Whether you’re just starting or already paint regularly, gouache and acrylic are among the most used paints. Easier to use than oil paint, they can be found just as easily in the fine arts sections as in arts and crafts shops. While gouache is well known for keeping school children busy in art class, acrylic is a paint of choice for fine art students and the most prestigious academies.

Both are appropriate for beginners who would like to start painting at home.

So what should you consider when choosing between gouache and acrylic paints? Both being water-based, what are their main differences? Here is our guide to help you understand their specificities and know which one to choose when starting out.


Children often use gouache for the artwork that may hang for years on the family refrigerator. Its opaque colours and its ease of use also make it a favourite among professional illustrators. It is also the perfect companion for your travel journals as you can paint quickly in situ without sacrificing the intensity of the colours.

On Instagram, over 1 million creative posts are tagged with the #gouachepainting hashtag. Without a doubt, gouache is making its great comeback as a paint of choice for the most demanding artists, whether for sketches or complete works.

The advantages of gouache:

  • • It is a water-based paint made with a natural binder and meet the CE conformity standards (except for the Caran d’Ache fluorescent colours).
  • • Ready to use and dilutable
  • • Relatively resistant to colour fading
  • • Can be transparent or opaque depending on how much water is used to paint.
  • • It is reusable by simply adding water (a painting can be reworked if it hasn’t been varnished).
  • • It comes in different sizes suited to all budgets (tablet, tube, bottle).
  • • It adheres to any non-oily surface (paper and dyed paper, wood, plastic, canvas, cardboard).

The drawbacks of gouache:

  • • The completed work must be varnished to avoid water damage.
  • • It does not adhere to plastic, metal or glass.
Tip: The Caran d’Ache gouache doesn’t crack thanks to its exceptionally velvety texture. The quality of the gouache allows you paint in thick and sucessive layers.


Painting with gouache: looking after your supplies, protecting the work

Painting with gouache is the easiest on your tools and you can clean your work surfaces afterwards with water. You can protect your clothes with a simple smock. If there is any paint left over on your hands, on the palet or on your paintbrushes, soapy water will easily wash away the stains. 

The best way to keep your work in optimal conditions is to varnish your gouache paintings and frame them under glass. It is best to expose your work out of direct sunlight to preserve it in the long-run. 
©Arnaud CHILDERIC - Studio Kalice



Acrylic paint is on the list of supplies that most art students are advised to have. Like gouache, it is a water-based paint made of pigment suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion (a type of plastic).

Acrylic paint is characterised by its shiny and satiny finish when dry. It is usually mixed with water, though you can use specific products known as mediums to dilute it. 

The advantages of acrylic:

  • • Thick texture and flexible nature - acrylic paint does not crack.
  • • Faint odor
  • • Quick drying
  • • Excellent coverage
  • • It can be used on almost any surface (paper, cloth, cardboard, plastic, metal, etc.)
  • • Time and UV resistant
  • • It can be mixed with many other materials to create different effects (sand, earth, cornstarch, etc.)
  • • It can be used with many different tools (paintbrushes, palette knife, sponge, roller).
  • • It can be used in an infinite number of thin or thick layers. 
  • • It is within every artist's budget (beginner, student, and Matteo, professional).

The drawbacks of acrylic:

  • • It is necessary to clean your tools immediately.
  • • It is important to protect all your work surfaces because stains can be difficult to clean or even permanent.
  • • It is important to carefully close the top after use as acrylic is fast drying.
  • • It comes only in liquid form.
  • • A palet is necessary to mix colours.



Acrylic paint and glass can both be used on multiple surfaces. To get vivid colours it is recommended to use thick layers of paint, and wood, canvas or cardboard can all be painted with gouache or acrylic paint.

For better adherence, experienced artists also use a primer on the surface they wish to paint. For this it is necessary to use a medium that we recommend you test before use. Most paint mediums have an opaque colour when squeezed out of the tube but are quite transparent when dry. We recommend laying a medium on rough surfaces such as canvas before painting; as for glass, the medium will ensure better adherence of the colours. 

It is worth noting that the higher the quality of the paint (quality of the ingredients and pigments), the more vibrant the colours will be. What’s more, whatever the surface you are painting, a finishing varnish will protect your work over time.



Straight out of the tube, acrylic paint is water-soluble. This is why painters are able to apply it diluted as a transparent wash or in high coverage colour blocks. If you prefer to change the texture to make the paint more fluid without diluting the colour, consider adding a medium.

Once dry, acrylic paint is water-resistant. Water alone will not be enough to clean the stained surfaces and you will not be able to reuse colour combinations that have dried on the palette.



Gouache comes in dry tablet form, bottles and tubes.

In tablet form, you simply need to wet a paintbrush to gather colour on the pat and put it on the surface you wish to paint. This method adapts perfectly to paper. The advantage of a box of gouache tablets is that it is easy to carry around and can be used in every situation. The Caran d’Ache box sets have been designed to allow you to mix colours in the lids. The tablets are reusable and never go off. That said, this form does not always give the best coverage. For artists on the go, the most practical option is to choose waterbrushes.
When it comes in a tube or a bottle, gouache is fluid and can be used directly for a uniform layer of colour with a good coverage. It is also possible to dilute gouache with water according to the desired capacity and coverage. The palette is an excellent tool to mix your colours, dilute the paint, or keep colour mixtures that can be reused later.
Tip: Always keep a small tube of white gouache with you that will allow you to highlight your works for more relief.

Once you have finished your project, wash your supplies and your surfaces with soapy water.



Acrylic paint is available in tubes or bottles.

It is ready to use, can be mixed with other colours or diluted. There is an vast range of acrylic paints and it is up to you whether you only use primary colours to mix your own colours, or buy desired colours directly and make the most of the high quality pigments.
Used with a brush, roller, palette knife or sponge, acrylic paint offers a wide choice of possible techniques. Try using mediums or mix the paint with other materials to play with surface texture on your works. 

As soon as you have finished, you need to immediately clean your tools, supplies and surfaces with soapy water. Carefully close your tube or bottle as well. Take extra special care when it comes to cleaning your paintbrushes and drying them in good conditions. A paintbrush that dries with acrylic paint on it will be unusable. 
Gouache and acrylic are two paints that are ideal for anyone who would like to learn to paint. While they have a reputation of being paints for beginners, they are nevertheless very appreciated by experienced artists who, among other qualities, like the brightness obtained thanks to the very high concentration of pigments.
Now all that is left is for you to choose according to your creative impulses.

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