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Painting with Acryla Gouache (Holbein)

blog about Holbein acryla gouache

There are illustrators that faithfully stick to one medium almost their entire careers. I’m not one of them.
I love experimenting, trying out new material, different pencils, digital techniques. Trying new materials will bring my skills to a new level. For some years now I saw mostly American illustrators using a weird kind of gouache: Acryla Gouache by Holbein. They were not available in Europe, but this year the paints were finally for sale in my country!

This blog post is a collaboration with Splendith

For a illustration-nerd like me this was brilliant news! Judith from Splendith contacted me if I wanted to do a collaboration. But first I bought my own set of Acryla Gouache to test them. I didn’t want to do a collaboration if I wasn’t sure about the material. I tested them and I was sold.

Holbein Acryla Gouache

Photo by Splendith

Judith sent me the Holbein Acryla Gouache set with 102 tubes. It’s the most extensive and expensive set available. This big box is filled with all the colours an illustrator can dream of. It also has a nice range of fluorescent and metallic colours.

What is Acryla Gouache?

These paints are not like regular gouache, and as far as I know it’s the only one of its kind. It’s made by Holbein, an art materials company based in Japan. They only produce high end art materials and no study level supplies, which is quite unique.

Acryla Gouache is basically a mixture of acrylic paint and gouache. Unlike gouache, Acryla Gouache can not be reactivated by water once it has dried up on your palette. It’s also much faster in drying. It’s still water soluble while wet though! It dries up in a more matte and opaque way and it’s water-resistant.

Colour swatches

After drooling over the tubes I got to work. First step is making colour swatches!
For every colour I had a piece of paper on which I wrote down the name and code of the colour and paint the paper. I made sure I made the top as opaque (no water) as possible and more down I add a bit of water, to see how it looks like in a more ‘watercolour-way’.

After almost five hours (divided over three days, mind you) I painted all 102 colour swatches. This sounds like a lot of work. Correction: this is a lot of work. But it’s worth it, trust me.
When you have all colour swatches done you know how each paint works. Some have more pigment, some are more opaque and of course: the colour are quite different from the colour on the tubes.

Holbein Acryla Gouache

What I noticed immediately is how vibrant the colours are. It’s almost surreal: I have never seen paints before with this kind of pigment. And I have tested a lot of paints!

Mix and match
It’s incredibly useful to have these swatches. Also because I can now mix and match, to look for the best combinations for a painting. When you’ve studied art (for those who are curious: I studied Visual Communication in art school) know that it’s always a good idea to mix some cold colours with warm colours, if you’re going for balance.

Holbein Acryla Gouache

How to paint with Acryla Gouache

Of course there’s no one way to go about but I’d love to give you a look of how I do it.

Thumbnail sketch
First I make a tiny sketch (thumbnail) in my sketchbook of what I want to paint. I once took a photo in Hastings (UK) of a woman standing in front of a bakery while her dog was pulling the line, eager to get in the shop. I thought this was such a funny scene so I decide to capture it in a painting.

Setting up the workspace
I re-draw the sketch on a sheet of thick paper suitable for acrylics, with an erasable red pencil. I find it more pleasurable to work with a red pencil than to use a grey pencil because of the tone.
I make sure I have my brush holder filled with clean water, a paper towel on hand, a palette to put the colours in and a piece of papers to test the paints.

I mix and match with my colour swatches, looking for the right combinations. When I settle on some, I start painting.

First I paint the background and big parts, in this case the shop front and the floor. I leave the space for the woman and dog open. Layer by layer I add more details, until the scene starts to come alive.

 

Making an illustration Illustration with gouache

Finishing touches
The finer details I add with a small brush by Princeton Heritage. I pick colours for the shelves and the dog, and bit by bit I add more smaller details.
When my painting I dry I try adding some details with pencil but because Acryla Gouache dries up more plastic than regular gouache, this is not easy. When the paint dries it is more plastic so adding layers with pencil is not ideal. I manage though, I’m stubborn like that ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m really pleased with the end-result. The colours on the paper are still crisp and although the paints dry up plastic-y, they look really matte on paper, which I love.

Colour swatches illustration

Once it is dry…
Like I wrote earlier: once the Acryla Gouache has dried up on your palette it can not be reactivated. You might be used to that because watercolours and normal gouache can be used multiple times when dried up in a palette. So, I recommend using tiny bits of paint when creating something. The pigment in these paints are magnificent so you really don’t need a lot of paint to get a vibrant result.

Illustration bakery

So, what do I think?

Being used to normal gouache, Acryla Gouache isn’t a far stretch. I do feel the colours are much brighter than my gouache sets (Lascaux and Winsor&Newton) and they dry up in a beautiful matte way. The paints feels more dry on my brush while painting compared to regular gouache. That way you can get a dry brush effect which I like a lot. But if you dip your brush in water, you get a beautiful smooth effect without losing too much colour.

It’s too bad that pencil doesn’t really do well on top of the Acryla Gouache. Because I love adding a few details with pencil to every painting I make. You can use pencil over the paint but it doesn’t have the effect as with normal gouache.

You also can’t re-activate the paint but that’s because it’s partially acrylics. I don’t mind that much because I’m a fast painter. But if you know you’re a slow painter, it’s something to take into account.

The colours are the brightest I have ever seen! I love how they dry up on paper and even layering over dark parts works perfectly. In that regard, these paints are quite extraordinary.
The price of the paints may come across as high but any high quality paint isn’t cheap. The price is perfectly reasonable!

All in all, I’m really pleased with these paints and I am looking forward to make many more illustrations with them.

Products used for this review:

Holbein Acryla Gouache
Princeton Heritage brushes

Thanks Splendith for this lovely collaboration!

I hope you enjoyed this review and do let me know in the comments what you think of it, or if you have tried Acryla Gouache I’m curious what you think!

Marloes De Vries

 

 

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33 Comments

  • Reply Sandy at

    you are such an inspiration and i’m so glad i found your artwork!!! : ) keep up the amazing work!

  • Reply Kim B. at

    Oh wow just as I expected, this is such a fascinating look into your work process and your discovery of a new tool/product! Now I am remembering when you were doing those color samples — those are art in themselves! Fun to learn too about the painting’s original inspiration from a photo you took. What a fun post!!

    • Reply Marloes at

      I’m happy to hear that Kim! Thanks for reading!

  • Reply Alba at

    Thanks a lot for the review! Love the colors and will buy a smaller set to give it a go. My baby is about to be born and will paint some illustrations for his room! Despite working in corporate (in a job I love btw) I studied art and since i started following you on Instagram I always feel more the urge to paint. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thanks for the inspiration and sharing so generously on your social media.

    • Reply Marloes at

      Exciting times for you! I hope you enjoy the paints ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck!

  • Reply Lauren J. at

    Hi, thanks for all the info in your review ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m used to painting with watercolors but I recently purchased two tubes of this acryla gouache. I’m curious, how would you clean a palette when using this paint? Also, do you use a plastic or a porcelain palette?

    Again, thanks for such a helpful review and for sharing your awesome art!

    • Reply Marloes at

      I use plastic for this one, which you can scrape clean with a knife. Or you can use paper palettes, you can throw away after using.

  • Reply Jessica Dame at

    Love this! I also bounce around between brands (usually based on what I can afford at the time). I have been using these same paints in my work for about two years. I was drawn to them because the colors are so beautiful and rich.

  • Reply Caroline at

    I was at Creative life yesterday and saw some Holbein paint there at the Spendith stand. I instantly thought of you and when I read the article again I realized you guys did the partnership together *mind processing*. It is a great inspiration to see thank you for sharing your experience with us Marloes! I am going to the fair today again, I am taking extra cash for sure :p

  • Reply Katy at

    Turner also makes an acryl gouache: http://www.jerrysartarama.com/all-products/turner-acryl-gouache

    So have you tried using water after you’ve painted with these? Everyone says they act like acrylics once dry. But Whenever I try to touch up a painting with a bit of water the acryla goauche will pull up again. Not sure if I’m doing something wrong, or if this is just how it goes. Or maybe you have to let them dry for AGES first. I’ve done this with one painting after it dried for 1 month and it was still happening. Would love to know if you have any insights.

    • Reply Marloes at

      I know Turner makes them too but I haven’t tried them so I don’t know which quality they are. Quality varies amongst different brands ๐Ÿ™‚

      I have, yes. That’s the difference between gouache and acryla gouche: you can use water to reactivate gouache, but with acryla gouache they will turn into almost plastic, just like acrylics. This happens when you let it dry for a few hours. If you use it within a few minutes, you can still use it. You can reactivate gouache even after a few weeks with water.
      You can use a stay-wet-palette though to keep your acryla gouache moist for a while!

    • Reply Avy Claire at

      Hello Katy and Marloes, I am having similar experience with the Turner Acryl Gouache. I notice there is talk about water-resistance, but not water-proof. I have been able to rub off the paint with a wet rag days after painted. I love the richness of the acrylic gouache but I’m not painting on paper and I need to show without glass in front. Does the Holbein rub off?
      Desperate for help as I am on a deadline,
      Thanks

  • Reply jessica at

    Hi! Do you by any chance have all the Holbein Acryla Gouache swatches somewhere on your website/internet? I’m interested in this product and would love to see!

  • Reply Perri at

    Thank you for this blog story! I love you work and am so glad to read more about you and the mediums that you use to create artworks. Please continue to post more stories! Would love to see step by step demonstrations on one of your artwork. Or.. what type of paper do you paint on? Do you use sketchbooks or paint on papers?

    • Reply Marloes at

      I used paper suited for acrylics in this one but I used watercolour paper too and it works perfectly! I don’t have a preference for a certain brand paper (yet).

  • Reply Aline at

    Really interesting. Thank you. I would love to try them. Do you know how environmentally friendly they are? The word ‘plastic’ scares me a bit.

    • Reply Marloes at

      I don’t know if the tubes are recycled plastic. I haven’t found any paints in tubes yet that are in more environment-friendly packaging because that would be really good of course (IF the quality of the paint is good too).
      Personally, I use paint tubes and other art supplies for about 10-15 years (I draw pretty small) so the amount of waste I produce with it is minimal. I can imagine if you do this every year it would be a lot.

  • Reply Jeremy at

    Thank you for your blog. I very much enjoyed it and really like your work. Any idea how hard these are on pure sable brushes? I always think acrylics are so hard on brushes – even synthetics – when using finer points. I was wondering if these would be a bit easier on brushes than pure acrylics. Thanks so much.

    • Reply Marloes at

      I have never used sable brushes before so I can’t advice you, I’m sorry. I use watercolour brushes with these paints and because I draw pretty small and clean the brushes after using, it works really well. I’d say they are a tiny bit softer than acrylics but they do dry up very hard on the brush.

  • Reply Marian Roth at

    Iโ€™m using these paints too and I love them. Have you ever used a medium on them? Maybe some gloss medium? (They also work wonderfully on claybord.

    • Reply Marloes at

      No I haven’t. I don’t like a glossy finish because it reflects too much in my opinion, so you can’t view the piece properly.
      I never use medium but I think if you want to try, maybe try on a piece of test paper first? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Connie Ivey at

    You taught me in Sketchbook Skool and I am so glad to finally connect with you again. I thought we had a definite connection with much we had experienced in our paths with art. AND I LOVED you class. You are very special, as a person and as an artist.
    So, Hello again.

  • Reply Veronique at

    After a few months of use, what would your favorite palette be ? What colors do you like the most ?

  • Reply Pete Dako at

    hi i love the Holbein colors – in both acryla gouache which I saw first (WOW!) but then their HWC watercolors have been blowing my mind. I just love them, i never really used watercolour before I got them a couple weeks ago after years of painting with *everything else* — they have made me a lot less keen to paint in anything else anymore -however unlike the HWC i found the acryla is a lot harder to controlโ€ฆ(has the flow of HWC off a *real* sable brush spoiled me?ยฏ\_(ใƒ„)_/ยฏ ) i’m wondering if Holbeins “watercolour medium” might improve the flow of the acyla gouache – i hope so because i hate giving up the freedom of working on other surfaces

  • Reply Polly at

    The one reason I might consider acrylic gouache is something you didnโ€™t mention, the lack of colour shift between wet and dry. Did you notice that lack of colour shift? It is something stated in the manufacturer’s literature.

    • Reply Marloes at

      In my experience, there still is a colour shift between wet and dry. The difference isn’t as big as with regular gouache though.

  • Reply Ariana at

    Hi Marloes,

    I loved your review about Acryla Gouache paints! I recently got some paints and wasnโ€™t sure if I could reactivate it once itโ€™s dry.
    Thanks for all the tips and answering my question.

  • Reply Nikki Moore at

    Thanks for a comprehensive post! I’ve only just heard about acryla gouache and after reading feel really encouraged to invest in a set!๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿฝ

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