How Does Gouache Differ from Acrylics?

How does Gouache Differ from Acrylics?
Contributed by Priyanka Chandrakar

Are you planning to dive into an artistic journey but doubtful whether gouache or acrylic is the right choice for you? As an upcoming artist, it is all but natural for you to be confused when it comes to selecting a painting medium. To help ease the process of selecting one or another, we will discuss the advantages & disadvantages of selecting them.

What is Gouache Paint?

If you have ever used watercolor, you will find that gouache is fairly similar. It uses similar binders and pigments. However, the only differentiator here is the presence of added white that helps it achieve an opaque and matte color. Essentially, it is a mix of synthetic and natural pigments along with water & gum Arabic. Here, gum Arabic serves as a binder agent.

What is Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paint comprises suspended acrylic polymer plasticizers and emulsion that is responsible for giving it the required pigment. Apart from this, it also consists of stabilizers, defoamers, silicone oils, & metal soaps. Although they are water-based, they tend to get water-resistant after drying out.

View our original acrylics paintings here.

Acrylic vs. Gouache: How Are They Different?

Let us decode the differences between these two popular painting mediums.


When you use acrylic and gouache side-by-side, the immediate difference you would note is the durability factor seen with the former. Acrylic paint can stay intact when placed in the open under the sun. It can also withstand dust & is water-resistant after completely drying out.

However, you need to understand that it isn’t waterproof. It can still be damaged when exposed to a lot of water. On the other hand, gouache isn’t as resistant to dust and light. Plus, it can also be reactivated with the help of water. Sure, this can work for beginner artists who might make mistakes and wish to correct them even after the paint has dried out.

However, using gouache can limit the way you display the art. So, it is recommended that a gouache painting be framed in a glass barrier to protect it from water or other elements.

2-Binders Used:

Given that these two painting mediums are water-based, they can easily be cleaned with the help of water and soap. However, you need to keep in mind that the binders used in these mediums are different. Gouache uses gum Arabic as the binder medium, which is what makes it water-soluble.

Alternatively, acrylics use an acrylic polymer binder. It is a plastic variant that allows it to be soluble in water while it is wet. However, it becomes water-resistant after it dries out.

3-Application & Surface Texture:

When you use gouache, it tends to dry matte and opaque. Moreover, it cannot be watered down the way watercolor can to achieve a translucent look. When applied in multiple layers, gouache has the tendency to crack as well.

This isn’t the issue when you use acrylics. It can be used in thick layers to create a beautiful surface texture. After this painting medium dries out, it can have a glossy and shiny appearance, while gouache tends to dry out flat and soft.

4-Painting Surfaces:

Gouache is best used on paper or canvas, which makes its application very limited. On the other hand, acrylic paint flaunts a wider application range that includes wood, canvas, paper, plastic, and glass.

5-Application Tools:

Gouache is thinner than acrylic paint, which is why the best way to apply it is with the help of a paintbrush. On the other hand, acrylic paint can be applied not just with your paintbrush but also with a sponge or unconventional methods such as a palette knife.

6-Drying Time:

If you are a beginner artist, you will find that gouache is fairly easy to use as compared to acrylics. While both these painting mediums tend to dry out at an almost similar speed, the benefit that comes with the use of gouache is that it can be reactivated with some water.

Also, you can make use of certain add-ons to slow down the acrylic paint medium’s drying process. You can mix a retarder to the color or simply keep misting the paint with some water during the painting process. However, on their own, they tend to dry very fast and cannot be reactivated after it has dried out.


You can also try and mix gouache & acrylic to get the best of both. It is popularly known as acryla gouache/acrylic gouache. The resulting painting medium is very creamy, layers easily, & dries quickly. So, depending on the look you wish for the painting, you can go for either and achieve some stunning results. If you are a beginner, it is recommended that you opt for gouache over acrylic, given its ease of use.