painting done with the gouache wash-off technique

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Here is a technique that can be adapted to your own style, explained by Jo Sheppard.

"I like the unpredictability of using a gouache resist," says Jo.  "You never know how it will look at the end of the washing stage.  Also, how the finished works ‘look’ is very idiosyncratic- it cannot be achieved using any other technique, as far as I am aware, so for me it is worth persevering with." 

You will need water-soluble gouache or poster paint, and also some waterproof acrylic ink (or Indian) ink.  It is best to work on a heavy paper that can tolerate wet work. I use hot pressed watercolour paper (HP) which is smooth, as I like to add detail later. A detailed explanation of materials is at the bottom.

Image drawn on paper

Draw your image on paper that can tolerate wet work

1. First, draw out your image in pencil. If you want a detailed image, the first part of the process may only be a small part - expect to have to work into the image to get what you want. For the demo I used a really simple image- with a bit of practice you can get very sophisticated results but it does take a bit of practice and perseverance.

Paint, using gouache

Paint using gouache, leaving the parts that will be black bare

2. Paint using thick gouache, leaving areas you want to be black, if you're using black acrylic ink. Allow the gouache to dry completely.

Where I wanted white flowers, I painted them in white gouache.

black ink sprayed on the image

Spray on black acrylic ink, then allow it to dry

3. Spray or brush acrylic black waterproof ink over the image. Allow this to dry.

I put some ink into a spray bottle and spray the ink on, as I like the effect it gives. You can brush it on, but this might re-wet the gouache and move it around. If you want to brush the ink on, add two or three layers to avoid smears.


gouache being washed off

Take your painting to the sink and wash off the black ink - this is the fun part!

4. Wash off the gouache

Take the painting to the sink and run the tap on it to wash off the black ink. Here, the stream of water is hitting the image and I am using a soft flat brush to help ease the black ink off the gouache.

image with the gouache washed off


How my image looked once the gouache was washed off.

Now I will work into the image.

finished painting

Complete your painting using your own choice of media

5. Work into your picture using inks and/or gouache as required. 

You can work into your washed image with anything. I like to work into mine with pointillistic dots to echoes the sprayed/splatted look.

Here are my materials:

materials and equipment needed for the gouach wash-off technique

Spray bottle - for spraying on the black ink.  The black ink must be bone-dry before you start the wash-off.

Flat brush - for easing the black ink off the image with the water running under the tap. This is an inexpensive soft-haired acrylic brush.

Gouache -  I used coloured and Permanent White.  Gouache is an opaque paint which is water-soluble – paints containing acrylic or polymers aren’t suitable.  I tend to find that cheaper gouache does not stain the paper very well, so I always use Winsor & Newton's Designer Gouache. 

Black Acrylic Ink -  this is water-resistant ink.  Acrylic inks are ideal, and come in a range of colours. Black Indian ink could also be used as this contains shellac – however I find that I get best results with acrylic inks. Ordinary fountain pen ink is water-soluble, so it won’t work for this process. I used Liquitex Professional Acrylic ink in Carbon Black, but any black acrylic ink would do.

Black waterproof pigment fine-line pen - for drawing out the image in stage one, and for completing the image.

White pigment fine liner pen - for adding details at the end.  Obviously you could use other coloured pigment inks as well.

Acrylic Inks - for completing the image

artist Jo Sheppard with examples of gouache washoff paintings

Jo Sheppard runs workshops in Loughborough, Leicestershire, including a workshop on using Gouache resist:

gouche resisit paintings by Jo Sheppard's students

Gouache resist paintings by Jo Sheppard's students

Gouache Resist Workshop
Monday, 27 July 2020

Tutor: Jo Sheppard

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