Gouache paint is similar to watercolor but modified to make it opaque. A binding agent, usually gum arabic, is present, just as in watercolor. 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 may also be present. This makes gouache heavier and more opaque, with greater reflective qualities.
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. Its quick coverage and total hiding power mean that gouache lends itself to more direct painting techniques than watercolor.
"En plein air" paintings take advantage of this, as do works of J.M.W. Turner and Victor Lensner. It is used most consistently by commercial artists for works such as posters, illustrations, comics, and for other design work. Most 20th-century animations used it to create an opaque color on a cel with watercolor paint used for backgrounds, and gouache is desirable for its speed and durability.
One variation of the medium is gouaches découpées created by Henri Matisse, cut collages. His "Blue Nudes" series is a good example of the technique.
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Mid-Michigan Art Guild meets the 3rd Thursday of the month September through April at 7 pm at Foster Community Center in Lansing unless otherwise noted.