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I’ve been so curious about gouache paint, but hadn’t come across a short workshop until recently. How do you use it? Is it watercolor or is it acrylic? How do you even pronounce gouache? I had so many questions.

Lucky for me, Cleo Papanikolas (painter, author, and illustrator!) taught a three-hour gouache techniques class at Handcraft Studio School. (This was my first class in the ‘new’ studio!) Also lucky for me, the class focused on paining flowers and I’m all about nature painting!

Our stations were filled with Cleo’s painting diagrams, little floral bouquets, a paint palette, water, a selection of papers to test, brushes, a fan to help dry our paintings, and a water spray bottle to rehydrate our paints as needed. Also, her business card is a travel-sized paint palette; there’s paint on the inside and it comes with a brush – so clever, so cute!

Cleo walked us through different gouache (like squash!) techniques and we dove in. We used Miya brand gouache paints, which she says are the best ‘cheap’ paints for beginners. She also had ‘nicer’ paints to try, but I was too scared I’d like them and would need them so I ended up not testing them out. (PS I totally ordered a set of Miya paints after class.)

For brushes, I used both a thick and thin brush – the thick to get more water on the paper and the thin for more detailed work. Gouache is ‘opaque watercolor’ and can be used like watercolor paint (with more water) and like acrylic paint (add less water to get a heavy cream consistency). I personally love the creamy look and how you can layer the paint without it blending or picking up color from the first paint layer.

My problem is waiting for layers of paint to dry completely before adding more layers. Now I see why people tend to work on multiple projects or pages of paintings at once.

Current favorite things: painting flowers from the underside and adding petal details.

After two and half hours we were all warmed up and finding our groove with gouache. I went for the bouquet!

I used both the watercolor and the acrylic paint techniques, highlighting just a few of the petal details. What do you think? I’m super proud of it; I might actually frame it. 🙂

Thank you to Marie of Handcraft Studio School for always curating wonderful classes. I have my eye on melon basketry next! (I see you, baskets!)

And thank you for Cleo for teaching us all the gouache secrets and unlocking the gouache mystery for me!

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