Calligraphy: A Scribe's Notes Art Blog
Mostly sold in tubes, gouache (rhymes with squash) is an opaque form of watercolor known for its brilliance and even matte finish. With the addition of more water it can be used like watercolor for transparent effects or with less water for more opaque applications. There are many manufacturers of gouache, Winsor&Newton being the most popular, Schmincke, Holbein, Talens, all of which are of good grade. Student grade gouache is available too but I have found them not well suited for calligraphy. . Gouache is powdered pigment with Gum Arabic as the binder. Unlike watercolor, gouache has fewer fugitive colors making it more suitable for broadsides. Gouache can be used with a wide variety of tools and on a range of different surfaces
There are dozens of straight-from-the-tube colors and more colors can be mixed. I usually work with a palette of Holbein Pearl Gold, W&N Ivory Black and Permanent White as a base adding Ultramarine, Permanent Green Deep and Spectrum Violet, for no other reason than I like them, then add or mix other colors as needed. I keep this palette covered with Plexiglas when not in use to keep out the dust but not so tightly that I end up with mold. If it dries out completely that__™s OK as gouache can be reconstituted quickly. If I am working on a job that requires a sizeable amount of one custom color I mix it in a Dappen Dish. They are just the right size for dipping and have a small surface area to slow drying. I remember as a child my dentist mixing up filling material in a Dappen Dish. If gouache dries out and needs to be reconstituted over and over, the Gum Arabic binder will dissipate and the gouache will become powdery. Add a drop of Gum Arabic into the dish and that will bring back its smooth flowing properties.
Mixing the right consistency for writing is key. There is no formula only ___feel___. Too thick, like heavy cream won__™t flow and too thin like milk will run, so you are aiming for something like Half and Half. Temperature and humidity will affect the consistency so stir it up occasionally and add water one drop at a time when needed. If it gets too thin, go have lunch and let it dry up a little. Because gouache is heavily pigmented and has Gum Arabic as a binder, there is no need for a reservoir on your nib. The right consistency will cling to the nib and flow off at the right rate. You can dip into gouache but a word of caution, every time you wipe the underside of the nib on the edge of the dish, a residue is left that will build up and transfer back onto the underside of the nib later, and cause problems. Many calligraphers load the color on top of the pen with a brush and I find that works best. In either case and with all writing fluids, the gouache is drying as you are writing, drying on the brush, on the pen and on the edge of the dish. Super thin layers build up on the nib and must be wiped off periodically to keep a clean edge. The mixing brush can use a swish of water every now and then too. Different colors can be loaded on the nib at random resulting in a variegated or transitional colors.
I use gouache for its opacity, versatility and matte finish. It__™s really good for writing on top of color like paste paper or watercolor without disturbing the under color. When using gouache in books or other forms where surfaces touch, transfer can happen. To avoid this add a drop or two of Glair to the paint to make it dry hard and stay put. See my blog How To Make Glair.
Many of the products and tools mentioned are available through Paper & Ink Art Essentials.
If you have questions please leave a comment and I will get back to you.