Gouache is a versatile, forgiving medium and as it is an opaque watercolour you can paint on many colours and surfaces, including black.

Gouache contains a lot of finely ground pigment, which makes it ideal for portraying vibrant colours that show up particularly well when jewel-like colours are needed.

Techniques you will learn in this tutorial:

  • How to apply gouache light over dark
  • How to blend gouache by dampening previous colours
  • How to paint fur or hair with a Rigger brush
  • How to paint drapery and folds in material

Reference photograph


  • Green pastel paper (smooth side up) or mountboard (30x21cm)
  • Permanent white
  • Raw umber
  • Burnt umber
  • Raw sienna
  • Yellow ochre
  • Primary yellow
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Permanent alizarin crimson
  • Winsor red
  • Ivory black
  • Round synthetic or sable Nos. 2 and 6
  • Rigger No. 0 or 1
  • Mixing palette
  • A4 sketchbook
  • Pencil
  • White Tracedown paper or tracing paper
  • Lightweight board
  • Masking tape
  • Water
  • Kitchen towel


Step 1 - Drawing a teddy

  • There are various ways to establish the drawing on a coloured surface. You can lightly draw straight onto the surface with a pale-coloured pastel pencil, but you need to draw carefully if you are to leave the coloured ground as the untouched background.
  • A favoured method is to draw the subject in a sketchbook, where you can make corrections and alterations. When you are happy with the drawing, transfer it onto tracing paper and use the old-fashioned method of rubbing a light-coloured pastel pencil on the reverse side of the drawing then carefully position the image right way up on your chosen surface. Go over the drawing again to transfer your light lines to the surface.
  • Alternatively use Tracedown paper, which you place under your drawing and go over your original lines again to transfer your design.

Step 2 - Blocking in

  • Block in the dark, shadow colours of the fur with shades of: raw umber; burnt umber with a little ultramarine blue for the darkest areas; and raw umber and ultramarine for the slightly lighter areas by the bow, around the right ear and pads of the feet.
  • Then, paint the pads with pale mixes of white with a touch of yellow ochre and raw umber.
  • Next, block in the snout using a darker mix of yellow ochre, raw umber and white and a dotting technique with the tip of the No. 6 Round watercolour brush. Make it darker on the shadow side on the left.
  • Finally, using ultramarine and burnt umber suggest the shadows on the dress under the edges of the coat.

Step 3 - Painting the fur

  • The next step is to begin painting the mid-toned fur of the head and paws using linear strokes of the No. 2 brush, paying particular attention to the direction of the fur and leaving the underlying darker fur showing through. Do the same on the paws.
  • Next, block in the basic mid-toned reds on the coat and bow using mixes of permanent alizarin crimson with a touch of burnt umber, and suggest the shadows in the folds of the material with a slightly darker mix.
  • Once you have done that, using the base colour that you made for the pads of the feet, paint the pads of the paws.
  • Now, mix a little raw umber and white and dot it over the snout, leaving some of the previously applied colour showing through. Finally, paint the base nose colour using Winsor red with a touch of burnt umber. Use strokes that follow the direction of the embroidered stitches.


This detail shows the basic build-up of dotting for the fur of the snout and the underlying fur of the head. It also shows the initial modelling of the coat and dress material.

Step 4 - Begin the modelling

  • Begin to build up the modelling of the coat and bow in varying shades of the basic red mixes. To achieve this, paint the darker shadows and the lighter surface of the folds and softly blend the two edges together to give the transition of the folds from dark to light.
  • Create the shading on the flatter areas of material by dry brushing – dragging the darker colour over the lighter colour. The tooth of the paper and the chalky surface of the gouache makes subtle texturing achievable.
  • Paint the pale stitching in the centre gathering of the bow and add highlighting on the stitchery of the nose, using a much lighter version of the original colour, purely by adding white
  • Paint the dress and its folds with a mix of white with a little raw umber and yellow ochre. Model the folds in exactly the same way as the red dress.

Step 5 - Adding some detail

  • Make sure you are happy with the painting of the coat and bow then continue painting the fur using the same basic colour mixes, which have been lightened with white. Here and there add a little Winsor yellow to create a slightly more golden colour.
  • Attention again should be paid to the direction of the teddy bear’s fur. To paint the finer lines use the Rigger brush, so named as they were originally designed to paint the rigging on ships. With practice the Rigger can be mastered and extremely fine lines are achievable. The paint needs to be thinned just enough to allow the paint to flow from the brush but not so thin as to lose the opacity of the colour. The fur that extends out over the dark background colour, cuffs, dress and bow helps to give the illusion of a three-dimensional form.
  • Use ivory black to paint the eye. Be careful to leave pale hairs over the edge of the eye by painting the negative space.

Step 6 - The finishing touches

The finished portrait - Harriet, gouache on green pastel paper, (30x21cm)

  • Use dry-brush work on the dress, which is a natural, unbleached linen. For this use a mix of a little raw umber, yellow ochre and white and a No. 2 brush, then paint the embroidered stitched crosses of the dress. Be careful to use a darker shade where the material is in slight shadow and lighter where it's on the surface closest to the light source.
  • Make lighter dotting on the snout, a little overlapping the stitches of the nose.
  • Put in the suggestion of the other eye using black and add the catchlight on the right eye.
  • Strengthen the shadows on the dress and coat using stronger, darker shades than before.
  • Finally add lighter fur on the head, feet and paws.

If you have enjoyed following Murray's demonstration please click here to follow Fiona Peart's top tips for setting up a still life with teddy bear, and techniques for painting a teddy's fur in watercolour.

For tips on using gouache effectively from Michael Coates from The Artist 1979 please click here.

Find out more about Murray and his work by visiting www.murrayince.com

This demonstration is taken from the August 2019 issue of Leisure Painter

Click here to purchase your copy to read the full article and lean more on painting with gouache from Murray