June 5, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Working with Watercolor & Gouache for your Wedding!

I?ve had a few friends approach me with questions about how to best approach their interest in playing with watercolors. One of them was frustrated with not being able to get the washy result she was striving for. I took at a look at her paints and realized she was using gouache instead of watercolor and was using white in an effort to create transparency.

As an elementary art teacher I find watercolor fascinating for the reason that it is the first kind of paint (typically) introduced to o clean up but it is in actuality one of the more difficult paints to control and requires a backwards approach (as well as patience).children because it is easiest.

Tubes of watercolor and gouache look very similar, if you are not familiar with art supplies it is very likely you will not realize which one you purchased before testing it out.



Watercolor is a transparent paint meant to work with water. If you don?t mix it with water it will likely leave a sticky residue on your paper. The more water you add the lighter your color will be. You work with the lightest shade first, letting it dry, and then adding your darker tones and details as you progress. White watercolor paint is taboo for most artists. It looks more like white out added to your picture and creates a cloudy effect when mixed with color. If you want a section white you are supposed to leave the paper showing and paint around that area.


Gouache is made with an acrylic base, meaning it has plastics in it. It can be mixed with water but is meant to be an opaque color, able to be painted flat with no brush marks and easily controlled. Because it is opaque you can mix the color with white to create tints and pastels that are dense and not transparent.


Basic watercolor & gouache etiquette:

  • Start with a little bit!
  • You can then add water, and spread the color out. If it dries in the palette just re-wet it.
  • Have two brushes, one for mixing the color, one for painting the color on the surface.
  • Watercolors range in price and type because the pigments used to make the color are stronger and longer lasting. If you are doing a project for a shower or wedding that is decorative and does not need to stand the test of time, inexpensive paints should work out fine for the beginner artist! If you are concerned about how much paint to add and mix together start with an opaque watercolor set rather than tubes.

  • Paper matters. White copy paper and construction paper will only frustrate you. ?90 lb.? watercolor paper comes in a pad and is good for practicing. If you want a thicker paper for a final project splurge on ?140 lb.? paper which is thicker. Hot press is smoother (better for gouache) and cold press has a tooth or texture to it (that creates an added effect for washy watercolor). Most art store clerks are happy to help you with this!
  • Be patient and experiment! Work on a few projects at once, letting things dry as you work on them. Don?t be afraid to channel your inner middle school scientist and experiment with color combinations, brushes, and how much water you use.
  • Have fun!

Rachel Shuma Armentano is the owner and artist behind?Strawberry Small Works Studio?in Somerville, Massachusetts. In addition to being wedding and party obsessed she has yearsof experience as an art educator and believes everyone can make something beautiful!