Mixed media

Gouache and Mixed Media: A Beginner’s Guide

Did you know that you can use gouache with different mediums? Gouache is versatile, and you can mix it with many other materials, including pastels, markers, ink, and acrylics. Join me as we explore the gouache and mixed media world and discover new ways to unleash your creativity.

Table of Contents

Tips for Getting Started with Gouache and Mixed Media

It’s best to start with gouache as your primary paint and then add other media. I like to use gouache as the base coat because it dries quickly, allowing me to layer on additional mediums without waiting to dry completely. But sometimes, I go the other way, with a first wash of acrylic and gouache on top. 

Choosing the Right mediums

Choosing the correct mediums for your gouache and mixed media projects is essential to achieving your desired results. Here are some tips to help you make the right choice:

  1. Quality Matters: Invest in high-quality gouache paints and other mediums to ensure that your artwork has vibrant color and good coverage. Look for brands that have a reputation for producing high-quality products. 
  2. Consider Your Needs: Consider what you want to achieve with your artwork. Different mediums offer different properties and capabilities, so choose the ones that best suit your needs. For example, if you want to create a textured effect, you might work with heavy-body acrylics or modeling paste.
  3. Experiment: Feel free to experiment with different mediums. You might discover that a particular medium works better for you than another.
  4. Budget: Set a budget for your materials and stick to it. While buying all the latest mediums may be tempting, it’s important to remember that quality is more important than quantity. Buying your supplies at the dollar store may seem a good idea initially, but the low quality will make you waste money. 
  5. Consider the Surface: Choose mediums compatible with the surface you will be working on. For example, if you’re working on paper, choose water-soluble mediums that won’t damage the paper.

Experimenting with Colors and Textures

Experimenting with colors and textures is a key aspect of working with gouache and mixed media. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Play with Color: Gouache offers a wide range of vibrant and bold colors, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try new combinations. Mix and match different hues to create unique color palettes for your artwork.
  2. Experiment with Textures: Try layering other mediums to create texture in your artwork. For example, you can use modeling paste to build texture or layer washes of gouache to create a soft, watercolor-like effect.
  3. Use Different Brushes: Try using different brush types and sizes to create different textures and marks. Experiment with round brushes for fine details, flat brushes for washes, and fan brushes to create soft, organic textures.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice: The best way to get comfortable experimenting with colors and textures is to practice. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and try new things.
  5. Keep a Sketchbook: Keep a sketchbook handy to experiment with different ideas and techniques. This will allow you to try new things without worrying about the final product and help you build your skills and confidence.
Gouache mixed media
Gouache with acrylic markers

Techniques for Using Gouache and Mixed Media

When it comes to gouache and mixed media techniques, it’s essential to think before applying different mediums to your surface. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Choose the proper surface to paint on:

Select the proper surface if you use a lot of water or will go with heavy consistencies. You can use different surfaces to paint with gouache: paper, stretched or taped, sketchbooks, wood, and cardboard. Wood would be perfect for thick consistencies, and paper would be better for wet techniques.

Think before Applying:

Before you start applying different mediums, consider their properties and compatibility. Acrylic paint is water-resistant when dry, so applying it before using gouache is best. Additionally, oil-based mediums should not be used as they are not water-based and can react negatively with the gouache. I’ve made tries, and all you’ll get is greasy paper!

Allow each layer to dry completely before applying the next one.

Play with Consistencies:

Experiment with different consistencies of gouache and acrylic paint to create various effects. Use a light wash of gouache for a soft, watercolor-like effect or a heavy-body acrylic for more intense color and texture.

Play with textures:

Gouache can be used as a watercolor but has its unique texture. Use paper towels to add texture to your painting, or use a sponge to create interesting effects. Scrape the surface of fresh acrylic with different tools, use stiff brushes for dry effects, and use stamps… the sky is the limit!

Gouache mixed media
Gouache with ink and acrylic markers

Mediums you can use with gouache

Acrylic Markers:

Markers can be a great way to add fine details and accents to your artwork. Choose markers that are water-based and suitable for use with gouache. The texture and color of gouache make it ideal for use with markers. Experiment with various brush pens, fine-tip markers, and even calligraphy pens for different effects. Use waterproof ink so it won’t bleed when you return to it. 


Some marker nibs may get clogged by gouache paint. To avoid this, you could use a dip pen, preferably a glass dip pen. The ink will flow on the gouache without getting damaged. Or use a small paintbrush: Dip the tip of a small paintbrush into ink and add lines on top of gouache. You can also use markers for this technique.

Colored Pencils:

Colored pencils can be a great way to add depth and texture to your gouache artwork. Apply colored pencils over the gouache and acrylic paint to add fine details and enhance the overall composition. 

Wax crayons:

Wax crayons can be used for drawing, painting, and writing. You can use wax crayons over gouache to create a textured effect. It can be water-soluble wax crayons diluted to create a soft effect too. 

You can experiment with more mediums: brushpen, oil pastels, soft pastels…

Gouache mixed media
Gouache with soft pastels


Gouache and mixed media offer a world of possibilities for artists of all levels. Whether you’re just starting or looking to expand your skillset, these mediums provide various options for creating beautiful and dynamic artwork. From choosing suitable mediums to experimenting with different techniques, the key to success with gouache and mixed media is to have fun and be willing to try new things. 

So grab your brushes and paints, and let your creativity take flight!