texture

Acrylic paintings are good when layering thick brushstrokes to create textures. You can use them with water or apply them directly out of the tube. Acrylics can be manipulated to achieve different effects. This includes thick impasto textures, smooth washes, or a layered texture appearance.

Texture in acrylic painting

  • Versatility

Acrylic paint can be used on various surfaces, such as canvas, fabric, wood, paper, etc. Compared to gouache, acrylic paints have a much wider range of uses. On the other hand, gouache can be applied to watercolor paper, illustration, matte board, mixed media, and gouache paper. 

  • Dry Time

Acrylic dries faster than gouache. It gives you less time to finish your painting. But this is extremely helpful to make you efficient and productive with your painting process. Because you can’t linger on your painting and must complete it before it dries. Since the paint is not reactivated, completing it all at once is mandatory. 

  • Affordability

Acrylic paints are more affordable than oil and gouache paints. They come in various vibrant shades and colors. This is the reason that they are the most popular choice among beginners as well as professionals. Overall, they are budget-friendly for everyone, whether you are a student or a professional artist. 

  • Flexibility

Acrylic paint is highly flexible and can be mixed and used with other materials such as sand, cornstarch, etc. They can be applied to any surface with multiple layering techniques without the fear of cracking. In addition to this, since they are thick, you can use them with any tool, such as a brush, knife, etc. 

Acrylic painting on wood

Cons Of Acrylic

  • Dries Permanently

Once the paint is on the plate and has dried, you cannot reactivate it with water, as it dries quickly and becomes useless. But this loss is manageable if you use the stay-wet palette tray for your acrylic. Otherwise, you will squeeze too much paint every time.

  • Blending Is Hard

Since the paint dries quickly, it gives you little time to blend the shades. So, you need to be skilled at utilizing the time before drying to blend it well. 

  • Prompt Cleaning Of Tools

After using the brushes, palette, and knife, they should be washed off quickly because, after the paint dries, it becomes hard to clean the tools. Also, wipe off the surrounding stains quickly, as they could become permanent after drying. 

Cleaning of painting tools

What Is Acrylic Gouache?

This product is relatively new on the market, and it’s a hybrid of acrylic and gouache. This combination gives you the best of both paints, which are the flat and matte texture of gouache and the permanence of acrylic. It is waterproof, the same as acrylic. So you don’t have to worry about the disturbance of the paint underneath. But you still have a distinctive appearance.  

The truth is, acrylic gouache is not gouache. It’s just acrylic in disguise. Many brands sell the paint with the name of acrylic gouache, but when they dry, they look very similar to acrylics. They have a slight gloss to them, and the brush marks also show up.

Our recommendation would be ‘Turner’. They are from Japan, and they are available at mid-range prices. This brand has a very good reputation; you get a flat and even matte texture when they dry. Also, they dry waterproof, which means with this paint, you need to use a stay-wet palette because your color will dry out, and you will end up wasting more. 

What To Choose: Acrylic Or Gouache

Choosing which color to use entirely depends on your choice and the nature of your work. Those who like a bit of a glossing look should go with acrylic, and for a matte finish, go with gouache. Similarly, if your work requires texturing, then acrylic is the best choice. Regarding affordability, acrylic paint is easily and affordably available to newbies at any level. So think of your needs before you make the final choice. You can also physically visit art galleries to see the final look of each painting. 

What to Choose Acrylic or Gouache


All in all, gouache is made up of gum Arabic, whereas acrylic is formed with acrylic polymer. The main difference is that acrylic gives a glossy look to the painting, whereas gouache becomes matte, smooth, and flat when dry. Acrylic is more affordable than gouache paint. Acrylic is durable and flexible and can be applied to several surfaces. They are tactile and can be used to create different types of textures. Gouache, on the other hand, can be reactivated after drying and can be reworked. Acrylic cannot be reactivated.


Can I mix gouache and acrylic?

Yes, you can mix gouache and acrylic paints. But keep in mind that combining them can result in some changes to the final look and appearance of the paint. Therefore, it is advised to mix the paint in small quantities first and check the result while painting on a spare surface. 

Do professionals use gouache?

Gouache has a long history of being used by illustrators for cartoon depictions because of its flat look, similar to the appearance of digital art. It creates perfect 2D effects. However, when it comes to artists, most prefer using oil or acrylic paints.

Is acrylic better than gouache?

Yes, acrylic proves better than gouache in terms of durability, textures, flexibility, and price. However, gouache has a competitive edge when painting requires the reactivation of paint.

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