Can You Make Gouache Paint From Acrylic

In the world of art, creativity knows no bounds. Artists are constantly experimenting with different mediums and techniques to create unique and captivating works. One popular medium that has been gaining attention is gouache paint. Known for its vibrant colors and opaque finish, gouache has been a favorite among artists for centuries. However, if you’re a budding artist with a limited budget, you may wonder if you can achieve a similar effect with the more affordable acrylic paint. In this article, we will explore the question: Can you make gouache paint from acrylic?

What is Gouache Paint?

Definition of Gouache Paint

gouache paint is a type of water-based paint that is widely used in both fine art and illustration. It is known for its vibrant colors and opaque coverage, making it a popular choice among artists. Gouache is made by combining pigments with a binder, often gum arabic, resulting in a smooth and creamy consistency that can be easily applied to various surfaces.

Properties of Gouache Paint

Gouache paint has several distinctive properties that set it apart from other types of paint. First and foremost, it is highly opaque, meaning that it completely covers any underlying layers of paint or surface. Additionally, gouache has a matte finish, which gives it a unique and velvety appearance. It is also known for its vibrant and intense colors, as well as its ability to be reactivated with water even after it dries.

Characteristics of Gouache Paint

Gouache paint offers artists a range of desirable characteristics. One key aspect is its versatility – it can be used on a variety of surfaces, including paper, board, and canvas. Gouache is also easily blendable, allowing for the creation of smooth gradients and transitions between colors. Furthermore, it dries relatively quickly, making it convenient for artists who want to work on multiple layers or complete their artwork in a timely manner.

What is Acrylic Paint?

Definition of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a versatile and widely used type of paint that consists of pigment particles suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion. It was first developed in the mid-20th century and quickly gained popularity due to its versatility and ease of use. Acrylic paint can be thinned with water and dries to a water-resistant, flexible, and durable finish.

Properties of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint possesses several notable properties that contribute to its wide usage among artists. One of its main advantages is its fast drying time compared to other types of paint. Acrylic paint also offers a wide range of colors, from vibrant hues to more muted tones. Additionally, it can be applied to a variety of surfaces, including canvas, wood, paper, and even glass. Acrylic paint can also be layered, glazed, and textured, providing artists with an extensive range of possibilities.

Characteristics of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint has certain characteristics that make it a popular choice for artists. Its ability to adhere to almost any surface and its water resistance after drying make it a durable and long-lasting medium. Acrylic paint also retains its vibrant colors over time, thanks to its resistance to fading. Furthermore, acrylic paint can be easily mixed and modified, allowing artists to create unique and customized shades to suit their artistic vision.

Can You Make Gouache Paint From Acrylic

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Differences between Gouache and Acrylic Paint


One of the key differences between gouache and acrylic paint is their opacity. Gouache paint is highly opaque, providing solid coverage even with a single application. On the other hand, acrylic paint tends to be more translucent, requiring multiple layers to achieve a similar level of opacity. This characteristic makes gouache paint preferable for artists who desire a more opaque and solid color application.

Drying Time

another notable distinction between gouache and acrylic paint is their drying time. Gouache paint dries relatively quickly, but not as fast as acrylic paint. Acrylic paint dries much faster, often within minutes, while gouache paint may take a few hours to dry completely. This difference in drying time can impact an artist’s workflow and the speed at which they can layer and work on their artwork.


Gouache paint has the advantage of being re-wettable, even after it has dried. This means that artists can reactivate the paint with water, allowing for adjustments, blending, and differing effects. On the other hand, once acrylic paint dries, it becomes water-resistant and cannot be re-wetted. This characteristic gives gouache paint an edge in terms of flexibility and versatility in creating artwork.

Water Solubility

Gouache paint is distinctly water-soluble, meaning it dissolves and mixes readily with water. this property allows artists to dilute the paint, create washes, and achieve various levels of transparency. In contrast, acrylic paint is water-resistant once dry and cannot be easily diluted or thinned with water alone. Artists must use acrylic mediums or water to modify its consistency or achieve different effects.

Color Mixing

Both gouache and acrylic paint offer a wide range of colors to choose from, but they differ in terms of color mixing capabilities. Gouache paint is highly suitable for color mixing due to its opaque nature, allowing for clean and vibrant color combinations. Acrylic paint, being more translucent, may result in more muted or diluted shades when mixing multiple colors. This characteristic should be considered by artists who heavily rely on color mixing techniques in their work.

Can You Make Gouache Paint from Acrylic?

Understanding the Possibility

While gouache and acrylic paints have inherent differences, it is possible to create a gouache-like effect using acrylic paint. By making certain adjustments and adding specific additives, acrylic paint can be transformed to resemble the properties and appearance of gouache paint.

Challenges in Converting Acrylic to Gouache

Converting acrylic paint to gouache-like consistency can pose certain challenges. acrylic paint, once dried, becomes water-resistant and cannot be re-wetted like gouache. Additionally, acrylic paint tends to have a glossy finish, unlike the matte appearance of gouache. Overcoming these challenges requires careful selection of materials and techniques.

Exploring Techniques to Create Gouache-like Effects with Acrylic

To create a gouache-like effect with acrylic paint, artists can experiment with various techniques. This includes diluting the acrylic paint with water, adding a binder, adjusting opacity, working with retarder to prolong drying time, and testing the results to ensure the desired effect is achieved.

Can You Make Gouache Paint From Acrylic

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Converting Acrylic to Gouache

Materials Needed

To convert acrylic paint to a gouache-like consistency, several materials are required. These include acrylic paint, a palette, water, gum arabic or a similar binder, a retarder, brushes, and a test surface.

Step 1: Diluting the Acrylic Paint

Start by diluting the acrylic paint with water to achieve a more fluid and workable consistency. The amount of water can be adjusted based on personal preference and the desired opacity of the resulting paint.

Step 2: Adding a Binder

Next, add a binder such as gum arabic to the diluted acrylic paint. The binder helps achieve the matte finish and re-wettable characteristics of gouache paint. Use a small amount of binder and mix it thoroughly with the acrylic paint to ensure a uniform mixture.

Step 3: Adjusting Opacity

To enhance the opacity of the converted acrylic paint, artists can add additional pigment or mix in white gouache paint. This step helps to achieve a more solid and opaque color application similar to traditional gouache.

Step 4: Working with Retarder

To mimic the longer drying time of gouache paint, a retarder can be added to the acrylic mixture. This additive slows down the drying process, allowing artists to manipulate the paint and blend colors more easily. Experimentation with the amount of retarder used may be necessary to achieve the desired drying time.

Step 5: Testing the Paint

After thoroughly mixing the ingredients, it is essential to test the converted paint on a surface similar to the one it will be used on. This step allows artists to assess the opacity, color, and re-wettable properties of the converted acrylic paint and make any necessary adjustments before using it in a complete artwork.

Limitations and Considerations

Difference in Texture

Despite efforts to convert acrylic paint to gouache-like consistency, there may still be a difference in texture between the two mediums. Gouache paint tends to have a smoother and creamier texture, while acrylic paint, even when modified, may retain its slightly more viscous and polymer-based texture.

Long-term Stability

Another consideration when converting acrylic paint to gouache-like consistency is the long-term stability of the converted paint. Traditional gouache paint has a proven track record of stability, but the same may not necessarily apply to DIY conversions. Long-term testing and careful observation are recommended to ensure the converted paint maintains its desired properties over time.

Color Shift

Converting acrylic paint to gouache-like consistency may result in a slight color shift. This variation in color can be attributed to the inherent differences between the two mediums, such as the pigments used and the binder’s interaction with the paint. Artists should be aware of this potential color shift and experiment to find the combination that best matches their desired colors.

Compatibility with Traditional Gouache

It is worth noting that converted acrylic paint may not always be fully compatible with traditional gouache paints. The differing binder and pigments used in each medium can result in variations in drying time, reactivity with water, and color mixing properties. Artists should carefully consider how converted acrylic paint will interact with other gouache paints if used in combination.

Professional Gouache vs. DIY Conversion

While converting acrylic paint to gouache-like consistency can be a cost-effective solution, it is important to note that professional gouache paints may still offer superior quality and performance. Professional gouache paints are specifically formulated to provide optimal opacity, color vibrancy, and long-term stability. Artists who require consistent and reliable results may prefer investing in professional gouache paints over DIY conversions.

Can You Make Gouache Paint From Acrylic

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Tips for Working with Gouache-like Acrylic

Using Appropriate Brushes

When working with gouache-like acrylic, it is recommended to use brushes suitable for acrylic paints. Synthetic brushes with short bristles or bristle brushes designed for acrylics tend to work well. These brushes provide good control and allow for smooth application and manipulation of the converted paint.

Layering Techniques

Experimenting with layering techniques is essential when using gouache-like acrylic paint. Since acrylic dries quickly, artists should plan their layering process carefully to achieve desired effects and avoid any unwanted blending or smudging. Applying thinner layers and allowing each layer to dry before adding another can help maintain clarity and prevent colors from becoming muddy.

Working with Opacity

The opacity of gouache-like acrylic can be adjusted by adding more pigment or modifying the paint-to-water ratio. Artists should explore different opacity levels to create depth, emphasize certain elements, or achieve specific effects in their artwork.

Experimenting with Different Ratios

Artists should not be afraid to experiment with different ratios of water, binder, and acrylic paint during the conversion process. Altering these ratios can result in different effects, opacities, and working properties. Keeping a record of the ratio used for future reference can be helpful in achieving consistent results.

Cleaning and Maintenance

After using gouache-like acrylic paint, it is important to clean brushes and palettes properly. Acrylic paint can dry quickly and become challenging to remove once dry. Rinse brushes and palettes with water immediately and use mild soap if necessary. Proper maintenance ensures the longevity and performance of the brushes and palettes.


Summary of Findings

Gouache paint and acrylic paint are distinct mediums with their own unique properties and characteristics. Gouache offers high opacity, re-wettable capabilities, and water solubility, while acrylic provides fast drying time, versatility, and durability. Although converting acrylic paint to gouache-like consistency is possible, artists should consider the differences in texture, long-term stability, potential color shifts, compatibility with traditional gouache, and the advantages of professional gouache paints.

Personal Preference

Choosing between gouache and converted gouache-like acrylic ultimately comes down to personal preference and the desired artistic effects. Artists who enjoy the versatility and quick-drying properties of acrylic paint may opt for converting acrylic to gouache-like consistency for specific projects. Meanwhile, those who prioritize the unique qualities of traditional gouache may prefer working with professional gouache paints.

Exploring Alternatives

If the characteristics of gouache or acrylic paint do not meet an artist’s requirements, there are alternative paint mediums worth exploring. Watercolor, oil paint, and even digital painting offer their own sets of properties and possibilities, allowing artists to further expand their creativity and express their artistic vision in different ways.

Can You Make Gouache Paint From Acrylic

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