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W&N Designers Gouache
W&N Designers Gouache



Linda Birch - Posted on 30 Jun 2008


Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache



Jug, Winsor & Newton Designers
Gouache on tinted pastel paper,
5x8in. (13x20.5cm)

A Leisure Painter report by Linda Birch

For years I have been hoarding a gouache colour so precious to me that I would buy up any tubes I came across since Winsor & Newton ceased making it over 15 years ago. The colour was fluorescent red and it was absolutely invaluable for creating the delicate pinks and mauves of sweet peas. It was a must-have colour for the flower painter. Now it is back with a whole new range of exciting colours added to the Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache range, and is now known as opera rose!
Mostly sold in tubes, gouache is an opaque form of watercolour and is related to poster colour, but finer. Its history is old, and is often referred to as body colour, which was much used in the days when artists used coloured paper to paint on (see the early work of Turner). The comforting thing about this water-based medium is that mistakes can be painted over and corrected!
If you have never used Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache I can recommend it for its versatility and vibrancy, and as an extension to watercolour.

A versatile medium
Gouache can be used on a range of different surfaces. As an impoverished student I used to paint on cartridge paper (stretched), the smooth surface being ideal for the medium. However, watercolour paper can also be used, especially if a rough, lively surface is required, then the paint can be used thickly to produce dragged, textured brushwork.
Brushes for gouache need to be slightly springy. Synthetic watercolour brushes, where the hair is slightly stiffer than that of sable or squirrel, are ideal. Oil and acrylic brushes can be used, but are stiffer and less sympathetic. Gouache is usually mounted and framed like a watercolour, behind glass.
The new colours added to the existing range of Designer Gouache are mainly reds and pinks. Wonderful names like opera pink, opera rose (my new substitute for that special colour), brilliant purple, and quinacridone magenta. There is also a new Naples yellow, turquoise light, ultramarine blue (green shade), and a lively – as opposed to dead colour, which black can be – green-black, called perylene black. To test the colours thoroughly I decided to produce paintings of a range of subjects using a variety of methods and surfaces.

Poppy, Winsor & Newton Designers
Gouache, 5x8in. (13x20.5cm)


Pastel support
Jug (above) was painted on a piece of stretched sand-coloured Ingres pastel paper using an oil painting method. I worked from dark to light and used stiffer paint and oil painting brushes. For this painting I used the following colours: cadmium red; turquoise; ultramarine blue; Naples yellow; perylene maroon; and white.
Students often ask how to paint metal. I am afraid there is no magic formula – you have to use your eyes, and trust them! Forget the name of the object you are painting (this prevents the bossy part of your brain from trying to tell you different) and look at all the curious shapes colours and tones you see inside the object and paint what you see. This works for glass, too.

Watercolour paper

I used a more loose watercolour method on Hot-Pressed paper (smooth watercolour paper, but cartridge paper could be a cheaper alternative) for Poppy (right).
I have a collection of well-made silk flowers in my studio, one of which is this poppy. If fresh flowers aren’t available, silk flowers are better than photographs in that they provide a three-dimensional subject that can be lit to suit your purposes. In this case, I placed it directly under my desk lamp in order to get lots of colour.
In order to test the colour saturation of the paints, I used no white and went from light to dark using cadmium red as the first colour. To obtain the darks, I used perylene maroon, opera rose and ultramarine blue.


George, a local farmer, has a splendid bull that was good enough to pose for me! The bull is one of the white curly-coated cattle that I thought would provide good subject matter to test the opacity and subtlety of the new colours.

A note on techniques

Surface Black card is something of a revelation if you have never tried it. I used black mounting card - the middle of cut window mounts – which my framer gives me.

Colours Together with zinc white, I used Naples yellow and cadmium red, with ultramarine blue and perylene black for the shadows.

Dark to light When using gouache, work from dark to light (the opposite way around to watercolour). This method feels strange if you are used to watercolour, but is not difficult to master. 

George’s Bull, Winsor & Newton
Designers Gouache on black
mounting card, 10x71⁄4in. (25.5x18.5)

Step 1 Draw the bull using white watercolour pencil.
Step 2 Lay in the shadows with a slightly wet wash of red, black and a touch of white, which makes the darker greys. I never used to use black. This is because it creates dead tones, and when used for shadows produces lifeless colour with no regard for the subtler colour present in them. However, mixed with a colour – such as cadmium red – black can produce interesting colour. In this case, because the perylene black tends towards green, and the red is green’s complementary colour, the resulting grey is interesting and lively. The consistency of the gouache paint at this stage is that of thin cream.
Step 3 Work on the lighter parts of the bull’s coat with stiffer paint: white with a touch of Naples yellow (don’t use pure white, it looks unnatural – it is either warm, yellow, orange, red, or cool, blue, depending on the light source).
Step 4 Using small brushstrokes, add a pink mix of white with a little cadmium red around the muzzle.
Step 5 Paint the bull’s ring white, then yellow, then red, and then glaze a small amount of black on top.

TIP Glazing is a wash of pure colour with no white added, which is laid carefully over the dry white paint. This creates a luminous, shiny effect. 

Summer Flowers, watercolour and Winsor
& Newton Designers Gouache, 14x10in.
35.5x25.5cm). Gouache can be added
(with skill and great sensitivity) to a
watercolour. Do not use it just to blot out
a mistake, it will not work! You are dealing
with a transparent medium, and any
opacity has to be added with discretion.
This is awatercolour with touches of white
added to lift the colour on the rose petals,
and the lights on the daisies. Black and
perylene maroon were also added to
reinforce the dark of the jug.


Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache comprises pure single pigment colours for bright, strong mixes, as well as some premixed colours. The company, which celebrated its 175th anniversary last year, has introduced 17 new colours (below) to make up a new range of 85 colours: cadmium yellow; cadmium red; cadmium scarlet; Winsor red; permanent rose; permanent alizarin crimson; opera rose; opera pink; quinacridone magenta; Winsor violet (dioxazine); brilliant purple; cobalt turquoise light; ultramarine (green shade); Naples yellow deep; perylene maroon; perylene violet; and perylene black.

Winsor & Newton has also modified 26 colours to improve brilliance, permanence ratings and mixing abilities. All colours are available in 14ml tubes (except bleed proof white, process white & photo opaque); a selected number of whites, blacks and metallics are available in 30ml, 60ml and 100ml pots and 37ml tubes. There is also a selection of box sets available, which are a perfect introduction to gouache.

For further information on colour mixing and hints and tips on using gouache, visit www.winsornewton.com

March 08 LP

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