gouache how to

Creating Textures and Dimension with Gouache

Gouache is a paint comparable to watercolor but with a thicker consistency and the ability to produce more brilliant and opaque colors. It is a popular medium among artists since it is versatile and simple, making it an excellent choice for novice and experienced painters. 

The ability to produce textures is one of gouache’s qualities. Whether you’re working on a precise portrait or something more abstract, the different techniques and approaches you can use with gouache can add depth and interest to your work.

Table of Contents

Supplies needed:

You will need a few essential tools and materials to start using gouache to create textures. These may include:

  • Gouache paints in various colors, any brand will do
  • Brushes of different sizes and shapes
  • Water and a mixing palette
  • Support or surface to paint on, such as watercolor paper or canvas
  • Optional materials, such as a spray bottle, palette knife, or toothbrush, for creating special effects.

With these tools and materials, you can begin exploring the various techniques for creating textures with gouache.

Dry brush technique:

The dry brush will only pick up a small quantity of paint, resulting in a textured and slightly faded impression. You should apply enough pressure to a flat brush to apply paint. Dip your brush into the paint and wipe away any excess with a paper towel or tissue. Use a light touch, applying just enough paint to cover the paper. You can apply a series of strokes or just one stroke with the brush. 

Cross-hatching and stippling are two brushstrokes that can produce diverse textures. Your marks will be very harsh if your material has texture (such as cold-press watercolor paper or canvas).

Try this technique on various substrates for different effects. 


To create a textured effect from rubbing, you can use a soft rag to wipe the surface of your painting to remove some of the paint and leave behind an uneven surface with visible streaks. You must do it when the paint is fresh or reactivate it with a spritz before rubbing. 

Gouache textures
Tapping the fresh gouache paint with a rag will give interesting textures for furs

Gouache Spattering:

To create a spattered texture, you can dip the end of a brush into a mix of liquid gouache and tap the brush gently against your thumb or a palette knife to flick droplets of paint onto the surface. You will need to add enough water to your gouache so the droplets can spread on your surface, and thick paint is unsuitable for this technique.

Alternatively, you can use a toothbrush to create a more even spatter. For this, rub the toothbrush with your thumb to create droplets. It’s best to practice on loose paper before applying it to your artwork, as this can get messy! 

Gouache Whipping:

Whipping is an excellent technique for creating a textured background. To do this, mix your paint with water until it is thin enough to flow freely from the brush. Then, dip your brush into the mixture and drag it diagonally across your surface. You can also use circular motions or straight lines to create different patterns. 

You can also use a paint roller instead of a brush. Pour some liquid paint on your surface and roll it across using the roller until it is evenly coated. This creates a nice texture for the backgrounds. Some rollers have a sponge texture, and it will leave some interesting marks on your background. If you want to keep its texture, use acrylic paint instead of gouache. 

Gouache Stippling:

To create a stippled texture, you can use a brush or a palette knife to tap small paint dots onto the surface. The dots can be applied randomly or in a pattern to create different effects. You will need to protect your desk and things with plastic, or do this outside, as it’s impossible to control exactly the stippling. 

You will make large movements with the arm to give an attractive shape to the stippling. Messy as hell but very effective!

Palette knife:

Use a palette knife to spread paint onto the surface. You can use a circular motion or stippling movements with your hand’s palm to create different effects. Take the paint directly from the tube, without water, for this technique. You can also mix different colors on the palette knife for more exciting results. This technique is very effective when you want to make large areas of color and texture in your work.

Gouache textures
Spreading the gouache withe a palette knife

Gouache Brush Tapping

If you have one, gently tap a stencil brush in the fresh paint, so you have paint in some parts of the brush but only in some parts. Then apply the brush vertically to the surface for some nice stains of color. You should wipe off the paint between two tapping sessions to always have a dry brush before grabbing more paint. 

Gouache Scratching and scraping:

You can create a textured effect by scratching or scraping through the wet paint with a palette knife or other sharp tool. This can be a great way to add texture to a background or to create a distressed look. Beware not to damage the substrate, apply your scratch marks in a controlled manner, and do not overdo it! 

Gouache textures
Scratching the paint with a palette knife


You may create a wide range of textures with gouache by experimenting with these techniques and combining them in different ways. So take your paints and experiment with these ways! Gouache is a flexible and exciting medium that may help you bring your artistic ideas to life, whether you are a novice or an established artist. And if you want to learn how to create textures and dimensions with gouache, I have a complete class available here!

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