Review: Turner Design Gouache

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I’ve been a fan of gouache since I discovered Olivia De Berardinis’s cheesecake art while in high school. And I fell in love with the ideas behind the media: being able to blend colors after the paint dried, highly opaque paint, and being water-soluble. Gouache has actually been a rocky road for me thus far. I’ve tried a number of brands over the years. For me, quality has been an issue. If it’s too cheap, then the paint’s unusable. This post will focus on Turner Design Gouache.

tubes of turner design gouache

A Little About Turner

Turner Color Works LTD is a Japanese paint company that I discover through Jerry’s Artaramma. In fact Turner is one of their many featured brands. In Japan Turner offers a variety of paints for a wide range of uses and purposes.

Jerry’s pimps Turner’s Design Gouache as had been around for a long time and a darling of New York’s textile designers.

I fell in love with Turner for a number of flakey reasons — like I’m a nihongophile and they were Japanese. Their gouache paints are cheaper and came in bigger tubes than the top-tier brands Winsor & Newton and Holbein. I’ve read, for the most part, only good things about Turner.

First Take

So I’ve collected a few tubes, never really getting any serious use out of them until recent. But I’ve played with them off and on in my sketch books.

Turner Design Gouache paint right out of the tube

Squeezing paint out of the tube spews lots of gum arabic binder. I’ll assume that this its due to the tubes sitting around in a warehouse for long periods of time. The colors are consistently bright. Most of the colors are not pure hues (single pigments). I’ve noticed that every so often the pigments in the paint, while sitting in my plastic pallet, have a bad habit of separating on occasion. That’s not a big deal for me.

The nice thing about Tuner is that the paint doesn’t shift color from wet to dry. This is common with most acrylic paints. From my experience, acrylics tend to dry darker. Another plus is the lack of a white milky film, from the filler, that you’ll experience with Winsor & Newton gouache. This allows to apply color with much more accuracy.

The paint can be thinned quite a bit before it becomes transparent. (Not a ton of water mind you.) You’ll need a little bit of water before the gouache becomes transparent. Unlike the garbage that Lukas produces, you can layer paint without colors bleeding through, which made me feel like I just wasted money. Turner’s Gouache does dry to a subtle matte finish, which makes it easier for reproduction.

Two colors of Turner Design Gouache thinned down to a watercolor

Dusting is when layers of dry gouache seem to vanish when it is reactivated with water and stroked. For example, let’s say that you wish to create a smooth transition between two dried colors. You lightly rewet your brush and blend the colors. My first set of gouache paints, Daler Rowney’s Simply Gouache was notorious for dusting. But Simply Gouache isn’t artist-quality gouache. Cheap gouache will do that to you every time. Turner will blend like normal when the dried layers are thick. Thinner layers will vanish like you’re erasing the color with your brush. Repeat or heavy blending with a wet brush will eventually wear any layer of paint down to the surface. This might fustigate some people.

Working With Turner Design Gouache

Turner Design Gouache reminds me a lot of working with acrylic paint. It dries pretty fast. But the nice thing about gouache is that you can still rewet the layers and blend or whatever. For me this has the edge over oil paints in the sense that you can work quickly without feeling like everything’s set in stone like acrylics, markers, or color pencils. (Yeah, there are tricks to clean up those media.)

blending examples in gouache

Top blend was done while the paint was wet. Bottom blend was done after the gouache dried with a wet brush.

Applying color isn’t all that big of an issue. Turner’s Design Gouache has constantly been pretty smooth in consistency. This allows your layers to be even without any noticeable strokes like with thicker paint. There are time when you will see noticeable brush strokes while working with Turner. This has occurred for me when I was blending colors or whenever the paint starts to dry on my brush.

There are times when the paint is so thin, straight out of the tube, you’ll see noticeable translucent streaks. Turner doesn’t formulate their gouache with any fillers. They try to achieve opacity by packing their gouache with pigment. And some pigments are naturally translucent. Unfortunately the end result looks streaky.

a study of Paul Wight a.k.a. the Big Show using Turner Design Gouache

A study of professional wrestler Paul Wight a.k.a. the Big Show using Turner Design Gouache (Indigo and Permanent Orange) with Deleter #2 White on Daler Rowney Simply Acrylic Pad, 115lb.

Turner works well with other brands of gouache. I’ve used it with Winsor & Newton and Holbein brands without any issues. For my practice piece of pro-wrestler Paul Wight (a.k.a. ~  WWE’s The Big Show and The Giant in WCW) , I used Deleter White #2 paint for my white.

Side Note ~ Deleter White #2 is mistakenly referred to as “ink”. It’s basically gouache paint with a different binder. I’m honestly making an assumption here because it has a different look and feel as compared to your typical gouache paint. It’s glossy when dry. It is extremely thick and must be thinned down to be useable. I have no idea why the heck anyone would even attempt to use Deleter White #2 with a dip pen. But it covers quite well, making it great correcting any type of ink work. You order Deleter White #2 from Amazon today!

So far I’ve had pretty good luck when it comes to digitizing and reproduction. Certain pigments tend to shift when every you scan or take a photo. This was an issue for my Turquoise Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers. (The turquoise from Turner also shifts color. That paint is a mixture.) There’s also a purple that shifted colors but I can’t remember if it was tube paint or a brush marker.

Tuner Thinned Down For Washes

As a painter, I’ve had the habit of doing a lot of glazing. Just in case you  don’t get all of the verbage, glazing is when you paint with thin, transparent layers of paint. Gouache generally encourages painting with thick opaque layers in my mind. Despite this, gouache is basically an opaque version of watercolor. That means that many watercolor techniques can be easily duplicated with gouache. You’ll just need to use a lot more water than normal.

Turner Gouache does a pretty good job as a watercolor paint. You can achieve nice transparent washes without any hassles. You won’t see any funny stuff while thinned down to a watercolor. If you enjoy painting with dried cakes of watercolor like back in the first grade, you can buy a pallet or a tin, squeeze some color, and let it dry for later use.

The only down-side, as mentioned previously, if you happen to use thin layers on top of thicker layers of Turner gouache, it’s way too easy to make those layers vanish. So take care when layering those thinned strokes.

Over All Verdict

I’m pretty happy with Turner Design Gouache. It seems to be the right mix of quality and affordability. This means that you’ll won’t have to suffer the inadequacies of using cheap gouache. Each tube contains roughly twice as much paint as compared to other brands. (25 millilitres versus 10 to 15 millilitres!) This is a great bang for your buck! Turner is great for anyone just starting out in gouache. A couple of times a year, Jerry’s Artarama will sell them at a nice discount.

Personally speaking, Tuner is just a step below your top-tier brands like Winsor & Newton, Holbein, and M Graham. Turner tends to be pretty runny and therefore not as opaque as Winsor and Newton and Holbein. If you prefer pure pigments, Turner may not impress you so much. But tubes of pure pigment tend to be more expensive than mixtures or hues.

Turner consistently dries to a matte finish unlike Winsor & Newton, which can at times deliver a more plastic finish when dried. This maybe due to the amount of gum arabic. A dried layer of Turner Design Gouache doesn’t always dry as an even layer and can look streaky, depending upon the color.

To sum this review up — if you’re looking for the best overall value in gouache paint, then Turner Design Gouache is a brand that you should try out. It’s not top-tier-level in terms of quality, but it won’t leave you frustrated like your dirt-cheap brands. Turner’s formula relies heavily upon the large amounts of pigment packed into each tube for its opacity instead of using fillers such as calcium carbonate, marble dust, or chalk. That said, you’ll also have the flexibility of a watercolor.

Yes, you should give Turner Design Gouache a try. It’s the best mix of quality and affordability in the market today. Turner’s provides its gouache in generous sizes in both tubes and jars. In fact– you can pick up easily pick up a set, while helping to support this website’s operations, by ordering up a set of twelve 15 ml tubes of Turner Design Gouache over on Amazon. (While supplies last.)