AskDefine | Define gouache

Dictionary Definition



1 an opaque watercolor prepared with gum
2 a watercolor executed with opaque watercolors mixed with gum

User Contributed Dictionary



from the Italian guazzo meaning "water paint, splash"


  1. A thick, opaque watercolour paint made with gum containing an inert white pigment to make it opaque
  2. A painting made with this paint

Extensive Definition

Gouache (from the Italian guazzo, "water paint, splash") or bodycolor (the term preferred by art historians) is a type of paint consisting of pigment suspended in water. Gouache differs from watercolor in that the particles are larger, the ratio of pigment to water is much higher, and an additional, inert, white pigment such as chalk is also present. (Gum Arabic is also present as a binding agent just like in water colour.) This makes gouache heavier and more opaque, with greater reflective qualities.


"Guazzo" was originally a term applied to the early 16th century practice of applying oil paint over a tempera base. The term was applied to the watermedia in the 18th century in France, although the technique is considerably older. It was used as early as the 14th century in Europe.


Gouache generally dries to a different value than it appears when wet (lighter tones generally dry darker, while darker tones tend to dry lighter), which can make it difficult to match colors over multiple painting sessions. This, combined with its quick coverage and total hiding power, mean that gouache lends itself to more immediate techniques than watercolour. "En plein air" paintings take advantage of this, as do works by J.M.W. Turner. It is used most consistently by commercial artists for works such as posters, illustrations, comics, and for other design work. For example, comics illustrators like Alex Ross use mostly gouache for their work. Industrial Designer and Visual Futurist Syd Mead also works primarily in gouache. Most 20th Century animations used it to create an opaque color on a cel with watercolor paint used for backgrounds, and gouache as "poster paint" is desirable for its speed and durability.
One variation of the medium is gouaches découpées created by Henri Matisse, cut paper collages. His Blue Nudes series is a good example of the technique.


gouache in Arabic: ألوان جواش
gouache in Bulgarian: Гваш
gouache in Bengali: গুয়াশ
gouache in Czech: Kvaš
gouache in German: Gouache
gouache in Spanish: Gouache
gouache in Esperanto: Guaŝo
gouache in French: Gouache
gouache in Croatian: Gvaš
gouache in Italian: Guazzo
gouache in Hebrew: גואש
gouache in Hungarian: Gouache
gouache in Dutch: Gouache
gouache in Japanese: ガッシュ
gouache in Norwegian: Gouache
gouache in Polish: Gwasz
gouache in Portuguese: Guache
gouache in Russian: Гуашь
gouache in Serbian: Гваш
gouache in Finnish: Guassi
gouache in Swedish: Gouache
gouache in Chinese: 水粉画
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