Liquitex Gouache Demo Painting

“Tea Kettle” Acrylic Gouache on canvas. 12″x12″

I use a 12″x12″ gallery wrapped canvas for this painting. I like to apply an additional coat of gesso to the canvases that I buy from the store. The gesso they use is a little too smooth for my preference.  Gesso that’s not entirely dry is difficult to draw on, so I then allow it to dry overnight.

I like to work from reference photos. To make the drawing progress faster, I use the grid technique. The basic idea is that you draw the same grid on the reference photo and the canvas. Then you can focus on drawing the shapes inside of each square. This will allow you to get the placement and the size of the shapes correct. I can draw accurately without the grid, but I sometimes use it to speed up the process.

This is the initial drawing. You can see the faint grid lines in the background. I use a watercolor pencil for the rest of the drawing because it’s easy to erase with a wet rag.

Pencil doesn’t erase very well on canvas. So I use it to draw the grid lines. Then I use a watercolor pencil for the drawing. If I make a mistake with the drawing, I can wipe it off with a wet rag while the grid lines drawn in pencil will remain.

If you like to use a darker ground such as Burnt Sienna, you can draw with a white watercolor pencil so that it stands out more. The white doesn’t tint the acrylic paint when you paint over it. However, the dark gray watercolor pencil will smear into the lighter colors as you paint over them. To avoid this problem, I brush over the watercolor pencil lines with a wet paint brush or a rag. This spreads the watercolor pencil around and helps to add a little bit of shading to the canvas.

My First Impressions of the Acrylic Gouache

The first thing I noticed about it was that it seems to blend a little easier than regular acrylics. I noticed it when I tested out the colors on a sheet of paper. I have no idea why this is. Perhaps because it’s thinner in consistency than regular acrylics. Or maybe it’s the matting agents that helps with blending. It’s not a dramatic difference but it does seem like an improvement.

I began this painting by working on the background, starting with the gray on the left side and working my way over to where it turns almost black. I’ve been writing about mixing your own black, but in this painting I’m using the black from the set. I thought it was a good idea to test out all of the colors that were included in the set.

This is the top left section of the background. The glossy surface of the wet paint is darker than the matte dry surface.

Another thing I noticed is the black actually dries lighter. You may find that surprising because acrylics typically dry darker. The explanation for this is the black paint is glossy when wet but it dries to a matte surface. It’s the matte surface that makes it appear lighter. I wrote about this in Why do Acrylics Dry Darker. In that post, I include a photograph of swatch of dry matte black acrylic and compare it against a swatch of matte black that’s still wet. The dry matte black appears lighter when it’s dry. I believe it’s the way that light reflects off of a matte surface that makes it appear lighter.

In the early stages of painting the tea pot, I test out which colors to use. The color of the tea pot may look too dark, but compare them to the photo reference below.
When you view the colors from the tea pot on a white background, you can see how dark they are.

Glare Free Surface Sheen

Many of my acrylic paintings are very glossy. The gloss brings out the colors and makes the dark areas appear darker. But a glossy finish has one major disadvantage–glare.

Glossy paintings are difficult to photograph without getting glare from the lights, especially if the painting has a lot of texture. The glare can become a distraction when you hang it on the wall, you have to be careful where you place the lights in the room so that the glare won’t become a distraction.

The acrylic gouache dries to a matte surface, although the black areas have a little bit of surface sheen. Adding a little bit of ultra matte medium into the black should help make it dry to a matte surface that matches the rest of the colors.

The First Layer of Color

The first layer of color is complete. There are some white gaps around the edges that I have to fill in. From here it’s a matter of how much detail that I want to add.

At this point I have color all over the entire surface of the canvas. There are a few edges with white bits of canvas showing through, but most of the basic colors are there. It’s surprising how you can achieve the basic illusion of a still life by blocking in the basic colors. As the painting progresses, it seems like the progress slows down because each adjustment becomes more subtle. The early stages of the painting include many bold moves but the details take a lot more time. The difficult part of painting is knowing when to stop. If you want to achieve a realistic effect, you have to add in the details and correct some of the problems with the colors and values.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m impressed with these paints. I like the consistency and I don’t feel as though I need to thin them out. Most of the colors are fairly opaque, especially when you consider how thin of a layer you can apply to the canvas. The exception is Primary Yellow which is semi-opaque.

I like the matte surface, the lack of glare makes it easier to photograph and display in your home.

My only complaint about these paints is that the Mars Black has a little bit of shine to it when you apply it in a thicker layer. Some areas of the painting are very matte and other parts of the black areas have more shine. Adding the Ultra Matte Medium helps but it’s another variable to factor into your color mixing. If you add too much it will appear more flat than the other areas of the painting. I was thinking of adding the Ultra Matte Medium straight into the bottle of black. I could add a little at a time until it has the same surface sheen as the rest of the colors. In all fairness, the black appears as matte as the other colors when you apply a single layer to a paper.

Blending seems easier with these acrylics than regular acrylics. I’m not sure if it’s because of the thin consistency or perhaps it’s the matting agents that help with blending. They dry just as fast as regular acrylics so you still have to blend quickly or mist the paint with water to help extend the time you have for blending.

The redesigned bottles are a brilliant idea. It may seem like a small change but I don’t miss the problems that regular tubes have: stuck on caps, tubes that break open, caps that won’t screw on properly, difficult to squeeze tubes etc.

The price is reasonable, especially considering that the bottle contains as much as a regular tube of acrylic paint. I’ll probably use them again for painting on canvas and in sketchbooks. If you’re interested in acrylic gouache, I would recommend trying out the Liquitex acrylic gouache.

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  1. John Bigham says:

    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.

  2. Ashley Kosko says:

    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

    1. Thanks Ashley for the recommendation, I’ll have to have try a tube to see if I like them.

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