Why gouache is so expensive


Gouache is a fun and versatile medium to work with, but it can be expensive. If you’re wondering why gouache is so expensive, here are some insights.

Gouache is a mix of pigments, filler, binder, moisturizer, matting agents and preservative. The proportion of each ingredient vary with brands, and is often kept secret. Basically, what makes the price is the amount of pigments in the tube.

Some brands (always) use opacifiers in gouache

This is a common practice to give gouache more body. But it also means that your colors won’t be as deeply saturated and vibrant as without these additives. The opaque ingredients are what makes gouache so chalky or milky-looking. This can have an effect on how we perceive color and lightness/darkness of any painting we make with them.

This is particularly true for cheap brands that rely on the filler, explaining the low price.

Good quality gouache can be diluted without loosing intensity

Some brands use only pigments

Some brands use pigments that tend to be naturally opaque and load the formulation with so much pigment that opacity is the result. This makes gouache more expensive than watercolor or acrylics. Those other types of paints don’t need as much pigment in order for them to dry opaquely on paper or canvas.

When the pigment is transparent, an opacifier is added

Some opacifiers are used in gouache so the paint is more opaque and intense. The most common of these is titanium white, but other materials include chalk and talc. The amount of opacifier is minimal, though, about 10% of the total. Pigment is always the first component in the tube.

The opacifier quality has a great impact on the final painting. Low quality opacifiers give a chalky finish, high quality won’t degrade the color.

Some pigments are expensive

The price of gouache paints varies depending on the pigments used, some being more pricey than others.

In artist or designer range, you’ll have different prices for colors, classified by series or levels.

  • Level 1 – typically contains less expensive pigments like Lemon Yellow, Burnt Umber, Blacks, Burnt Sienna…
  • Level 2 – mid-priced pigments like Magenta, Turquoise blue, Sap green
  • Level 3 – highest priced pigments like Cadmiums or Cadmium-free,
You sometimes need a pricey pigment for a great result

I hope this article helped you understand why gouache is so expensive. But being so highly pigmented, you don’t need a lot paint to cover your paper or canvas.

If you are thinking of buying some gouache, I recommend buying the best quality that you can afford.

Cecile Yadro

I believe that art can help you express yourself, find your voice, and discover who you are. And I want to help you do that. I've seen how powerful my classes can be for more than 20,000 students. In my classes, I focus on giving you the tools you need to express yourself and make your creativity take flight!

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