Sunday, December 20, 2015

Questions about Casein and Gouache

Carlos Angeli writes from Argentina: "I've just finished watching Fantasy in the Wild (shared some thoughts on the blog as well), and loved it. Because there are no casein paints here in Argentina, I was wondering; if you had to go with a substitute for paintings like the ones in your video, would you go with either gouache or acrylics? 

Also, Julien in France asked on YouTube: "Richeson casein is not distributed in France yet, a bit expensive to get. Couldn't find a casein set less than 60/80€."

Gurney: Yes Carlos and Julien, it's too bad that Richeson doesn't distribute casein where you live, but gouache is nearly the same— good colors, opaque, and nice handling. I did the excavator study in gouache and transparent watercolors.

Julien: "I thought casein was more 'creamy' than gouache? I already have gouache, maybe not tested extra fine quality gouache (only white with my watercolors). In French shops, casein seems to be only a basic paint for old furnitures, as 'ecologic' way. The milk protein is only in casein isn't it? And you have both gouache and casein in the US, even if only Shiva (Richeson) seems to offer casein, no?

Gurney: Yes, casein is formulated with a milk protein for the binder. It's a bit creamier than gouache, but if you're using your transparent watercolors with gouache white, you would get more of a creamy feeling if you used tubed gouache for all the colors instead. You could also mix your gouache with a little casein emulsion or even acrylic emulsion. Richeson makes a separate emulsion product, as does Pelikan.

If you want a sealed surface when the paint is dry, you could use Holbein Acryla Gouache or any of the "acrylic gouaches", which are really acrylic paints with opaque, matte, "gouache-like" qualities. 

Carlos: "I'd like to know if you use something to protect your paintings once they're finished. I've been doing many watercolor and some gouache attempts lately and I don't know if there's a product for that."

When I was doing animation background painting, I used an aerosol product called Crystal Clear to varnish gouaches and cel-vinyl paintings. It gives them an impermeable, glossy depth that resembles oil paintings, but it makes the surface no longer workable in gouache, pencil, or pen.

Richeson (Shiva) makes a casein varnish to protect the surface and deepen the colors with a glossier finish. I've tried it, but haven't had much luck with it because it keeps soaking into the paper, even after many coats. Maybe if I used a less absorbent ground than watercolor paper, such as a gesso surface, the varnish might not soak in.

Most of the time, and especially for my sketchbooks, I like to leave the surface of gouache and casein just as it is, with a matte finish. It photographs better and it's always workable. 

Fantasy in the Wild: Painting Concept Art on Location is available in two forms:


Glenn Tait said...

Jackson's art supplies in the UK does carry casein in the Pelikan line. However it is in 50 ml bottles. They cost about €6 each. Going through the links below it seems to be more of a high end poster paint aimed at hobbyists but they do talk to its lightfastness and longevity. Not much in terms of pigment information. Don't know how it would compare to the Richeson line but it may be an alternative.

Mario said...

Casein-longing painters of the world, unite! :)
Here is my vote for asking Richeson casein paint in Europe, if anyone is listening. Maybe "Jackson's art" could be a good starting point. If I remember well, they used to sell some Richeson products, but now I don't find any on their web-site.
Regarding the Pelikan paint, it really looks like a hobbist paint. And finally, last year I visited Zecchi's renowned shop in Firenze (Florence). They sell a casein paint, but both the label and the reseller were very evasive about the quality and the characteristics of the paint, so I didn't buy any. Also, the palette was very limited.
So, we really need Richeson casein paint...

Daniele Guadagnolo said...

I would definitely love tube Casein paint here in Italy. Had unfortunately the same experience with Zecchi.

Anonymous said...

James, I see in the video that you are sometimes using a brush with with what looks like long fibers. It has a dark ferrule and a light blue band on a dark blue handle. Is this a script or liner brush of some sort? Brand?

James Gurney said...

DocT, funny you should ask. It came from a set of brushes I got from the big box store Michaels. I think there were a set of about six brushes for $10. One of the cheapest brushes I own. That thin, long brush is called an Artists Loft #6. Works fine.

Anonymous said...

James, Thanks for the info on the brush. I had thought it was perhaps some "super brush" that I could not live without. :-) Your new video is excellent (as are the previous two). I have been a fan of yours for a long time, since in the mid 90s when I was in Denver one day and wandered into a little downtown western museum that was closing down where I found an interesting used book for $5, "An Artist's Guide to Sketching". Still the best I have ever read on the subject (and I've read a lot). It is autographed by Thomas Kinkade, and maybe if our paths cross one day I can get your signature in it as well.

Levon Jihanian said...

I've watched a couple of videos online of Kazuo Oga using "Nicker Poster Color". And I love the smoothness, flow, and opacity he seems to get with them. It's cost prohibitive to import them into the U.S., and the consensus is that the closest alternative is gouache. Nobody seems to know what the binder is for this magical korean poster paint. Could it be casein? From my computer desk they seem to have similar milky qualities.

Unknown said...

Hello! My name is Colleen Richeson with the Jack Richeson Co., Inc in Kimberly Wisconsin. We have a number of Internet Retailers who would be happy to ship Casein Paint virtually anywhere in the world there are not mail restrictions.

Please feel free to contact me personally at
Please include your mailing address - this will help us to connect you with someone you can purchase Casein from in 1.25oz/37ml tubes.

For more information on the colors available - go to:

Thank you for your interest!!!

Unknown said...

My name is Colleen Richeson Maxey at Jack Richeson & Co., Inc.
We have a number of on line retailers who would be happy to ship Casein virtually anywhere there are not mailing restrictions.

Please contact me personally at

For information on colors available - go to:

Thank you for your interest!

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Colleen, for explaining how people can get access to your casein in other countries.

Ardell said...

Hi James,
I'm an American living in Scotland, been here a long time so can sympathise with the others about finding art supplies among other things. I was reading about you and suddenly realised that I have a book of yours... quite impressive! So, I have also been researching casein paints and where to buy them. have them at an outrageous price but Blick art supplies carry them in 37mm tubes very reasonably and ship international. So luck to all.

Ardell Morton

Julien Weber-Acquaviva said...

Hi, Julien again,
I've finaly bought richeson casein online, still quite expensive, but quite cool, actually diffrent from gouach or acryla (holbein is a very good choice with your advice too).
I also took a bottle of "richeson casein emulsion" in the package, you talked about it once, but I just want to get more information about it, a demo or something: how much can I mix, is it for pigments only or can I mix it directly with my gouach like linel lefranc or schmincke to make it "creamier"? I'll give a try soon, but don't want to loose my time ;)

My other question is about fixing (varnish or hair lacquer in bomb): do you use that to fix, even your sketchbooks paintings? For now I don't feel it's necessary, but if so, which one did you choose?

thanks again, I keep talking about your blog to my few young french students and professional friends !

James Gurney said...

Julien, good questions. I have only experimented a little with the emulsion and the varnish. I don't see any reason why you can't use the emulsion with gouache.

The varnish doesn't work well with watercolor paper because it's so absorbent. It just soaks it up. But on a panel, the varnish develops gloss with just one or two coats. The varnish is extremely helpful for dark paintings. The matte surface of casein (and gouache) doesn't look so good with dark paintings. It's better for light, impressionistic approaches to color.

CForester said...

I'm so grateful for all of the comments added to your posts. I too have your book "Color and Light" pulling it out often for reference. It has taken me a week of reading everything on gouache and casein applications on your blog. Your answers to Julien are what I was searching for, but I have more questions. You stated you only experiment a little with this technique....what were your findings? By adding the emulsion with the gouache, will this give less liftable to the gouache? I do mostly figures/portraiture on paper. I like the blending ability of gouache. There at times would like to have it a bit more stable without blending or lifting the initial color. Also, what ratio of color to emulsion would you suggest? I know this comment is being posted at much later date.....hoping it finds it way to you in BOX! Thank you, C

guitarboy said...

I just bought a Canson 5.5 x 8.5-inch Mixed Media notebook of heavy paper and wonder whether I should buy gouache, casein or tempera paints. My question is, if you could only use one of them for notebook and fine art paintings, which would you choose and why?

I like your style of realist landscapes and that's what I intend to paint.

Thank you for taking my question!

James Gurney said...

Guitarboy, Assuming your sketchbook can handle wet washes, I would choose about six tubes of watercolor and a tube of white gouache, and then you can do any watercolor or gouache technique.