Use the Gouache Resist Technique to Add Drama to Your Next Painting

Gouache is a hybrid of watercolor and acrylic paint, and while it's not as well-known as its fellow water-soluble paints, it's definitely worth experimenting with. After all, painting with gouache can produce incredibly versatile results, depending on how much water you use and the tools you implement .

There's one technique in particular that's perfect for those who like drama in their painting: gouache resist. It involves using a washable gouache on areas of your painting you want to keep light, before using another medium (such as India Ink) over the entire painting. It's a lot like using masking fluid in a watercolor painting, but you can use different colors of gouache to create a stained resist that stands out from your inked background.

The result: a takes-your-breath-away piece of art. Here's how to incorporate it into your next masterpiece.

Gouache Resist Painting

Level: Easy

What You Need

  • Canvas or paper
  • Pencil
  • Gouache paint in your desired colors (we used blue and yellow)
  • Paint brushes
  • Waterproof India ink
  • Liquid acrylic paint
  • Acrylic paint
  • Plastic wrap (to protect your work space)


1. Draw Your Picture

Begin with a rough drawing in pencil on your canvas.

Good to Know

This technique works better with simple designs, as it may not be precise enough for a very detailed painting. We're making a painting of ginkgo leaves.

2. Paint the Resist

Paint the areas you want to remain ink-free — in this case, the ginko leaves — thick enough to prevent the ink from coming into contact with the canvas underneath.

Good to Know

You can use white gouache if you want to leave the canvas white when the gouache has been washed off. We opted for yellow and blue to take advantage of the staining properties in the gouache and get some color in our resist.

Wait until the gouache is completely dry before moving on.

3. Pour the Ink

Cover your work surface underneath the canvas with plastic wrap. Pour the ink directly onto your canvas.

Spread the ink across your canvas with a paint brush until the entire surface is covered.

Pro Tip

To avoid disrupting the layer of gouache paint underneath, use a very soft paint brush to spread the ink.

Leave the canvas to dry overnight.

4. Rinse

Wash the ink off your canvas in a sink.

Good to Know

Even though you use waterproof ink, it can still wash away from the canvas if you hold it under the sink too long. Be careful not to remove too much of the ink, but know part of the charm of this technique is the ragged look it produces. Some places in the resist might still show a bit of ink, and some without the resist might have some ink lifted.

Let the canvas dry completely before moving on.

5. Add Acrylic

Add intensity to your painting with acrylic and liquid acrylic. Now's the time to paint over any patches of ink on your resist, or add color on top of your inked background.

Good to Know

Liquid acrylic is great for creating transparent layers. We used it to paint the background blue (you can still see the ink, gouache resist and acrylic beneath it). We also used red liquid acrylic to detail the leaves.

Once you finish your acrylic details, let dry and your painting is done!

Photos by Sandrine Pelissier

Learn More Now

Gouache also works great when paired with watercolor. To see how it's done (and to create your own masterpiece), check out our class, Floral Illustration With Watercolor & Gouache .

Begin by learning how to create an inspiration board for your botanical subject. Then start sketching, refining and balancing your composition.

April 29, 2020
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Use the Gouache Resist Technique to Add Drama to Your Next Painting