Difference Between Acrylic, Gouache, and Watercolor Paints

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It feels like you’re going on an endless journey when you start playing with paints. Acrylics, gouache, and watercolors are three paints that always catch my eye out of all the others. Each one has its appeal, giving me a wide range of options for how to show myself artistically. I’ll tell you about what I found and how these paints are different so that you can find your way on your artistic journey.

Based on experience, I have learned that acrylic paints offer versatility and durability, gouache provides opacity and reuse of water properties, while watercolors excel in transparency and fluidity. Each type of paint offers unique characteristics suited to different artistic styles and techniques.

Acrylic Paints

    • Versatile: Suitable for various surfaces like canvas, wood, and metal.
    • Fast Drying: Dries quickly, allowing for efficient layering and shorter drying times.
    • Durable: Creates a permanent, water-resistant finish, ensuring long-lasting artwork.

    Gouache Paints

      • Opacity: Offers excellent coverage and vibrant colors with minimal bleed-through.
      • Unlimited Use of Water: Dried gouache can be reactivated with water, enabling reworking and blending.
      • Matte Finish: Dries to a matte surface, enhancing the richness of colors and textures.

      Watercolor Paints

        • Transparency: Known for its transparent quality, allowing for delicate washes and layering.
        • Fluidity: Flows effortlessly across the paper, creating organic gradients and soft transitions.
        • Easy Cleanup: Water-soluble, making cleanup simple with just water and a brush.

        Acrylic Paint

        When I reach for acrylic paint, I’m drawn to its versatility and resilience. Something about the way it feels thick and dries quickly makes it feel like my creative process. When I paint with acrylics, I love being able to mix colors, add textures, and try out big lines. Acrylics always give me bright colors and strong impressions, no matter what I’m working on (canvas, wood, or even metal).

        However, I’ve learned to be mindful of acrylics’ quick-drying tendencies. They stay put once they set, so I need to work quickly to mix the colors smoothly. Because they are so flexible and last a long time, acrylic paints are an important part of my art supplies, even though they can be hard to work with.

        Gouache Paint

        Ah, gouache – the opaque wonder that adds a touch of magic to my creations. I love the rich colors and smooth finish of gouache every time I dip my brush in it. Unlike its clear peers, gouache calls to me with its assurance of bold, expressive strokes, and perfect coverage. Going through a world of fine details and exact highlights is what I love about gouache. Each layer gives my composition more depth.

        What makes gouache stand out for me is that it can be wet again. I can try new things without worrying about making mistakes because I know that a splash of water can bring dried paint back to life. But I’ve learned to be careful because too much scrubbing or coating can throw off the colors’ delicate balance. Even with this caveat, gouache is still one of my favorite art supplies because each stroke opens up a world of possibilities.

        Watercolor Paint

        Watercolors, oh how they captivate me with their ethereal beauty and delicate transparency. When I paint with watercolors, I feel like I’m in a place of peace and flow. As I paint, I watch as the colors mix and bleed into each other, making soft washes and glowing effects that move across the paper.

        Still, it’s not easy to get good at painting. By making mistakes, I’ve learned how important it is to get the right mix of water and pigment. My colors lose their brightness when I use too much water, and they get streaky when I use too little. Despite these challenges, the sheer allure of watercolors keeps me coming back, each painting a testament to the delicate interplay of light and color.

        Pros of Acrylic Paints

        1. Versatility: Acrylic paints are incredibly versatile and suitable for various surfaces, including canvas, wood, metal, and more.
        2. Fast Drying: Acrylic paints dry quickly, allowing for faster layering and shorter drying times between coats.
        3. Durability: Once dried, acrylic paints create a permanent and water-resistant surface, ensuring the longevity of the artwork.

        Cons of Acrylic Paints

        1. Quick Drying: It can be beneficial at times, however, the fast-drying nature of acrylics can make blending and reworking challenging, requiring artists to work efficiently.
        2. Color Shift: Acrylic paints may undergo slight color shifts as they dry, necessitating careful color mixing and matching.
        3. Plastic-Like Finish: Acrylic paints tend to dry with a plastic-like finish, which may not be desirable for artists seeking a more traditional aesthetic.

        Pros of Gouache Paints

        1. Opacity: Gouache paints offer excellent opacity, allowing for vibrant colors and precise detailing without underlying layers bleeding through.
        2. Unlimited Use of Water: Dried gouache can be reactivated with water, enabling artists to rework and blend colors even after the paint has dried.
        3. Matte Finish: Gouache dries to a matte finish, providing a velvety surface that enhances the richness of colors and textures.

        Cons of Gouache Paints

        1. Layering Challenges: Excessive layering or scrubbing may cause the underlying layers of gouache to lift or mix unintentionally.
        2. Limited Transparency: Unlike watercolors, gouache lacks transparent quality, which may limit certain artistic techniques.
        3. Drying Time: Gouache may take longer to dry compared to acrylics, requiring patience and careful handling to avoid smudging.

        Pros of Watercolor Paints

        1. Transparency: Watercolors are known for their transparent quality, allowing for delicate washes and subtle layering that reveal the texture of the paper.
        2. Fluidity: Watercolors flow effortlessly across the paper, creating organic gradients and soft transitions that evoke a sense of movement and spontaneity.
        3. Easy Cleanup: Watercolor paints are water-soluble, making cleanup a breeze with just water and a brush.

        Cons of Watercolor Paints

        1. Staining: Watercolor pigments may stain the paper, making it challenging to correct mistakes or lift colors once they’ve dried.
        2. Control Challenges: Achieving precise control over watercolors requires mastering the delicate balance of water and pigment, which can be challenging for beginners.
        3. Lightfastness: Some watercolor pigments may fade over time when exposed to light, requiring artists to use high-quality, lightfast paints for archival purposes.


        As I finish learning about acrylics, gouache, and watercolors, I’ve found a wide range of artistic possibilities. Because each paint is different, it has left an indelible mark on my artistic journey. The flexibility and durability of acrylics appeal to me, as they give me a solid base for experimenting with my art. When I use gouache, it’s all about the fine details and direct lines that give my paintings depth and richness. Then there are watercolors, which always capture me with their ethereal brightness and delicate stories of light and color.

        Being able to tell the differences between these paints has given me the courage and drive to explore the vast world of artistic expression. Each medium gives me a different place to express my creativity, whether I’m using acrylics for their bold strokes, gouache for their fine detail, or watercolors for their fluid grace. If you want to go on your artistic journey, I encourage you to follow the many directions that acrylics, gouache, and watercolors can take you.

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        Shawn C

        Hi! I’m Shawn and I Love Coloring and Art and the people in it! I created this website as a resource to help those who are considering getting into adult coloring. My website is your one-stop destination for all the inspired instruction and resources you need to start and grow your adult coloring hobby. From geometric to floral to zen doodles and from time to time even mandala’s when I am in the mood. I have researched and gathered the information to help you in your goal of starting your adult coloring hobby.

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