Review: Liquitex Acrylic Gouache

Share

Roughly a week ago (as of writing), I had finally received my free samples of Liquitex Acrylic Gouache. Mind you, it took a couple of months to receive my sample. Plus I had long forgotten about them and moved on with my life. Seemingly out of nowhere, they showed up in the my mailbox. 

Before we talk about my new toys, let’s chat briefly about Liquitex

A Brief Overview On Liquitex

Liquitex is an American art supply company that specializes in acrylic paints. In fact, Liquitex created the first water-base acrylic paint and acrylic gesso back in 1955. A year later, they create “soft-body” acrylics. In 1963, Liquitex started manufacturing “Heavy Body” acrylics. As of writing, they sell variety of acrylic paints and mediums.

My Experiences With Liquitex

I was first introduced to Liquitex paints while in high school. At that point I was saving my pennies and blowing them at Michael’s and Dick Blick’s catalogue. (These were pre-internet days.)

I’ve used their heavy body, soft body, and BASICS brand of paints. Outside of the struggles that I had with acrylics drying ridiculously fast and not really having a clue on how to best use them, Liquitex has always been pretty consistent.

Recently I’ve purchased a 3-pack of their paint markers [on Amazon]. My only problem was that the tips used are way too stiff to achieve any type of blending. I’ve also been collecting their Acrylic Inks  [on Amazon] and absolutely love them. They eliminate my need to water-down acrylic paint to achieve washes.

Reviewing Liquitex Acrylic Gouache

What Is Acrylic Gouache?

Acrylic Gouache consists of highly concentrated pigment suspended in acrylic binder. This provides the best of both worlds. When painting with acrylic gouache, you’ll get the opacity, flat color, and the lack of brush strokes as you would have with gouache paints, but with the quick dry-time, durability, and water-resistant surface that acrylic paints provide.

Liquitex’s Selling Points

Liquitex isn’t the only company selling Acrylic Gouache. That said, they want you to know that they’ve “reimagined the traditional gouache”. 

We can scoff at such a statement, just keep in mind that this type of paint mimics the look and feel of traditional gouache. Otherwise it behaves more like your favorite acrylic paint than any traditional gouache. Here are a few selling points that Liquitex reenforces:

  • They’re ultra-pigmented
  • Come in opaque and semi-opaque colors
  • Smooth and fluid
  • No brush strokes
  • A matte finish
  • No need to dilute
  • Non-cracking
  • Permanent when dry

When using Liquitex’s Acrylic Gouache, you’ll find that they’ll deliver on most of these promises. The others, will be more iffy.

Openning Fresh Bottles

Your standard bottle comes in a 2 oz (59 ml) size bottle. The samples that I received are 22 ml (0.74 oz), like you’ll find in one of Liquitex’s Essentials 12-packs [on Amazon] and Primaries 6-packs [on Amazon].

A photo of the new squeeze bottle that Liquitex is using.

The bottle itself utilizes the same new design that the Soft Body Acrylic bottles are now using. Instead of the old flip-top lid, they use a lid that pulls off to reveal a spout. This is a lot less messy than squeezing paint through the old flip-top lids. (Which were pretty messy BTW.) Pulling off the top is pretty easy. It doesn’t take much pressure to squeeze and pour the paint.

My hand squeezing a bottle of Liquitex's Acrylic Gouache

Applying Liquitex Acrylic Gouache

Liquitex’s Acrylic Gouche brushes on as smooth as their Soft Body paints. The paint itself is pretty thin. It’s a little thicker than Turner Design Gouache, which seems pretty runny for Gouache. So the appearance of brush strokes are determined by how evenly you apply the paint.

Much like traditional gouache, Acrylic Gouache takes a little longer to dry than regular acrylic paint. There’s that fear that I have of acrylic paint that if a layer is not completely dry, and you brush over it, it’ll get torn up, especially if that layer’s a bit thick. But painting over a semi-dry layer of acrylic gouache only drags some pigment around. (But I would recommend that you allow the layer to dry first.)

Sample strokes using Liquitex Acrylic Gouache.

1.) Straight Acrylic Gouache 2.) Dry brushing 3.) Diluted with water

The Dried Surface

The dried surface offers a matte, streaky, and semi-opaque look. From a distance, the surface appears flat. The two colors that I received (Ultramarine Blue – Red Shade and Scarlet)  were rated to be opaque, but are actually semi-opaque when applied without water. As compared to a traditional gouache (Turner Design Gouache), Liquitex’s Acrylic Gouache will require multiple layers to achieve maximum opacity.

The dried surface is water-resistant to a point. Water won’t breakdown the dried surface and destroy it. But you can still drag pigment from the surface with a wet brush.

A test involving dragging pigment from the dried surface and some dry-brushing.

A test involving dragging pigment from the dried surface , some overlapping of colors, as well as some dry-brushing.

No More Brush Strokes?

The streakiness I will assumed at first was due to how I loaded the paint into my brush. In Liquitex’s videos, they use a large flat brush to apply paint. I did the same with a bone-dry flat brush and still had the same streakiness in my strokes. So Acrylic Gouache fails to deliver on its “no brush strokes” promise. 

Colors & Fillers

The colors are pretty bright when wet and dulls when dry. This is pretty common with most brands of gouache paints. All gouaches and acrylic gouaches dry to a matte finish, thus when light bounces off the surface of a dried layer, there’s a lack of intensity from the color.

Certain brands of gouache, such as Winsor & Newton, will look chalky (like a filmy layer) when wet or when some water is mixed into the paint. This is due to the type of filler used to increase the opacity of the gouache. This won’t be an issue with Acrylic Gouache.

Sample strokes comparing different gouaches and acrylic gouaches

Sample strokes comparing different gouaches and acrylic gouaches. The first three, from the far left are from my samples of Liquitex Acrylic Gouache. The next two are Turner’s Design Gouache and Acryl Gouache. The last stroke, to the far right is from a tube of Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache.

Liquitex chose not to add any type of filler into their Acrylic Gouache. But the downside is that the pigments alone won’t make the paint 100% opaque. The sample strokes in the photo above prove this out.

The first two strokes created with one layer of Acrylic Gouache is shown to be semi-transparent when dry. Two layer of Scarlet was a little better. The stroke created with the Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache, which uses filler to help make it opaque, only took one stroke to hide the paint beneath it. Turner Design Gouache behaved almost in the same fashion. Turner’s Acryl Gouache did just slightly poorer.

When diluted, Acrylic Gouache appears more like watercolor. Which turned out pretty out pretty nice. This will allow for lots of interesting possibilities.

Lightfastness

Liquitex claims that the pigments within Acrylic Gouache are of an archival quality and lightfast. In gallery conditions, colors won’t shift or fade for around 50 years. Both colors have been rated “Excellent”.

Mixing Colors

There is a concern among artists that paints need to mix colors “cleanly”. This means avoiding that muddy, grayish, or that “my pigments never seem to completely mix” look (think swirly colors that never disappear) when attempting to mix colors. Without buying more colors, I can only vouch for how cleanly the colors mix with the two colors from my sample.

I believe that this issue is more driven by the pigments within the paint more than the formulation of a given brand’s paint. (Usually with cheaper brands.) Some colors or pigments just don’t mix well period. 

Sample swatches created using just Ultramarine and Scarlet.
Sample swatches created using just Ultramarine and Scarlet.

The two colors that I received in my free sample, Ultramarine – Red Shade and Scarlet mixed without that streaky mess in my pallet. In equal parts, they still gave me a muted, brownish purple. Two parts to one mixtures gave me more vibrant and useful colors.

The only times that the pigments separated in my pallet was when I sprayed my colors with water (in order to preserve them for the next day) and let them sit for the night. Scarlet is already a mixture of three different pigments. Within the three days that I had worked on the sample illustration, the Scarlet hadn’t separated. (This is a good sign.)

Actually Working With Liquitex Acrylic Gouache

This demonic-looking painting of Rudolph was done using Liquitex Acrylic Gouache. My pallet was limited to Ultramarine (Red Shade), Scarlet, a White Jelly Roll pen, and Deleter White #2.

If I accept Liquitex Acrylic Gouache for what they are, painting with them has been a pretty good experience. The sample that I created for this review used both colors, plus a Jelly Roll pen [on Amazon], and Deleter White #2  [on Amazon] for corrections and white spaces. The surface was my trusty Canson Mix-Media pad [on Amazon], using 98 lb paper.

The fact that Acrylic Gouache relies upon just pigment as opposed to a combination of pigment and filler made acrylic gouache more flexible to use. What this means is that I was able to utilize a variety of techniques from washes to impasto. The fast drying time forced me to make decisions quickly.

As mentioned earlier, Acrylic Gouache can be watered downed for washes and glazes. Due to the amount of pigment used, making a wash without an edge is incredibly difficult. I had to work quickly and minimize the amount of paint used to block in the values that I wanted via washes.

Acrylic gouache mixed well with my Deleter #2 White. Nothing major or weird had occurred between the two. If you look really hard, the areas mixed with #2 White have more of a satin surface.

Dry brush techniques can easily be done with a minimal amount of acrylic paint. Alternatively a healthy dose of paint will easily allow for smooth line work and minute detail.

Making The Scan

Digitizing shouldn’t be an issue for most people. There was little to no color-shift when scanning. Photographing via an iPhone wasn’t an issue. (If you can get the lighting right. I work within a hard yellow light.) I can’t account for every color because certain pigments don’t convert well when digitized. (Read more about this phenomenon in my review on Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers.) 

Liquitex positions Acrylic Gouache as a replacement for your traditional gouache. So I would assume that Liquitex picked colors that would translate well when digitized. It’d be foolish on their part not too. Color-wise, I think you’ll be alright.

The matte finish allows will make your colors seem dull. But the matte colors allows you to avoid needless reflections. If you have a bunch of transparent layers, you’ll be less likely to have your painting light up like a plastic sign.

The Final Verdict

Can Acrylic Gouache Replace Your Gouache?

Liquitex Acrylic Gouache is its own medium, not a replacement for your many tubes of traditional gouache. But then again, why would you want to replace your gouache for an acrylic? If you’re an active user of traditional gouache, the sacrifices that you’ll make using any brand of acrylic gouache wouldn’t make your life any easier in my opinion.

Could You Replace Your Acrylics Instead?

On its own, you could make a great case for Liquitex Acrylic Gouache as a replacement or a substitute for your acrylic paints. It has a matte in finish. Great for reproduction. No sheen and a little transparency straight out of the bottle. Although achieving more opaque surface will require a few layers of paint.

As mentioned earlier, Acrylic Gouache is packed with pure pigment with no fillers or opaquers. You can easily dilute them down to utilize watercolor techniques. The paint flows much smoother off the brush than your traditional acrylic paints. The colors’ lightfastness will inspire confidence in artists who produce work for private clients. (People who buy art to hang on their wall.)

The price per 2oz (59 ml) bottle, at around $11 USD, is on par with what you’ll spend on a traditional tube of traditional gouache. If you’re more price conscious, you may want to consider purchasing a set  [on Amazon] to save a little cash.

If you’re interested in trying out Liquitex Acrylic Gouache (and have no intention of waiting months for a free sample), you should consider picking up a 6 pack of Acrylic Gouache  [on Amazon] at Amazon today.