I’ve always wanted to try some version of matte acrylics so when Liquitex announced they were introducing a line of acrylic gouache, I knew I wanted to give them a try. There are fifty colors to choose from and they range from opaque to semi-opaque. They also offer sets of primary colors or fluorescent colors.
In this review, I’m using the set of primary colors. I paid for them myself, so this is an unbiased review.
Acrylic Gouache and Gouache Are Not the Same
I think there’s some confusion about what acrylic gouache is, so that’s a good place to begin.
What is acrylic gouache?
Acrylic gouache is an opaque, matte acrylic paint that has a consistency similar to gouache. It dries to a matte surface and it’s not as thick as heavy body acrylics. All of the other characteristics of acrylic paint remain. It dries fast and it’s waterproof when dry. It’s flexible, so you can apply it in thick layers without having it crack as it dries. Gouache is pronounced “gwash.”
You can add ultra matte medium to regular acrylic paint to make it dry to a matte finish, but doing so will also increase the transparency. One of the main characteristics of gouache is that it’s very opaque. Liquitex describes their acrylic gouache as “ultra pigmented.” That implies they contain more pigment than their regular acrylics.
Regular gouache is essentially opaque watercolor. It uses gum arabic as a binder so it’s water soluble even after it dries. This can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending upon how you prefer to work. If you want to work back into an area to soften an edge, then you can do that with a wet brush. On the other hand, when you paint over an area, you have to be careful not to lift the previous application of paint. Thick layers of gouache are also prone to cracking, especially on flexible supports.
So why do they call this paint acrylic gouache if it doesn’t contain gouache? It’s mostly a marketing decision. They could call it “matte soft body acrylics” or “matte acrylics.”
The New Liquitex Bottle Design
Liquitex designed new bottles for their line of gouache and soft body acrylics. I’ve only completed one painting with the new acrylic gouache, but so far I think these new bottles are fantastic. They offer many advantages over conventional paint tubes. They’re also completely different than the previous bottles they used for their soft body acrylics.
No Threads on the Cap
These new bottles have a top that just pops off to reveal a flexible tip. There are no threads on the cap that can get clogged up with paint. One of the most annoying things about paint tubes is when paint builds up around the threads and prevents you from screwing the cap back on.
Another pet peeve I have with regular paint tubes is when you get paint on the threads and screw the cap back on. The dry paint works like glue and the next time you go to use it, you have trouble twisting the cap off. This is a problem because if you use to much force to open it, the tube may split open. This is especially true with metal tubes that tend to tear along the creases.
Struggling with opening a tube of paint interrupts the flow of working on a painting. When I’m “in the zone,” I don’t want to stop to fight with a cap that doesn’t want to budge.
One way to remove a stuck cap is to wrap a rag around the cap to get a better grip on it. This works well on tube caps that have ridges on them.
Anyway, the caps on these Liquitex bottles are very easy to open. You just pop them off without twisting. When you’re done, just push the cap down until you hear a click. So far, I haven’t had any paint build up on the caps or experienced any other trouble. There are threads along the mouth of the jar but these shouldn’t get clogged with paint because the paint comes out of the tip.
You Can Customize the Tip
The tips of the bottle are made from a soft plastic material that you can cut with a pair of scissors. I find that I like the size of the opening the way it is. If you prefer a larger opening, so you can squeeze out more paint on your palette, it would be easy to make it larger. You can also cut it at an angle if that’s what you prefer.
What I like most about the newly designed tip of the bottle is that it really allows me to control how much paint I squeeze out. Previously, their line of soft body paints were available in tubes. Since the soft body paint has a thin consistency, I would sometimes squeeze too much out on the palette by accident.
The soft body acrylics are also being updated to the new bottle design. While the old bottles did help to prevent too much paint from being squeezed out, I found that the plastic hinge would sometimes break. The addition of the extended tip to the new bottle is an improvement.
The longer tip on the new bottle design allows you to see what you’re doing and squeeze the paint out into smaller areas on your palette.
I had the idea that you could use the tip as a paint applicator. You could also wash it out and fill it up with custom colors that you mix yourself.
Wide Mouth Bottle
You can unscrew the tip off of the new bottle. This should come in handy when you’re running out of paint and you want to use up every last drop of it. The wide mouth bottle should allow you to get in there with a palette knife or brush.
Ergonomic Bottle Design
Liquitex advertises the new bottle design as ergonomic. I didn’t think much about it at first. But after writing about the problems with regular paint tubes, I think it’s a big improvement. As I stated above, I’ve only completed one painting with them. But I doubt if the cap is going to get clogged up with paint because it’s more fluid than heavy body acrylics.
The new design allows you to pop the lid off with ease. The bottles are soft enough so the paint is easy to squeeze out. Trying to squeeze the last bit of paint out from a tube requires a lot of pressure from your finger tips.
If you use regular paint tubes, I recommend getting yourself a tube wringer. It will allow you to get more paint out from the tubes, and it will save your hands.
You can stack these bottles of paint on top of each other. This feature will allow you to store them on a shelf so that they take up less space. They’re a little wobbly when they’re stacked, but it does give them a more organized appearance. My tubes of paint are always crammed into a box, or sprawled out on my work surface.
Testing the Acrylic Gouache
Traditional gouache has a very matte surface. It dries to a velvety surface with no noticeable sheen. Acrylics are generally glossy, but it depends upon the pigment. Most manufactures formulate their acrylic paints so that they dry to a similar surface sheen. Every color has a similar level of sheen. Golden is one of the few manufacturers that doesn’t alter the sheen of the paint. I think it’s because they want to keep additives to a minimum. Some of their acrylic paints are glossy while others dry to a matte surface.
Most of the Liquitex gouache colors in the set of primaries dry to a matte surface. However, I did notice the black has a little bit of shine to it. It’s more noticeable if you apply it in a thicker layer. The Emerald Green also has this problem to some extent. It’s less of an issue if you’re painting on paper.
If this is a problem for you, you can add a little bit of Liquitex Ultra Matte Medium to the color and it will dry to a very matte finish. The ultra matte medium is semi opaque so it may lighten the color if you add too much of it. It’s best to mix up more paint than you think you need because it can be difficult to match the surface sheen later. I had this problem with the background gradient in my demo painting. I remixed more dark gray but the surface sheen didn’t match.
I have a hunch that this medium is acrylic gouache without the pigment, it has a similar matte surface and it’s opaque. You can use it to extend your acrylic gouache. Mediums are less expensive than paint because they don’t contain pigments, so you’re saving money when you add them to your paint.
Another use for this medium is to add it to regular acrylics to make them look look like gouache. There are some colors that aren’t available in the acrylic gouache line so this is one way that you can add those colors to your acrylic gouache paintings.
One issue with almost every matte paint I have ever used is that the surface is more susceptible to scuffing than glossy paint. I wiped part of the painting with a wet rag and I could see that it changed the surface of the painting slightly. I think what’s happening is the rag buffs the surface of the paint and changes the sheen ever so slightly.
The acrylic gouache isn’t water soluble after it dries. It behaves exactly like acrylic paint. Once it’s dry, you can’t rework it with a wet brush or lift it like watercolor. The advantage of this is you can safely paint over previous layers without having to worry about lifting previous applications of paint. This can be a great advantage if you prefer to work in layers.
Regular gouache can be lifted and worked back into. You can use this to your advantage to soften edges or to work back into areas after they’re dry.
Working in thin layers on paper with regular gouache works well, I’ve never had a problem with cracking. However, if you apply thick impasto brushstrokes, it may crack after it dries. You may notice that if you leave regular gouache to dry on a palette it usually cracks as it dries.
Acrylic gouache is flexible so you can apply thicker layers without it cracking. The consistency of it is similar to the soft body acrylics so it smooths out a little as it dries. Brush marks won’t show in thicker applications of acrylic gouache.
Most of the colors are fairly opaque. The one exception in the set of primary colors is the Primary Yellow. It’s very transparent although it’s listed as semi-opaque on the color chart.
I have yet to try the Cadmium Free Yellow Light in the acrylic gouache line, but the color chart lists it as semi-opaque. The only yellow in the color chart that they claim is opaque is Cadmium Free Yellow Medium. It’s more of a yellow orange, but it may be worth trying out if you need an opaque yellow.
The color chart identifies 13 of the 50 colors as semi-opaque, and the rest of them are opaque. The Emerald Green and the Titanium White are probably the most opaque colors in the set.
The transparency of the yellow made it more difficult for me to paint the orange in the demo painting. I added some white to it to make it more opaque, but I didn’t want to add too much because it would make it too light. A second application of color made it more opaque.
These paints are available in 2oz (59ml) bottles, although there are a couple of sets that contains smaller .75oz (22 ml) bottles. The price is on par with their other lines of acrylic paints.
I haven’t tried any other brands of acrylic gouache but I have noticed that some of them are more expensive than Liquitex. A small tube of acrylic gouache may appear to be less expensive, but it contains much less paint. When you calculate the cost per milliliter, the Liquitex gouache is less expensive.
The only accurate way to compare prices is to compare what it costs for an equal volume of paint. To figure out what the paint costs per milliliter, just divide the price by the milliliters it contains. I wrote more about this in How to Save Money on Art Supplies. As I state in that post, acrylic paint can cost up to $960 per gallon so it’s prudent to learn how to conserve it.
Thanks for details. I’ve been using acrylics for seven years but never really focused on anything but store bought colors. Before that it was Marshall Oils for tinting b&w photos.
Looking for ways to be better. A healing dream of a very bright blue sky with a very yellow flower opening in slow motion inspired my art.
My favorite line of matte acrylics that us archival and permanent is Chroma’s Josonja line. Very wonderfully priced and works beautifully. Very creamy not plasticy like most acrylics. Just add some magic mix (extender) and a little water and it’s the perfect medium
Thanks Ashley for the recommendation, I’ll have to have try a tube to see if I like them.