You love painting in gouache and so do I, but it is a pity framing gouache is such a hassle. Matte boards and glass increase expenses and glass breaks. What if you could frame gouache paintings without glass? This article and the videos will show you exactly how to do just that. I am also going to show you how to make super convenient painting panels for gouache too.
Get the full process below plus the videos. Let’s begin.
The Paper Painting Panel
The best surface for gouache, in my opinion, is watercolor paper. Preferably cold press 300gsm (140lbs) paper. It does not have to be expensive either. The absorbency and texture make gouache much easier to use. The versatility of the paper for painting effects is also very good.
But paper has issues too. You need to tape it to a board when painting. Alternatively you can work on a paper pad but that is usually heavy and quite thick. What if you could paint on a panel? The paper needs to be fixed to a light and portable painting panel.
Yes there are proprietary panels that offer this already. But they are not available everywhere and can be expensive. Also finding your favorite paper on a panel is unlikely. Worry not because I am going to show you how you can make your own panels.
Panel Making Method
I have taken inexpensive foam core panels and cut them to size. The idea is to stick your watercolor paper onto a panel and make your own light and portable water media panels.You can use these for watercolor as well as gouache.
The adhesive should be a water based glue that is also acid free. Finding acid free glue is difficult in my area so I have decided to apply a gesso primer to the rear of the watercolor paper. This is simply a barrier between the paper and the glue. Not perfect, but it is something.
As an alternative to foam core you may be able to get Gator Board which is a fancier and more expensive option. Not available to me, but nice if you can find it.
Okay once the gesso has dried you can apply the glue to the foam core by brushing it on evenly. Leave no gaps. Then lay the paper down over the glue and smooth out all air bubbles under the paper. A craft roller is ideal to get all air out. Air bubbles are a nuisance if you see one appear later. Once there it is next to impossible to get rid of it.
Place a clean card over the panel then a few heavy books to press the paper down onto the panel. Allow this to dry for an hour or two. Once dry you have a nice watercolor paper painting panel.
Paint and Seal Your Masterpiece
Now you can use the panel for your gouache painting. When the painting has dried fully it is time to seal it against the elements and other minor mishaps. This means a good varnish, but you cannot brush it either. The gouache will reactivate and your painting will be ruined.
The answer is to spray the varnish on to the painting. I prefer to apply four layers of spray varnish. Two coats of gloss varnish followed by two coats of satin varnish. You can use matte varnish instead of satin if you want. Both options remove some of the glossy appearance of gloss.
The first two gloss layers make for a strong barrier or water resistant varnish. Make sure that each layer is completely dry before the next layer. About twenty minutes minimum between layers.
After the fourth layer the painting is sealed. I have tested it with water and rubbing a brush over the painting with no sign of the paint reactivating. Hopefully your painting will not be subjected to anything worse than that.
Types of Varnish Spray
There are many brands of spray varnish. Popular brands like Krylon offer varnish for oils and acrylic paintings. Use these types of varnish as you will not find a varnish specifically for gouache or watercolor. You must remember that you are taking a risk on something unintended by these manufacturers.
Top Tip: Use Water Based Varnish Spray
The varnish spray I used in this experiment is made by a Belgian company called Ghiant. It is water based and is available in gloss, satin and matte. The great thing is that it has ninety percent less solvents. The spray has significantly less volatile smells which is a great improvement. I used the spray in a ventilated room with no problems.
Typical solvent filled sprays are best used outdoors due to their toxic vapours. The waterbased Ghiant spray is a big improvement over regular sprays.
Sealed and Ready for Framing
You will notice that water based sprays tend to look a little smoky after application. They dry clear though and you must not panic if you see this whitish appearance. When spraying avoid stopping over the painting as you might get drips and overspray bubbles. These may dry away or leave marks if very big.
Now that you have the sealed painting you can pop it into a frame. There you have a framed gouache painting without glass and matte board. Looks rather good doesn’t it?
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