Holbein Acrylic Gouache Formerly "Acryla" - Matte Paint Review, Color Chart, Lightfast Test, Pigment Info
Holbein Acrylic Gouache (formerly called "Acryla" gouache pre 2021) is a unique matte acrylic paint that dries nearly waterproof and very matte (no gloss shine). This matte surface works a bit like gesso, a primer that could allow further layers and other media like ink or pencil strokes on top. Acrylic gouache is much easier to layer than traditional gouache, since you're unlikely to reactivate any previously applied dry layers. You have freedom to work light to dark, dark to light, thinner transparent washes or thicker opaque strokes as you see fit between dry layers.
If you only try one tube of acrylic gouache in your life, I recommend Jet Black PBk1 in Holbein or Turner's brand "acryl" gouache. This black in masstone is so dark and non-reflective that it can create the appearance of a void / black hole. This is incredibly good for scanning dead-matte with no gloss, but also for making surrounding colors appear more vibrant and pop off the page. It would also make a good contrasting base layer for metallic acrylics or opaque mica watercolors like those from Finetec/Coliro.
The acrylic binder means these are also far less likely to crack than gum-arabic gouache paints when applied thickly (though I don't recommend these soft/thin body paints for impasto effects, I would first apply a texture paste instead if looking to build 3d strokes). They do not dry 100% waterproof, but the acrylic binder provides extreme water-resistance once dry. Do not let these dry on the palette while working, they require a stay-wet palette/wet sponge under parchment or a fine misting from a water bottle periodically while working. Once the paint is dry, very diluted pale tints of color can be still be picked up on a wet brush when scrubbing (even after a few days of dry time).
There may have been some flow improvements made to the formula in recent years, as the most recently released colors seemed better at self-leveling streak free coverage than past versions. I can not discount the possibility that these start to dry in the tube over the course of a year, just enough to make them harder to work with. They can feel slightly sticky, causing brush drag if you work with these too dry or on layers that are in process of drying. Therefore I'd recommend adding at least one drop of water to the paint on your palette (they generally recommend 10-20% diluted before you start really seeing paler values). Work with a pre-damp (not soaked) paint brush, to help keep the application of these paints as smooth as possible.
Holbein acrylic gouache is technically an acrylic paint (acrylic polymer emulsion, a type of plastic binder that seals pigment like glue or varnish would) but there are differences between "acrylic gouache" and just "matte acrylic". HAG's flow/disperse rate in wet wash, as well as the matte finish once dried, has a similar feel and appearance to a water-soluble gouache (like those made using a re-wettable gum arabic or dextrin based binder).
Holbein and Turner brands are the most popular and truly unique of the acrylic gouache hybrid paints. There are other "acrylic gouache" titled paints out there that are not as nice (Liquitex has a mostly semi-opaque, lesser pigment load, not fully matte version that I do not recommend). Most others like Lascaux, Jo Sonja, Amsterdam and cheap craft acrylics/decoart/americana/applebarrel just make "matte acrylic" which does not disperse as easily in wet washes. Golden's So Flat is a high quality matte acrylic that can be used a similar way, but more of their selection is semi-opaque than Holbein or Turner.
All of these brands (and any type of paint line) carry colors that range from semi-transparent to fully opaque. Do not be fooled by the common description that gouache or acrylic gouache are always opaque. This is a per-pigment characteristic and some colors are prone to being more transparent. Almost any red (other than Cadmium) tend to be more transparent than colors like browns, black or white for instance. Every paint tube or color chart usually has a solid filled in square for colors that are opaque (will fully cover up the paper or paint underneath it). The colors that are only semi-opaque to semi-transparent will have a slash mark or half filled-in square icon suggesting it only partially covers up other layers of colors.
Holbein and Turner have an increased pigment load and dispersing agents. That helps them perform more like gouache in both usage and final appearance when compared to other matte acrylic paints on the market. Due to these characteristics, unlike most acrylic, they can be diluted to work similarly to watercolor. They provide smooth inky washes ready to dissolve and spread when painted wet on wet. They can even produce a salt texture reaction (a snowflake pattern easily achieved with watercolor/gouache, but usually prevented by thicker body acrylic binders).
Lightfastness? Many of the colors in this line are lightfast, but just like Turner brand they also offer some fugitive and neon/uv black light reactive colors for those who prefer bright colors for print reproduction or special effects. Holbein's primary mixing sets contain lightfast colors (though the set with PR122 Magenta is preferable over the slightly less durable PR170 Carmine which may fade when very diluted/tints).
Swatch cards with pigment and lightfast information:
Where to buy? You can find Holbein acrylic gouache in many online stores online including Amazon, Jacksons (UK/worldwide) or Blick (USA). This page contains affiliate links. All product opinions are my own. I am committed to honest reviews showcasing both the pros and cons of each product. I have not received payment from any brand for a review. I only recommend stores I have personally shopped with and had a positive experience. I earn a commission from sales made through this web page's clickable banners or other links to Amazon, Jackson's or Blick Art Materials.
My favorite American art supply chain store is Dick Blick. They have a massive catalog and competitive prices, with quick shipping options here in the USA.
One of my favorite places to shop for a world-wide selection watercolor paint and brushes is Jackson's. They have affordable shipping to the USA and a lovely selection of items not easily found in American stores.
Amazon USA continues to offer more and more art and craft supplies. They also carry Turner acryl gouache, a similar quality product and the main competitor to Holbein. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Want to compare each swatch card to the same color in other brands of paint? See each pigment numbers side by side on the pigment database pages.