blog about Holbein acryla gouache

Painting with Acryla Gouache (Holbein)

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 an art supply-fan 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. 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, though it’s still water soluble while wet. It dries up more matte and opaque compared to gouache, 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) you 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 into 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 😉

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!



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41 reacties

  1. 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!!

  2. 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. 🙂
    Thanks for the inspiration and sharing so generously on your social media.

  3. Hi, thanks for all the info in your review 🙂 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. Turner also makes an 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.

    1. 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 🙂

      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!

    2. 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,

      1. The acryl gouaches are so pigmented that the acrylic resin binder is over saturated, hence not all the pigment stays trapped in the polymer and can lift when water is reapplied.

        1. Hello,

          Can you recommend a fixitive, or mat varnish for making the finished acryla gouache painting surface permanent, when not protected by glass?


  7. 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!

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

    1. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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? 🙂

  11. 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.

  12. 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 control…(has the flow of HWC off a *real* sable brush spoiled me?¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) 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

  13. The one reason I might consider acrylic gouache is something you didn’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.

  14. Hi Marloes,

    I loved your review about Acryla Gouache paints! I recently got some paints and wasn’t sure if I could reactivate it once it’s dry.
    Thanks for all the tips and answering my question.

  15. Hello! I work on hot press watercolor paper and mix ink pens, acrylic markers and watercolor markers to make really detailed abstract geometric art. I’m always searching for the right method and tool to get really flat, opaque and matte blocks of color. I love the contrast of water colors and solid colors. Would this paint work to fill in my shapes with color with minimum brush strokes/texture? The posca acrylic markers I use are great but you can still see some marker streaks in there and it looks a little unprofessional to me. Please let me know! Thanks. ✌️✌️🙏

  16. I have used HAG and HWC in the past. I think I even combined them, unaware. I believe I even painted a gorgeous painting on canvas. However, I am back just with HAG. I was shocked they dried hard so fastl Love your idea of a wet palette to slow down.
    I am painting landscapes this week on gessoed birch panels. I would like to have the HAG protected like an oil painting is protected so I can frame it wo glass. What would you use to preserve the HAG finish look!

  17. Marloes,
    I’m so glad to finally find someone else that uses these paints! They are amazing. I was trained as an illustrator so I was quite used to working with gouache. I’ve been painting with Holbein’s Acrylic gouache about 4-5 years now. The acrylic gouache is combined with the binder used in acrylic paints. I’m a retired illustrator and graphic artist. I like to use color pencils to do some fine detailing on my acrylic gouache paintings when my hand shakes too much.