Openinkstand Art & Calligraphy

Mixing gouache


Hey Schin! I absolutely love everything you do! I’ve been wondering – What is your process for mixing custom inks for envelope addressing? Do you mix existing calligraphy inks? Or use guache (I’ve never used guache so I have no idea)? It seems that I can never find the exact color I need ready-made. Thanks!! Jill

Thanks Jill! I do not mix my inks for custom colors, you could but each color/brand has its own chemical thingies that mixing may cause unexpected color changes, or the pigments may not mix correctly or it may blow up or something who knows. I’m not a chemist, but I am an artist so I use gouache for custom colors, and many professional calligraphers swear by it too.

My cat Rice Purridge has decided to help with this tutorial.
Gouache comes in tubes and in many different colors so you can buy the color closest to what you have in mind and then mix a little to get it perfect. Some brands are more expensive than others but I personally like Winsor Newton. You can get as many colors as you like but always get a white tube. While watercolor is like runny colored transparent water (not ideal for calligraphy), gouache is like a thicker runny chalk. You can add more or less water to control the consistency to exactly how you like it, though it shouldn’t be as runny as watercolor. And best of all, it is very easy to clean if you spill it on your table.. it just washes right off.

You would need an old brush, a palette or little glass jar and chopstick rest to hold the brush (or just rest it on a tube of paint). Gouache is easy, just squirt a small amount of color into the dish and add a little water (using the brush) and gently mix till it’s completely dissolved into a creamy paste. Use less color than you intend, because the pigment is so rich that a little goes a long way. Unfortunately, a drawback with gouache is that it tends to dry lighter if you mix a dark color and dry darker if you’re mixing a light color. Just keep in mind the color you want and mix a shade lighter or darker depending on what it is, or test it on paper and let it dry before using. In this pic you can see I’ve added cadmium red, some gold and some white. I am aiming to get a lovely pink color.

One good thing about gouache is that even after it is dried (and it does dry quickly!), you can always add a little water and it is good to go again. I like using these little glass jars because they are very easy to clean. Here you can see I’ve mixed it into a nice creamy consistency with the brush. Ricey is a little too curious here.. right after this pic she ran off to clean her nose.

When you’re done mixing, use the brush to load the nib. Don’t even bother trying to dip the nib, it’s just not gonna work. It’s a pain to keep loading the nib with a brush, but trust me it’s your best bet. That’s why a chopstick rest is so handy for somewhere to set the wet brush. You may be tempted to overload the brush, but don’t, because this will happen…

..Pooling! Ugh. It can be tricky to get just the right consistency so it writes well without pooling, but it happens. You can try adding a few drops of gum arabic (buy the liquid kind) to improve the flow but it is not completely necessary. Keep your jar of water near you just in case.

When mixed perfectly, gouache is excellent for calligraphy. It’s not as difficult as it sounds, just takes some practice to get right. It should be about the consistency of whole creamy milk. If it’s too thick, just add more water. If it’s too thin, then just add more paint. A few drops of gum arabic and maybe 5-6 tubes of good gouache paint and you can make all the colors of the rainbow.

Uh oh, she’s back to avenge her nose!

Hope this helps!

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