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Gouache (Pronounce: Gwahsh) is an ancient artistic tool that can create amazingly unique calligraphy and works of art. This is a unique medium that marries the smoothness of watercolors with the texture of chalk. This creates a brittle yet smooth texture on any kind of surface to create incredibly life-life art.

The gouache has a texture that few other colors can replicate, and it just happens to be more than 1200 years old.

Despite its age, gouache is a relatively obscure art-form known only to commercial artists and calligraphers.

The material is one of the safest, least toxic means of coloring available on the market that works on all manner of different surfaces.

Rococo artists such as Francois Boucher used it to create works of art such as “The Adoration of the Shepherds”. It is used in commercial advertisements to this day.

Why Gouache Calligraphy?

This unique medium is water-based and perfect for painting on hard surfaces, photographic paper, celluloid sheets, acetate, Mylar, and illustration boards. They pop in a manner regular watercolors don’t. It dries quickly, leaving little room for mistakes.

A single stroke made with gouache has a distinct opaqueness created as a result of the binding materials used within. Gum Arabic or yellow dextrin are used to create the brittle and smooth effect it has on paper. Gum Arabic makes the color go moldy faster and has a worse shelf life than yellow dextrin, leading to it becoming the predominant binding material used in the modern age.

This texture is achieved by mixing the solution along with an equal volume of water. This medium is also hygroscopic, and adds an extra flourish and flexibility to each pen stroke. The material’s quick-drying properties prevent it from getting smudged while working, which makes it especially convenient for gouache calligraphy.

Gouache calligraphy can be accomplished with multiple tools, although nib pens produce some of the best quality work.

Bristle brushes can be used to create thick, heavy coated strokes. Sable brushes can be use to create smooth, elegant color fields.

Calligraphy rarely makes use of blended and custom colors. This makes gouache especially valuable. The material is perfect for blending and combining with other mediums such as watercolors that look wonderful on any kind of surface or paper. It requires a skilled hand to take advantage of the unique opaqueness of the strokes but create powerful, vibrant strokes at the same time.

It is similar to a hybrid of acrylic and watercolors that can create gentle shadows while illustrating that cannot otherwise be found with watercolors. It is unusually sharp while providing great depth at the same time.

Gouache calligraphy be harnessed to create flat, 2D textures on paper or 3D textures depending on how the material is manipulated.

How Can I Use Gouache In My Calligraphy?

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As a water-based color, gouache works fantastic with fountain pens, nib pens and airbrushes.

To use a nib pen to draw some beautiful little calligraphy, you need to prepare the gouache, some distilled water, a palette board and any kind of paper along with a nib pen.

Let’s proceed step by step.

1. Ensure your nib is clean for optimal smoothness in your lines. Grab your gouache colors and squeeze it onto a palette board. Add a little water to the gouache and mix it with a brush until you get the desired silky smooth consistency you want.

Slowly add water and keep mixing. If you add too much water, the colors become runny and thin. If you add too little, it becomes thick. You can never remove the water once applied. So err on the side of less water initially. As a rule of thumb, always make more gouache colors than needed. You don’t want to run out in the middle of a piece as re-mixing the solution to get the exact shade of color again is extremely difficult. This keeps your colors consistent throughout all your work.

2. Prepare the nib pen for calligraphy by removing the outer coating first. This outer coating hinders the flow and protects the nib from rusting over. You’ll need to take an old soft toothbrush with gentle bristles and create a solution of baking soda and dish-wash soap. Combine them and brush your nib with this thick paste. Scrub until your nib is shiny. The moment the nib is clean, it is vulnerable to rusting so ensure it’s dry always when not in use. You cannot use a rusty nib to practice calligraphy.

3. Your pen has a liquid reservoir for holding all the gouache within. Swipe your nib across the reservoir to load up the pen. Load it until it’s 75% filled. You can visually inspect the reservoir to ensure you don’t go under or overfill the pen.

4. Use the brush to finish a few quick strokes onto a practice

sheet. Test rounds should be composed of a few vertical and horizontal strokes just to get a feel of the pen. You’ll note that the ink dries up much faster compared to regular paints or calligraphy ink. The gouache has a short time before it dries and hardens but should create powerful, vibrant strokes on the paper. When your strokes look good, start lettering.

5. When you’re finished with your lettering, store your gouache in an air-tight container. This keeps the moisture out and keeps it usable for weeks. The moment any moisture slips in, the colors are impossible to re-activate so be careful. Use distilled water instead of regular water when mixing your gouache for maximum lifespan and smoothness. Clean and dry your nib when you’re done to prevent rusting.

The Bottom Line

Gouache calligraphy has fantastic potential and stands out due to its sheer uniqueness. Very little colors are needed to mix and match to create custom colors for calligraphy practice unlike other forms of calligraphy. It dries matte, not glossy, and its signature mark of super opaqueness makes it ideal for calligraphy. Gouache calligraphy is ideal for amateurs and professionals alike.