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Gouache Rescue: How to Keep Gouache from Drying Out

Are you tired of having to constantly replenish your gouache paints because they dry out too quickly? Gouache, a popular painting medium known for its opacity and versatility, can be frustrating to work with when it dries out too fast. 

The problem is compounded when you’re in the middle of a painting session and your paint starts to become unworkable. The good news is that there is a solution. 

By understanding the reasons why gouache paints dry out and implementing preventative measures such as using airtight containers, adding moisture, and mixing with mediums, you can save yourself time and money, and achieve better results in your artwork. 

In this article, we will explore how to keep gouache from drying out and ensure that your paints remain workable for longer periods. Let’s dive in and learn how to make your gouache paints last longer!

Reasons for Gouache Paints Drying Out

Gouache paints are water-soluble and are made with a mixture of pigment and gum arabic binder. There are several reasons why gouache paints may dry out quickly, including: 

Evaporation of water

The water in the paint can evaporate quickly, especially in hot and dry environments. This can cause the paint to become thick and difficult to spread, making it hard to achieve smooth, even strokes.

Exposure to air

When gouache paint is exposed to air, it can cause the paint to dry out and form a skin on the surface, making it difficult to use. This is especially true when the paint is left open for long periods.

Lack of proper storage

Proper storage of gouache paints is essential to keep them from drying out. If gouache is stored in a container that is not airtight, it can quickly dry out, making it difficult to use.

Overworking the paint

When gouache paint is overworked, it can cause the paint to dry out quickly. Overworking the paint means that the artist has applied too much pressure when painting or has worked the same area of the painting repeatedly, causing the paint to dry out and become difficult to spread.

How to Keep Gouache from Drying Out: Preventative Measures

Preventing gouache from drying out can be achieved through several measures that will help to maintain the paint’s quality and consistency over time. To avoid gouache paints drying out, here are some preventative measures:

Using airtight containers for gouache storage

This is the most important preventative measure to take. It is essential to store gouache paints in airtight containers that will prevent air and moisture from getting into the paint.

Keeping gouache containers in a cool and dry place

Keeping gouache containers in a cool and dry place is another preventative measure that can be taken to ensure that the paint does not dry out. 

This is because higher temperatures and humidity can cause the water in the paint to evaporate quickly, leaving behind a dry, chalky pigment.

Adding a layer of water to the gouache before storage to keep it moist

Adding a layer of water to the gouache before storage is another effective method for keeping it moist. This can be done by placing a few drops of water on top of the paint and then sealing the container. 

The water will create a barrier between the air and the paint, preventing the paint from drying out.

Placing a damp cloth or sponge in the container with gouache to keep it moist

Another way to keep the gouache moist is by placing a damp cloth or sponge in the container with the paint. 

The cloth or sponge will help to maintain the humidity inside the container and keep the paint moist for longer periods.

Mixing Gouache with Mediums and Additives

Mixing gouache with mediums and additives can help prevent the paint from drying out too quickly.

  • Gouache mediums for extending drying time 

Gouache mediums are products that can be mixed with gouache to extend its drying time or improve its consistency. Adding a medium to gouache can make it easier to handle, allowing for more flexibility in painting techniques.

One common gouache medium is called gum arabic, a natural binder made from the sap of acacia trees. It can be mixed with gouache to increase its viscosity and prevent the paint from drying out too quickly. 

Gum arabic is especially useful when painting on porous or absorbent surfaces, as it helps the paint adhere better.

Winsor & Newton Watercolor Blending Medium or Liquitex Slow Dri Medium can also preserve the moisture in gouache paints and prevent them from drying too fast.

  • Adding glycerin to gouache paint
adding water with a dropper

Adding glycerin to gouache paint

Another option is to add glycerin to gouache paint. Glycerin is a viscous, colorless liquid that can slow down the drying process of gouache. It also makes the paint more flexible and easier to work with. 

However, adding too much glycerin can alter the paint’s color and consistency, so it should be used sparingly.

  • Adding retarder to gouache paint

Some artists use retarder, a substance that slows down the drying time of the paint. Retarder is typically added to the water used for painting and can be mixed with gouache in small amounts. 

It can help prevent the paint from drying out too quickly, allowing the artist to work with it for a longer period. However, using too much retarder can make the paint too thin and watery, affecting the final outcome of the painting.

Tips for Keeping Gouache from Drying Out While Painting

Keeping gouache from drying out during a painting session can be a challenge, especially if the paint is exposed to air for an extended period. 

However, several tips can help prevent this issue and ensure that the paint stays moist and workable.

Spraying a fine mist of water on the gouache while painting 

Spraying water

One of the easiest ways to keep gouache moist while painting is to spray it with a fine mist of water. This can be done using a small spray bottle filled with clean water. 

A light mist of water will add moisture to the paint and prevent it from drying out too quickly. It’s important to avoid spraying too much water, as this can dilute the paint and affect its color. 

Using a palette with a lid to keep the gouache moist while painting 

Using a palette with a lid is another effective way to keep gouache paint moist while painting. The lid will help prevent the paint from drying out by keeping it sealed and protected from the air. 

This is particularly useful if you need to take a break from painting or if you’re working on a project over several days.

Mixing only small amounts of gouache at a time to prevent waste

Mixing only small amounts of gouache at a time

Mixing small amounts of gouache

Mixing only small amounts of gouache at a time can also help prevent waste and ensure that the paint stays moist. By only mixing what you need, you can avoid excess paint that may dry out before you have a chance to use it.

Alternative Options for Preventing Gouache from Drying Out

In addition to the preventative measures and mixing options discussed earlier, there are several alternative options for preventing gouache from drying out.

Using a gouache palette with wells that seal to prevent air exposure

One option is to use a gouache palette with wells that seal to prevent air exposure. These palettes typically have a lid that can be placed over the wells to keep the paint moist for longer periods. 

This is especially useful when working on a painting over an extended period of time.

Using gouache paints in tubes instead of pans

Another option is to use gouache paints in tubes instead of pans. Gouache paints in tubes are typically easier to keep moist as they are stored in an airtight container. 

When using gouache paints in tubes, it is important to keep the cap tightly sealed when not in use to prevent air exposure.

How to Revive Dried Gouache

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, gouache paints can dry out. This can be especially frustrating if you have a favorite color that is now unusable. 

Dried gouache on palette

Dried gouache on the palette

Fortunately, there are a few ways to revive dried gouache and bring it back to life.

Adding water to the dried gouache to rehydrate it

One way to revive dried gouache is by adding water to it. Start by adding a few drops of water to the dried paint and mix it well with a palette knife or brush. 

Adding water to rehydrate
Mixing with a brush

Adding water to rehydrate

Mixing them with a brush

It’s important to add water slowly to avoid over-diluting the paint. If the paint is still too thick, add a few more drops of water and continue mixing until the desired consistency is achieved.

Mixing the rehydrated gouache thoroughly to ensure consistency

Another way to revive dried gouache is by using a wet palette. A wet palette is a container with a sponge or absorbent paper at the bottom that is moistened with water. 

The paint is then placed on top of the sponge or paper, which helps keep it moist while you work. This can be especially useful if you’re working on a large painting or if you need to mix colors for an extended period.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How long does Gouache Paint last before drying out?

Gouache Paint can last for several months before drying out, depending on the humidity and temperature of the storage environment. It is best to keep gouache paint tubes tightly closed when not in use to prevent them from drying out quickly.

  1. Can Gouache Paint be used once it has dried out?

No, once gouache paint has completely dried out, it cannot be used again. However, you can try adding water or a gouache medium to the dried-out paint to revive it. But the quality of the paint may be compromised, and it may not work as well as fresh paint

  1. How often should I check my Gouache Paint for drying out?

It is recommended to check gouache paint tubes for drying out every few weeks, especially if they haven’t been used in a while. To avoid drying out, make sure to keep the paint tubes stored in a cool and dry place, and tightly closed when not in use.

  1. How long does it take for the gouache to dry?

Gouache paint dries relatively quickly, usually within 10-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the application and the humidity of the environment. It is recommended to let the paint dry completely before applying additional layers.

  1. Can I mix gouache paints with other mediums?

Yes, gouache paints can be mixed with other mediums, such as watercolor, acrylic, or even ink, to create unique effects and textures. However, it is important to test the compatibility of the paints before mixing them on a larger scale, as some combinations may not work well together.

Conclusion

In conclusion, keeping your gouache paints from drying out is crucial for any artist looking to achieve their desired results. 

As we have discussed, there are several reasons why gouache paints may dry out, including evaporation of water, exposure to air, lack of proper storage, and overworking the paint. 

However, there are also various preventative measures and alternative options available to ensure that your gouache paints remain moist and usable for longer periods. With a little care and attention, you can enjoy the full benefits of this versatile medium. 

We hope that our guide on how to keep gouache from drying out has been helpful and informative for you. Happy painting!

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