Difference between Gouache and Watercolor
By Andrew Parker - June 5, 2023

At first glance, Watercolor and gouache may appear to be practically identical mediums as both are made from water-soluble pigments and binders. When given further attention, however, it is clear that both paints have distinct qualities that allow them to be distinguished. They even use the same papers and brushes.


Gouache, also known as body color or opaque Watercolor, is a water-based paint that consists of natural pigment, water, a binding agent (usually gum arabic or dextrin), and sometimes additional inert material. That is meant to improve the reflectivity of the gouache, making it heavier and more opaque overall. Gouache has a long history, having been used for at least a thousand years. Commercial artists frequently utilize it for posters, drawings, comics, and other design work.
Watercolors are paints blended with water to create transparent layers of color on paper to scatter the binder (such as glue, casein, or gum). According to historians, watercolor painting has been known since Paleolithic cave drawings, but it was during the Renaissance when watercolors acquired appeal as an artistic medium.

Gouache vs Watercolor

Gouache contains larger pigment particles that are packed more densely together than watercolors. Large, closely packed particles let less light get through, which is why gouache is opaque. Watercolor articles are less densely packed, allowing air and light to pass through. Manufacturers also occasionally add in white pigment or chalk to enhance opacity. Watercolor provides the artwork with a radiant sheen that contrasts with the matte finish of gouache.
Because of its opacity, gouache is ideal for illustrators who wish to ensure precise photography and reproduction of their work. This is because gouache dries rapidly, enables the painter to produce gigantic blocks of color quickly, and can be utilized to show minute details, all of which are vital for illustrators. On the other hand, Watercolor is less controlled and dries considerably slower, and it is employed for different types of illustration, such as botanical literature, where it originally became popular.