Previously considered a lost art, designers have been rediscovering gouache (“goo + AASH”) painting. While we at New York Jewelry Design Institute have been teaching this lost art since 2012, many designers have negated this process and jumped right to jewelry design. However, gouache painting is a rich art form that is highly suggested to be used in jewelry design by experts.

In comparison to regular water painting, gouache watercolor is opaque and therefore adds a richer look to the pieces that it’s used in.

We will get into the importance of gouache painting when it comes to jewelry design in a second, but first what is gouache?

What is Gouache Watercolor Painting?

Gouache watercolor painting has been used for over twelve centuries and has a very rich history. We see gouache watercolor painting used most often in comic books, illustrations, posters, and even jewelry design. Gouache can be re-wetted and dries matte – plus, it can be infused in its paper support.

Gouache is a water medium, but you can find a variation of gouache in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs where gum or tragacanth gum was used as a binding. The word gouache comes from the Italian word guazzo, which means mud. This term was derived in the 16th century for practices of using oil paint over a tempera base. It was in France in the 18th century that the medium became water based. It was throughout the 18th century that gouache was made as a mixed technique with the intention of being used in pastel paintings.

There is a new form of gouache called acrylic gouache that uses an acrylic-based binder and has a highly concentrated pigment.

So, what does gouache have to do with jewelry design?

Just as it’s been used in gorgeous paintings and most 20th century animations, it also was a common practice to use gouache in jewelry designs. Artists would draw out their ideas beforehand and using water-based paint like gouache became common practice.

Pearl Ring

Femmes Boreales Pearle Imperiale ring

Why is Gouache Considered a Lost Art?

Due to the rise of computers in the 1980s, many jewelry designers had moved away from gouache painting and went straight into fabricating their designs. Some designers simply never learned this amazing process. Gouache watercolor painting takes skill and is time consuming. It could take someone a few hours to several days to create a gouache rendering as opposed to the quick turnaround that having something printed on a computer will take. However, gouache is making a comeback in the last year couple of years.

More people are seeing the benefit of using a rendered sketch of what they’re looking to design – it doesn’t need to be perfect, but it can really help an artist.

The Importance of a Jewelry Designer’s Creative Process

 Comic book artists, fashion designers, and more all sketch out their designs before bringing their art to life. Even if you take the old saying “measure twice, cut once” you can use the spirit of the saying and apply it to jewelry design.

Despite gouache watercolor painting being considered a lost art, some of the biggest names in the jewelry industry use and know the importance of putting ideas to paper before creating their designs. Luxury jewelry designers like Van Cleef & Arpels – a French company created in 1896 – use gouache to design every single one of their jewelry pieces. Even more impressive, they still have an archive of all the designs they have ever created.

Hand sketching your designs, gives you the ability to see your creations come to life. This also opens up the creative process as you dream up your own unique creations. Gouache painting and hand sketching jewelry give another layer of credibility to the jewelry designer.

Van Cleef & Arpels have designed jewelry worn by Grace Kelly, Eva Perón, Elizabeth Taylor, and the Duchess of Windsor. In addition, well-known jewelry designer Harry Winston was also known to archive the gouache designs of his pieces.

Using gouache can be combined with digital software that many people are using today. Software like 3Design Jewelry CAD, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Coral Draw and others are being utilized. Jewelry designers today are seeing the importance and art of gouache renderings in addition with their modern computer software programs.

New York Jewelry Design Institute (NYJDI) The New York Jewelry Design Institute pioneers modern programming and methods in jewelry design education.

Van Cleef & Arpels ‘Lover’s Path’ bracelet

Don’t Skip This Powerful Piece of Jewelry Design

Gouache watercolor painting is a skill that can be perfected overtime and is not something that should be skipped. While we see the jewelry design world becoming interested in it once again, The New York Jewelry Design Institute has been teaching gouache watercolor renderings since the beginning of 2012 and we will continue to provide teaching this beautiful technique. In our traditional watercolor with gouache paint for jewelry designers, you will learn:

  • Traditional European watercolor techniques
  • How to work with gouache
  • How to render faceted gemstones to express reflections of light
  • How to make gold and silver metal tones pop

Our classes fill up quickly, so make sure you’re registering today and see what we are offering this FALL 2021.