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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