Review: Turner Acryl Gouache

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I’ve recently completed a few paintings using Turner Acryl Gouache Japanesque Colour paints, almost exclusively. In the past, I was able to achieve some pretty good results using their cousins, Turner Designer Gouache. Below, my painting of Hana Kimura is one of the first times that I’ve done any serious working using Turner’s line of Acryl Gouache.

"Hana's Gaze" Painted using Turner Acryl Gouache
“Hana’s Gaze” Copyright 2020 Chris Hilbig

So What is Turner Acryl Gouache Anyway?

In order to properly explain what acryl gouache is, I’ll need to explain what exactly gouache is.

Let’s learn About Traditional Gouache First

Gouache is basically opaque watercolor. It’s a combination of pigment and gum arabic. (Sometimes an opaquing agent is used.) It’s meant to be applied opaquely. This means that you can easily paint light over dark. This media can also be watered down to create washes much like watercolor. Gouache can also be re-wetted and manipulated long after it dries. It also dries to a matte finish, which makes it great for reproduction.

Describing Acryl Gouache

Acryl Gouache (also spelled as “Acrylic Gouache”) is pigment suspended in acrylic emulsion, or basicly matte acrylic paint. It has a large pigment load, much like traditional gouache. (Not all “acrylic gouaches” contain a high pigment load.) This is good for painting light color over dark areas.

A lot like regular acrylic paint, acryl gouache is mostly water-resistant. (I’ll explain my observation later on in this review.) This will allow for easier layering.

As mentioned earlier, acryl gouache dries to a matte finish. And a good acrylic gouache will level out and have a smooth surface. This means little to no streaking or brushstrokes. These characteristics make Turner Acryl Gouache great for reproduction, just like gouache paint.

Much like regular acrylic paints, acryl gouache can be painted on most any surface, including wood, glass, metal, and paper.

A Quick Note About Turner

Turner Colour Works Ltd is a well established paint company based in Osaka, Japan. Turner first started producing paints in 1946. They make a wide variety of paints for every possible use imaginable.

First Takes on Turner Acryl Gouache

I’m the most familiar with Turner Design Gouache. It’s an affordable, high-quality gouache that performs pretty well as compared to Winsor & Newton and M. Graham. Turner Design Gouache lacks opacifiers which prevents them from having that white, milky film while wet.

I’ve experimented with Turner Acryl Gouache off and on in sketchbooks. I was disappointed that some of their colors weren’t as opaque as I liked. In fact, they were overall less opaque than their Designer Gouache cousins.

A sample of Turner Acryl Gouache on top of a strip of black, from 1 to 4 layers of paint.
In the above, I painted strips of Perm. Orange on top of a strip of black acrylic. From left to right, starting with just 1 layer to 4 layers. I also want to point out the differences between my scan (which depicts the samples as more opaque) and the photo, which is closer to how the eye sees it.

But that doesn’t make them unusable. In fact they’re far more opaque than Liquitex’s Acrylic Gouache, which are at best, semi-opaque.

A test sample of whites from all major brands of acrylic gouache.
An opacity test between 4 major brands of acrylic gouache. I only used a single layer of each brand on top of black acrylic. This sample was digitized using an iPhone, so the sample is closer to how it looks to the eye. The Turner sample is just White. Liquitex, Vallejo, and Holbein are Titanium Whites. All paints use the same single pigment, PW6.

Most colors are pretty bright and don’t shift, if ever. There aren’t very many single pigment colors, but they tend to mix pretty well. Pigments rarely separate while sitting in your pallet for a long periods of time.

Acryl Gouache can be thinned down to create great-looking washes. This is due to the lack of filler in the paint. Japanesque variants tend to have a more granular look.

Sample washes of Turner Acryl Gouache using J. Scarlet and Ultramarine.
Sample washes using Turner Acryl Gouache.

Most colors in the Turner Acryl Gouache line dry to a matte, even finish. Japaneseque Colours tend to dry with a rough, pasty surface.

How Many Colors Do You Want?

Turner’s Acryl Gouache line of paints offer 236 colors! This covers practically any color imaginable and some you wouldn’t had even considered:

Pearl – Colors with micah chips mixed in to shine like metallic colors.

Mixing Color – Translucent colors for creating purer tones.

Japaneque – Traditional Japanese colors using fine powders, creating a coarse texture when dry.

Pastels – Light/pastel colors.

Lamé – Imagine glitter paint.

Luminous – Fluorescent colors. Fluorescent paints use dyes as opposed to pigments, thus making them non-lightfast.

Metallic – Opaque metallic colors. (i.e ~ golds, silvers, coppers, etc)

Grayish – Muted, gray-downed colors.

A painting of joshi wrestler Starlight Kid, "Starlight Additude". This was painted using Turner Acryl Gouache.
“Starlight Additude” (Starlight Kid fan art) — Copyright 2020 Chris Hilbig. Acryl Gouache on canvas paper. I used mainly Japanesque colors, enhanced with Metallics and Lamé colors.

While Doing Serious Work

As mentioned in the beginning of this review, “Hana’s Gaze” used almost exclusively Turner Design Gouache Japanesque Colors. These colors are supposed to have a coarse texture when dry. Honestly, that rougher texture isn’t all that noticeable unless you’re looking for it.

The opacity of Turner Acrylc Gouache is acceptable for the most part. Sometimes it requires a second or third layer to achieve maximum opacity. But colors below don’t bleed through unlike cheaper brands.

Although Turner Acryl Gouache is advertised to be water-resistant when dry, they use as little acrylic emulsion as possible, so you can still pick up color and in some cases, almost remove it. This can be obnoxious whenever painting over light washes.

Due to the rapid drying time, Turner Acryl Gouache can be very difficult to blend while wet. But I tend to find that an issue with most acrylic paints. What I recommend is to mix-in the color that you plan to transition to quickly, while the paint is still wet. This allows you to build your transition as you go.

You can also thin acryl gouache down to a wash. Then build up your transitions much like watercolor or ink. I used washes quite a bit in another painting, “Kimono Girl”.

"Kimono Girl" Copyright 2021 Chris Hilbig. Painted using Turner Acryl Gouache Japanesque Colours.
“Kimono Girl”, Copyright 2021 Chris Hilbig. Painted on sketchbook paper using almost exclusively with Turner Acryl Gouache Japanesque Colours.

Issues & Problems

"The Pumpkin King Returns" Copyright 2020 Chris Hilbig — Little bear being scared by bigger bear with a pumpkin on his head.
“The Pumpkin King Returns” Copyright 2020 Chris Hilbig — Turner Acryl Gouache on Canson 98lb mix media sketch book paper.

Rapid Drying Time

As mentioned previously, Acryl Gouache dries very fast! Maybe faster than most lines of acrylic paint. Maybe it’s from the heat given off by my swinging-arm lamp, but it’s rapid drying time makes it difficult to keep an open pallet wet. Even using an “air-tight” pallet such as Masterson or Soho barely keeps acryl gouache wet for any period of time. At best, you can keep them wet for around 24 hour before having to spray your paint down with more water.

While layers are still wet or moist, I’ve noticed that Acryl Gouache starts to break up and create worn spots or holes if I’m too aggressive blending and/or scumbling. This is especially bad when your brush is loaded up with too much water.

Here’s a Pro-tip:

Mix your Acryl Gouache 2 parts paint to 1 part water. In fact, you’ll want to do this using a pallet with wells. Why does this even matter?

Cracks In My Layers Of Acryl Gouache

Because cracking is an issue with this paint. Thickly painted layers tend to crack when dry. One of the reasons for this commonly recurring issue is the fact that Acryl Gouache contains very little acrylic emulsion. This makes the surface not as flexible as your standard acrylic paints. I’ve lucked out by applying a new layer over the cracked surface. Although, that doesn’t guarantee that those cracks will be gone forever.

Is Turner Acryl Gouache for everyone?

No. Why? Because Turner Acryl Gouache isn’t as forgiving as your standard acrylic paint. Yes, it’s similar, but it’s not.

You can’t just use it straight out of the tube. You’ll need to add some water, unless you love that crackling effect.

You can paint Acryl Gouache on virtually any surface, just as long as it’s not flexible enough to crack the surface. Dried acryl gouache isn’t as physically flexible as regular dried acrylic paint. Regular acrylic paint tends to peel off a pallet like a sheet of plastic or latex. In contrast, you’ll have to chip dry acryl gouache off the surface of a pallet. It’s hard and shatters to pieces. So you will have to resort to a canvas panel, as opposed to a regular canvas.

But if you’re willing to embrace this medium, you can achieve some unique results in your work. You’ll also get to work with a paint that has substantial covering power, colors that don’t shift, and a matte surface that’s easy to digitize. If you’re mistake-prone, boo-boos are easy to cover up due to acryl gouache’s pigment load.

Want to give Turner Acryl Gouache a try? My recommendation is to try out the 12 color set from Amazon. [Amazon] Buying using the Amazon link on this page helps to support this website and keep me motivated to continue to produce more free content.