When I was first getting back into art after a long time of not doing anything creative, I picked up some gouache from a local art supply shop. I thought it would be easier than watercolour (which I loved but whose transparent nature made it a lot harder to fix mistakes) and would be easier to clean up than acrylic. The only brand this art supply shop carried was Winsor & Newton, so I picked out ten colours which I thought would make a good, balanced mixing palette.
I made a small chart for my ten colours in a mixed media sketchbook.
As I made my colour chart, I noticed some pretty significant differences between the tubes in terms of consistency and quality*. While two or three tubes were just fine, some of the tubes had dried up so they were almost solid, and I had to pour water into them and then mix it in with an unfolded paperclip (not an easy task, since unlike the easily accessible SoHo Urban Artist Gouache tubs, Designers Gouache comes in tubes about the same size as many watercolours). Many of the paints had separated, resulting in a gooey mess of vehicle pouring out as soon as I opened the tube (which again required me to mix it back together). Even when I had thoroughly mixed the paints to an even consistency, they still varied in terms of finish; some dried completely matte, as gouache is supposed to, but others were almost as glossy as acrylics, and the three cadmium colours took more than a day to dry. Finally, the swatch of Permanent Alizarin Crimson actually formed a craqueleur surface; I’ve seen this happen with particularly thick layers of gouache before but never with a single thin layer like the one I’d used in my swatch.
Price-wise, Designers gouache is roughly in the middle (at least for brands available in Australia), ranging from about $8 to $20 (depending on the colour series) for a 14ml tube, which is similar to the M Graham gouache. Art Spectrum and Lukas gouaches work out to be significantly cheaper per ml, while Schmincke (not surprisingly) is even more expensive than the Winsor & Newton gouache. I haven’t tried any of these other brands (I do have a set of Lukas gouache somewhere, though, so I’ll try to review that in the near future) so I can’t say which are the best, but as they are all fairly well-known and well-regarded art supply manufacturers, I would assume they are all of a reasonable quality.
This is a quick sketch I did of a hydrangea bush with the Winsor & Newton gouache. I actually had to let it dry after I painted the green bush and before I could paint the flowers because the cadmium yellows I’d used to mix the green seemed determined to stay shiny and gooey for as long as possible.
Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache seems like it’d be a decent product IF you can ensure you get fairly fresh tubes. Though other gouache I’ve used can be restored to its original usable state simply by mixing (and possibly adding water) if it dries out or if the pigment separates from the vehicle, these paints took a lot more effort to mix and even when I’d mixed them as much as possible, they still didn’t perform reliably. If I were buying more gouache, I’d probably be more inclined to check out one of the other brands rather than buy these ones again.
* I should probably note that they had potentially been sitting on a dingy shelf in the art supply shop for months or maybe even years beforehand, which could have been responsible for the issues, but it was still disappointing since I’ve never had any other problems with Winsor & Newton products; I regularly use their acrylics and their watercolours. Also, other gouache I’ve used has been pretty easy to get back to its normal consistency even after it’s dried out.