Author Topic: Gouache opacity  (Read 853 times)

Offline Matthew H.

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Gouache opacity
« on: August 10, 2021, 11:49:13 AM »
In May, I began working on a birthday card for my mum. Iíd hoped to include some calligraphy on the front and was aiming to write in a pastel pink. Iíd bought some gouache a few months previously and thought that this would be the ideal time to use it.

I fear I now have a few more wrinkles and a couple more grey hairs than I did before.

Seemingly no matter what I've tried Ė and I really have tried! Ė I canít seem to get the gouache opaque enough. My pencils lines remain stubbornly visible beneath the paint. The list of things Iíve experimented with is a long one, but Iíll try to run as quickly as I can through everything I can remember: Iíve made the consistency only just runny enough to flow from the nib, used a 4H rather than HB pencil (and as lightly as possible) for the guidelines, used Winsor & Newton rather than Schmincke Calligraphy Gouache, and switched Zinc White for Permanent White. Iíve also tried lowering my deskís angle from 45 degrees, writing both with and without a reservoir attached, using Leonardt instead of Mitchell nibs, and even using tap rather than distilled water Ė it seemed a long shot, but at this point, Iím willing to try anything!

The problem isnít only occurring when I mix paints to a lighter shade. Iím having the same problem with more saturated or deeper paints straight out of the tube. Itís particularly confusing because each of the paints Iím using is listed on the W&N website as opaque.

Iíve attached an image of a letter written with some gouache I mixed up recently. Itís Winsor & Newton Permanent White with a small amount of Cadmium-Free Scarlet added (which ended up more of a coral than a pink). Strangely, if I ignore the pencil guidelines that are showing through, the paint otherwise appears opaque.

I wondered if this is simply the nature of gouache and Iím looking too closely, or if Ė as I imagine is the case! Ė thereís something Iím doing wrong? I would be hugely grateful for any advice you may be able to offer, please.

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2021, 04:02:39 PM »
That does sound frustrating. I know with watercolor, the pencil lines will always be trapped under the paint. And gouache is simply watercolor with extra Gum Arabic (and sometimes other compounds).

Try this, after you draw your lines, use a gum eraser to roll over the lines. This will lighten the lines considerably. And they will be less visible. Also, use a light hand so the line does not create an impression on the paper.

I hope someone with more experience with gouache will chime in.

If itís any consolation, that is one beautiful d!  :D
Truly, Erica
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Offline Estefa

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2021, 06:03:57 PM »
In my opinion, having some traces of the process isnít necessarily a bad thing ;). In many historical examples guide lines are even an integral part of the design. But thatís beside the point, sorry Ö

What I like to use for mixing pastel shades is actually Dr. Martinís Bleed Proof White plus gouache for the actual color Ė itís much more opaque and flows better than white gouache :). In case you donít know that, itís quite thick and needs to be thinned, like gouache, and you can also add some gum arabic in case it dries a bit brittle.

Good luck, I agree with @Erica McPhee regarding your letter!
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Offline FlowerCityLetters

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2021, 09:28:59 AM »
I was going to suggest what @Estefa did with Dr. Martin's Bleed Proof White and gouache, I have the same experience with it being more opaque.

I've had the same issue with pencil lines showing with some colors. I try to use my lightpad for drafting in these cases - do you have one? It might be worth a try. I draft on a separate sheet of paper and put it underneath the final paper, the lightpad allows the draft to show through the top page.

Very beautiful d regardless!

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2021, 11:06:24 AM »
My experience has been that when gouache is thinned enough to become an ink, it no longer has enough opacity to block out the guide lines.

While I have a light pad I have never liked using one and I have two alternatives to guide lines and one theory about pencils that you might try.

The theory -- use a different pencil.
Often times, people just use the handy No 2 pencil -- which many left handers note - puts down a line that is eager to escape off the paper. The graphite is made up of little particles - and they are happy to catch a ride on the part of a left handers hand that is dragging over the written word.

Those little particles that are eager to escape - are so excited when they are covered with a watered down (ink-like) gouache They feel that liquid being layered over the top and they decide to float up and see what's happening. As I said this is only a theory -- but with any water based medium, you have to deal with under layers responding to the moisture from the top layer -

For guidelines, I use pencils that are harder than No. 2 -- so the particles are less of a problem.
But, they can't be too hard or they are not easy to erase.

As always -- the type of paper affects how much the pencil wants to stick to the paper - vs looking for a way to escape.
So - there are no had and fast rules about which pencil will be the best for guide lines.


I also take great care to make guidelines very very light - and sometimes I make a dashed line - so that there is no solid line. With hand lettering, you generally don't need solid lines.

A lighter, dashed line, made with something other than a No.2 pencil might do the trick. I would love to give you a specific grade of pencil -- but, as previously mentioned - there is not just one pencil that works on every paper.
In general, you want something harder than a No 2 -- but if it gets too hard, then can be difficult to erase.

Try to enjoy experimenting and figuring things out for yourself.
Most artists have their own preferences - built on years of experience.
What works for me might not work for you.
Beware of people who insist that they know the one and only way to do something.

One of the two techniques for guidelines without any penciling has already been posted.
It was the technique for writing in a book.
You can use that technique on a single sheet of paper

Maybe someone can find that post and post the link - and then I can add the link to this post.

I am still recovering from my traumatic brain injury and have to limit my screen time A LOT.
So, I will not be able to look it up.

My other technique for straight lines without penciling them came from Peter Thornton -- and it will involve photographing -- again -- it will take some time for me to prepare the photos and description -- so, I'll put it on my to-do list. Staying in touch with my scribe friends is in the plus column of my days. But, this amount of typing has used up my brain cells for a few hours.

Someone wrote to me about using the technique for writing in a book -- but, my memory is scrambled - and can't remember who it was.
If that person is reading this and has any spare time -- shoot me a direct message and maybe you can help me with the Peter Thornton device. I could send you a photo and you could write the instructions.


Offline FlowerCityLetters

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2021, 02:20:17 PM »
Here is @jeanwilson 's blog post she referred to above with the brilliant method of "guidelines" for writing in a book: https://pushingtheenvelopes.blogspot.com/2021/06/extra-post-regular-daily-post-is-below.html

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2021, 03:56:10 PM »
Using a very sharp pencil, such as the one pictured here--Pentel Orenz pp502 0.2--using only the weight of the pencil (or less) to draw the lines produces a very fine line, leaves no indentation, and is easy to erase. Agree with others that tinting Dr. Martin's Bleedproof white with gouache works well to hide any lines.

Offline K-2

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2021, 04:35:53 PM »
@Matthew H. As always, the advice here is terrific.  I personally use the light box/table to avoid lines showing through on a light colored paper with a medium saturation color like your coral.... but another method if you don't have that light box - use an erasable colored pencil that closely matches the color of your text to make the x-height line (draw it with as light a hand as possible, because colored pencils are always a little harder to erase).  The top and bottom lines showing through aren't really as much of a visual distraction, so you can use regular graphite for those.  Another technique - add a tiny dot using a metallic or contrasting color of gouache right on top of that line.  It adds a little point of interest and obscures /distracts from the line underneath.

But may I add - you are quite bothered by these lines because you know they're there.  Your admiring viewer(s) will be so utterly distracted by the beauty of your script that they won't notice the very faint lines under that lovely "d" that you have ultra zoomed in on for our benefit.

@jeanwilson - My sympathies for your injury, and best wishes for your recovery!  It has taken a frustratingly long time for me to recover from my own traumatic brain injury several years ago, and to get used to the idea that I may never be entirely the same as before, and that I might never play hockey again.  Please PM me if you need a sympathetic ear.

--yours, K

Offline Matthew H.

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2021, 05:18:29 PM »
I can't thank you all enough for your advice. I've gone from despairing, wondering if I'll ever get this right, to being excited to get going again and try out your suggestions.

I hope you donít mind, Iíve replied individually below. But thank you to everyone for your very kind comments about the D Ė honestly, they've made my day. Whenever I write uncial, D is the letter that my brain is most likely to say ďargh!Ē before writing. (Unfortunately, itís also the letter that my mouth is most likely to say ďargh!Ē after writing!)

@Erica McPhee Thank you for suggesting this Ė I'm embarrassed to admit that I hadn't come across gum erasers before (almost all of the erasers I have are plastic). I'll have to place another art supply order Ė what a shame! ;)

Since I switched to using a 4H pencil lead, Iíve noticed a few times how heavy handed I can be. I'm often shocked at how deep the groove Iíve carved into my practice paper is.

@FlowerCityLetters Thanks for your suggestions Ė I do have a lightpad (and some Bleedproof White) and will give both a try. Iím currently writing on a desk easel set at 45 degrees and hadnít been sure whether the lip at the bottom would be deep enough to hold the lightpad, but Iíve had a look again and it may just be possible. Thanks so much for the link to Jeanís blog post, too Ė I found it incredibly helpful.

@Estefa Thank you, itís really good to know that I can mix the two. For practice, I wrote out some place cards on coloured card for my familyís Easter meal this year; I ended up using Bleedproof White because it gave a much starker white than the gouache I tried. And now I think about it, I never had any problems with my pencil guidelines showing through.

Your post has given me a lot to think about with how visible guidelines can actually be valuable rather than a fault. A few months ago, I was looking at the St Cuthbert Gospel on the British Library's website, trying to work out what would have been used for guidelines given that graphite hadn't yet been discovered. It was just like you said: by being able to see the lines that had been scored into the vellum, I enjoyed that bit of insight it gave into its creation.

@jeanwilson Iím really sorry to hear about your traumatic brain injury, and I do hope that things are better for you soon. Iím most grateful for you taking the time to help me with this while youíre still recovering.

It came as a huge relief to read that you've found that gouache, when diluted to the consistency of ink, generally isn't fully opaque.

Thank you for all of your advice. I was interested to read your theory about what might be happening with the graphite particles. Iíll keep experimenting with different grades of pencil and types of lines. Iíve just read your blog post that Elaina kindly linked to Ė thank you. Itís something I'll return to many times, I'm sure.

Although the gouache has been frustrating at times, Iíve found that, as you mentioned, itís been enjoyable to experiment and discover what works and what doesnít. It feels as though trying to get this right has taught me a lot Ė even if those things have generally been what doesnít work!

@AnasaziWrites Thank you, I'll give that a try. I'm currently using a Mitsubishi Uni Kuru Toga Roulette 0.5mm mechanical pencil, and even when I've tried to draw the guidelines gently, I suspect I've still been using more than the weight of the pencil.

After reading so many recommendations, I can't wait to try Bleedproof White with gouache.

@K-2 Ah, I'd never thought of using an erasable coloured pencil! Thank you for all of your suggestions Ė I look forward to giving them a go.

I was sorry to read about your injury. I do hope that youíre one day able to return to hockey. I know how difficult it can be when youíre no longer able to take part in something you love.

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2021, 08:24:14 AM »
Thanks for the well wishes.

I am unable to re-read through all the suggestions -- and my short term memory is sketchy -- so this might be a repeat.
However, I have suggestions for touching up.

If you get a WN Series 7 - size 00 or 000 paintbrush
you could probably cover those pencil lines that are either bleeding through or simply showing through the watered down gouache.
Use the same color and it should be fairly easy to put a layer of gouache over the offending lines.
It will take time to learn how to do touch up -- but it can be a very satisfying activity.

The ability to do sophisticated touch up can remedy a lot of frustrating situations.

There are also brushes called *spotters* that are for touch up.

THE SECRET TO TOUCHING UP
You have to turn the paper so that when you are always placing the tip of the brush near the edge of the lettering and then pulling in to the center of the stroke.

I promise you -- if you do all the touch up - with the artwork in the right reading orientation -- you will over shoot the edges of the letters rather than keeping the touch up paint within the letters.

A pointed nib will also work in tiny areas - but a brush works better to feather out the touch up so that you can't see the layers.

A pair of reading glasses is also helpful. I wear glasses, but, I have readers that I wear over the top of my glasses and the magnification is so helpful.

ERICA:
Is there a thread on touching up and making corrections?
If not -- maybe we should start one. IMHO it is an essential part of lettering.

Offline Matthew H.

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2021, 07:31:56 AM »
Thank you for your advice about touching up letters, @jeanwilson. I have both W&N 00 and 000 paintbrushes and will give this a go. Iím afraid I have lots of work that I can practise this on!

I wouldnít want to put you to any trouble Ė I understand entirely if youíre unable to help with this. I wondered if there may be a way to touch up (or even avoid altogether) the rucked-up effect I sometimes get in gouache? Iíve attached a photo of a letter on which this has happened, although itís not quite as bad as the mess Iíve sometimes made.

Iíve discovered that I can avoid this effect on serifs if I donít make too many left-right wiggles to get the gouache flowing at the start of the stroke. But on letters where I have to take the nib back through a still-wet stroke, itís more difficult to avoid. Itís occurring with both Rhodia 80gsm paper and G.F Smith 350gsm Colorplan card.

I thought I could perhaps wait until the initial stroke has dried before adding the second Ė but then I imagine that may bring its own problems, like more obvious letter construction.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I'm using an unsharpened nib.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2021, 09:00:34 AM by Matthew H. »

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2021, 05:02:09 PM »
Great suggestion @jeanwilson ! I have started a thread with your suggestions here: How to Make Corrections

Matthew,
I donít know how to avoid that and hopefully someone else will. But perhaps you can try using the edge of an exacto blade or other razor edge to gently scrape it off and then lightly paint over it with a moistened paint brush? Or try an emery board? I havenít tried it - just making suggestions.  :)
Truly, Erica
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Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2021, 07:09:51 PM »
It looks to me like the chunks that appear on top
are happening because the gouache has dried enough that it is acting like paint and not like ink.
When I work in gouache, it seems like I spend more time on adding water, stirring, and cleaning the nib - than I do on actual writing.

When I had students who were struggling with blobby messes - I could see that they just needed to slow down and realize that gouache is not ink so it requires more attention. It needs to be watery enough to be inky -- but it can get too watery with certain nibs.

It might surprise you how thin you can make the gouache -- with the right paper and nib - it can be almost like regular water color.
But, if you are looking for that nice opaque look of gouache, you might need a different paper or a different nib.

You have to consider the paper and the ink. Every.Single.Time. Unless you hit on a perfect combination the first time. That can happen.

You are working with a broad edge - so if you try different nibs -- you will see a difference between Mitchells and Tapes for example. For me - I love a Mitchell with a reservoir and walnut ink -- and it will work on lots of papers -- but not all. If I use gouache with Mitchells, I do not use the reservoir and I clean the nib frequently.

The more tooth your paper has -- will affect how the gouache behaves. I prefer a less-toothy paper with gouache and broad edge.

That chunk in the photo - might not happen on a different paper. (even though I think it just looks like a little build up because the gouache needs to be a little thinner)

Once you find combinations that work -- be sure to make a note on a piece of the paper indicating which nib and which gouache worked the best.

And -- different color of gouache behave differently.
Personally -- I love indigo -- and some of the greens drive me crazy - because they do not stay mixed.

Hopefully you continue to have fun on your journey.

Have fun experimenting -- remember with every project -- paper/nib/fluid -- if something is not working -- you might need to start trying some other papers - or nibs - or fluids.

Offline Matthew H.

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2021, 04:26:43 PM »
@Erica McPhee Thanks for your suggestions, Erica. Iíll give those things a try. If I can learn to touch up any letters on which this has occurred, I think it will take away some of the pressure I feel when using gouache. At the moment, I find myself pleading "Please don't make a mess!" with it as I write.

@jeanwilson Iíve spent some time today experimenting with the things you suggested, and itís been a revelation! Thank you for all of your advice. NaÔvely, I thought that gouache was largely gouache Ė I never realised that paper could have such a significant effect on how gouache behaves.

I tried diluting the gouache almost to the consistency of watercolour, which made the rucked-up effect much less prominent than it has been. Unfortunately, it's still happening a little, and as I look closely, I think the remaining blobs are paper fibres that have been disturbed by the edge of the nib while the paper is wet. The fibres in Rhodia 80gsm paper seem particularly easily dislodged. It happened far less with St Cuthberts Mill Botanical Ultra Smooth paper, especially on the slightly coarser rear side. (I think the gouache even appeared more opaque on this paper, too, which was a nice surprise.)

Thanks for your kind wishes. I'm looking forward to playing around with some further combinations.

Offline JanisTX

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Re: Gouache opacity
« Reply #14 on: August 16, 2021, 08:41:03 AM »
@Ken Fraser  told me that he uses a scaplel (yes, a surgical scaplel!!) to remove errors, blobs, etc.  So, I ordered a box from Amazon & I use them to scrape off ink/gouache/Pearl-Ex/etc. that I don't want on my paper.  I worry about having my scaplel laying around with my grandkids, but I try to remember to put them up high when they are here.  Who knew that calligraphy could be dangerous?!

Janis