Talens Gouache Review, Color Chart, Pigment List, Pro Grade for Designer or Fine Art.
Royal Talens Extra Fine Gouache is a professional quality paint with a matte finish and high pigment load. Most colors are semi to fully opaque for covering dark papers or previous layers of paint. Talens gouache is great for achieving solid matte coverage for design work, covering up painting mistakes or adding details/highlights over watercolor paintings. They offer several sets that are price competitive. The primary mixing color sets are a great starting point for those learning gouache, but aren't sure which colors to choose.
Can these be used like watercolor? Yes, they can be diluted with water for semi transparent watercolor-like techniques. However, I do not recommend gouache as a watercolor replacement. Gouache lacks the same flow, transparency for glazing, salt reaction and smoothness in wet washes that most watercolors have. It can be re-wet from dry, but lifting to white can be challenging with this highly staining paint (more gum arabic in watercolor promotes lifting). Hard edges, backruns/blooms, uneven surface sheen and streaky shifts in opacity can become apparent when using too much water with gouache. Using gouache too thickly may cause the powdery (pigment-dense) matte surface to crack, so there is a learning curve for anyone new to gouache regarding water ratio and application thickness. They do not have enough binder to prevent cracking apart if dried in empty pans. A good brand for using gouache from dry is M.Graham due to the honey (humectant) in their binder. I only recommend using gouache from dry if you paint very small (or adding tiny details over watercolor paintings). Re-wetting gouache into smooth workable paint for large backgrounds is tedious.
Talens gouache comes in 60 colors including 5 metallic ones (pearlescent colors made from reflective Mica PW20 coated with Titanium and Iron Oxides). This selection is mostly made up of lightfast pigments, but be aware that there are several fugitive colors offered (almost entirely warm reds). There are no cadmiums or cobalt pigments offered, likely to keep these paints more affordable and less toxic. I wish they had chosen good lightfast alternatives to Cadmium Red (such as PR254 or PR255), but fugitive pigments like PR112, PR4, PR23 and PR83 are used instead. There are about 9 colors that fade and 51 reliable lightfast options, most of which are accurately rated on their labels.
If a painting turns out well, I like being confident that I can sell, gift or frame it for long term wall display without fear of fading (even indoors from nearby window light). If that seems important to you as well, then I would skip the colors highlighted in the color chart below:
Gouache is primarily marketed to illustrators for print reproduction, but it can also be suitable for selling original art (avoiding those reds). They do not offer any dye based or fluorescent colors that are prone to extremely quick fading. It is possible that "Orange" may have an undisclosed dye additive in addition to PR4, as it is labeled a suspiciously low 0 stars/LFIV-V (which fades in about 1-2mo window or 1-15yr indoor wall depending on proximity to window light). If you are looking for bright neon colors for your work/black light UV effects, then I recommend "designer" lines like ShinHan Pass (neon yellow/green), Holbein or Winsor & Newton (for fluorescent purples/rose/opera pink). If you want gouache that won't fade, pick and choose lightfast colors from the Talens color chart. You can create paintings with this gouache that are suitable for long term wall display.
In the USA I was only able to find a single Talens gouache set that seemed worth the price - the 8 split primary "mixing colors" tube set. This set is fantastic for learning color mixing, containing a warm and cool version of primary red/magenta, yellow/lemon, cyan/blue, black and white. This is generally all the paint you need to get started with gouache. Perfect for experienced artists practicing with a new medium or serious beginners wanting to try high quality paint they won't be discouraged by.
While the quality and pigment load is overall great, for lightfastness reasons I was disappointed that the warm red Vermilion PR4 in the 8 tube set is fugitive. It is a strong, opaque, orange-leaning warm red, but when creating artwork destined for sale/wall display I swap Vermilion PR4 out for a PR108 or PR255 based warm red from other brands. I used Talen's Vermilion PR4 in the mixing charts for demonstration purposes, but overall I do not recommend this color (outside of practice/sketchbooks/print reproduction where fading isn't as problematic). Otherwise this set is one of the best ways to try this brand (it can cost twice as much to buy these colors individually).
Talens also offers a smaller 5 tube set including the vibrant primary mixing trio (Magenta, Lemon, Cyan) with Black and White. This CMYK set can result in a huge variety of mixtures, white tints and black shades.
When upgrading to the 8 tube mixing set you gain a warmer yellow, red and granulating ultramarine deep blue. You can mix many more colors past what you see in these charts by swapping around primary colors. You can also achieve reds that are very similar to Vermilion by mixing Magenta and Yellow (as seen in the wheel above, a good way to make a lightfast red without having to buy a different brand's warm red to replace fugitive PR4 shown below).
While I like the purples that result from mixing Perm.Rose/Magenta with Light Blue (Cyan PB15), I also really appreciate the deep textural ones mixed with Ultramarine Deep (Blue PB29) instead. The granulation in Ultra Deep PB29 is not obvious when applied thickly or on dry paper, but displays heavy texture in wet washes. You can create color separating mixtures with Ultra Deep + any color. Achieve beautiful color separating greens when you add yellow, or royal purples that separate back out to magenta and blue on wet paper:
Feel free to use my color wheel template for your personal color mixing practice. You can also find a larger image or different formats to print or trace here.
Brown with a limited palette - As someone who often paints birds and other wildlife, I usually include a brown (such as burnt umber or sienna) in my watercolor palettes. I was tempted to buy a brown separately, but the 8 tube color mixing set is capable of providing a wide variety of browns. I did not want to invest in more colors until I tested the quality and luckily I did not feel like I needed to expand upon the set colors right away. Sitting down for an hour to do color mixing charts can help you identify the quickest way to arrive at your goal color. Browns can be made by mixing almost any complementary color (opposites on the wheel), or by making a dark orange by adding a touch of black to orange (via red + yellow + black). Mixing a touch of black into warm reds like PR4 or PR255 can result in a variety of terra cotta colors similar to PR101 and more black can result in umber like mixtures similar to PBr7. Below is an example of these types of easy mixed browns using Daniel Smith Gouache (review page here) Pyrrol Scarlet PR255 mixed with black and white. I prefer this lightfast warm red, instead of the fugitive PR4 seen in the mushroom art. It is a very close match in color, but it is slightly less opaque than PR4:
- Coming soon, brown bird art created with warm red black white mixtures for the new Daniel Smith gouache review page -
Talens gouache contains dextrin as a binder (potato starch, which is fairly common and seen in brands like Schmincke). I have had a couple tubes with binder separation. I also had a problem with "light gold" where within a year a greenish tinge developed along with a strong smell in the binder portion of the paint. For those sensitive to smells please note that dextrin can sometimes sour as it ages. This causes an unpleasant rotten or chemical like smell (worse if the tube is old or shipped in heat) which does not appear to harm the paint. The majority of my tubes have no strong smell, but I have seen other online reviews mention their batch had a strong odor.
Dries smooth, flat and matte. Semi opaque colors can appear streaky unless mixed with white or applied with soft flat brushes very evenly. Dextrin is a naturally matte (non glossy) water soluble binder ingredient that gently glues the pigment to paper. This paint does not easily rub off once dry, but the colors are easily reactivated by water. Dextrin, along with a high pigment powder load, provides a superbly velvety matte finish. There's no gloss, even when paint is applied thickly (but care must be taken not to touch or burnish delicate matte surfaces). This makes gouache a great medium for print reproduction, as it photographs or scans well without reflection. The exception to this is the naturally shiny shimmering sparkle effect of mica PW20 in the 5 metallic colors. Silver and deep gold have a beautiful metallic shine when nearby light hits them, they are the most reflective of the metallic options. All of them are extremely opaque providing complete coverage on black paper.
Price: In the past this gouache used to be cheaper, but in recent years it has become less competitive for those buying within the USA. Often our art stores include extra cost due to high shipping costs and import fees, if you're in the Netherlands or nearby countries this may be a more affordable paint. Talens gouache can be purchased in 20ml metal paint tubes on Blick here (individual colors or discounted bundle sets).
You can also buy them in sets on Amazon. You can also find them in smaller 15ml plastic jars or larger 50ml bulk pots (60ml in select primary colors), but these options are often difficult to find in the USA. Be sure to check which size is being offered when comparing pricing, the different size jars can look similar in online images. The 8 tube set has been the best deal in the past, but prices for imported items often fluctuate.
Competition: Due to the high cost of purchasing individual colors in the USA, I can't recommend this paint over other high quality brands that can be found more affordably (Holbein, Maimeri, MGraham, DaVinci). As a SET this gouache was totally worth the price. Buying these colors individually can cost over twice the price per color, which is no longer competitive to other brands. Talens gouache in 2023 is averaging $10 USD per 20ml tube (sometimes on sale for as low as $8, but often as high as $12 on sites with fluctuating discounts that change monthly like Blick). They usually cost less when purchasing a box set bundle (breaking down to $5/tube - often half price compared to individual). Depending on the color needed, MGraham and Holbein's lowest price colors average $5-8, with only the most expensive cadmiums or cobalts running over $10-15. You can find Holbein Gouache on Jackson's here. Prices may change as economic issues are causing drastic fluctuations in shipping, import and pigment costs. I highly recommend taking a little time to price compare at a few different online shops.
Are Talens my top recommended gouache paints? No. Between the price to individually replace colors, the occasional dextrin smell and binder separation issues, as well as my personal consistency preferences, I would choose a different brand as my main workhorse. That being said, Talens gouache has such a reasonably priced color mixing set that I still recommend the 8 tube set for those practicing color mixing. It may also fit your needs when practicing theory (complementary colors / neutral mixing) or if you are otherwise unsure of which colors to start with.
When picking out specific individually purchased colors, I look for my favorite pigment codes in Schmincke, Maimeri, M.Graham, Winsor & Newton or Holbein gouache. Some brands carry certain pigments that others do not. If you're looking for a gouache that won't crack as much when dried out on the palette, M.Graham contains honey (a humectant that keeps dry paint from being bone dry and cracking apart) so you could use them similarly to watercolor pan sets. Overall gouache is best used fresh from the tube to maintain opacity and avoiding bubbles created from scrubbing at dry paint. Personally, if I could only paint with one brand of gouache for the rest of my life it would be Holbein. Read more about Holbein Irodori and Artists Gouache on the review page here.
Are they chalky? I try my best not to describe normal gouache traits, such as being matte or opaque, as the word "chalky" to avoid confusion. In general, the dusty velvety matte (non reflective) finish of gouache is often described as chalky. I reserve this description for paints that 1) contain chalk PW18 as a white filler or 2) rub off the page when dry like chalk or soft pastel. These paints do not contain fillers, just the pigment listed, dextrin and a preservative.
Are these paints opaque? Most of them are (Metallics, Black and Vermilion being some of the most opaque), but many could be described as semi-opaque. Gouache is often referred to as opaque watercolor, which is an over simplification. Gouache is generally more opaque than watercolors - even those made from the same pigment. This is usually due to more pigment powder being used in the gouache formula. Talens uses a small amount of matte binder (dextrin, a starch) other brands usually use the smallest possible amount of gum arabic (enough to keep pigment dust from being easily wiped off the page once the paint dries, but not to cause a glossy surface sheen). In student/bargain grade paints there is sometimes an opacifier, chalk PW18 or other white pigment added. On rare occasions a larger particle size pigment may be used in gouache (less milled/refined, because these aren't meant to have the same transparency and flow in wet washes as watercolor).
In general, Talens and other pro grade extra-fine gouache does not include any chalk or other opacity additives. The lack of white filler means that some colors are opaque and some are only semi opaque based on the specific pigment ingredient. Some pigments are more transparent by nature, like PV19 or PR122. There are pigments that are fully opaque in any medium, such as Cadmiums (like PR108), Cobalts (like PB28, PG50) and some earths/ochres (most PY42). Trying to make a transparent color opaque? Any color can be mixed with a small touch of PW6 titanium white to cover dark papers. Adding a very small amount gives opacity without drastic color change, adding more PW6 makes pale pastel color tints.
Royal Talens is a major manufacturer of watercolors, dye inks (ecoline) and papers from Holland. They also make great acrylic paints and waterproof inks (branded as "Amsterdam"). There is a bargain/kids line of "Art Creation" available in oil, acrylic, watercolor or gouache type paints, though this company may be better known for their mid grade student "Van Gogh" or professional grade "Rembrandt" watercolors. You may see their gouache labeled as opaque watercolor or "tempera" (another word for matte opaque watercolor depending on your language, not to be confused with other types of tempera such as egg).
I wish that Royal Talens had decided to make a completely lightfast line of gouache, like DaVinci and Schmincke Horadam has. I really like how Schmincke split up their gouache lines to be more obvious ("Horadam" line only offers lightfast colors and their "Designers" gouache line includes fugitive colors). Gouache like W&Newton, ShinHan and Daler Rowney's "Designer" gouaches include a variety of fugitive AND lightfast colors. So just like Talens gouache, you'll have to carefully pick colors individually suited to your needs. I have used all brands of gouache together without problems, picking and choosing colors from one brand that another may lack. Talens gouache lacks fluorescents and lightfast warm reds (so I have ShinHan Pass/W&N for neons and DSmith/Schmincke for Vermilion PR255).
Royal Talens also offers a bargain/student quality gouache under the name "Art Creation". This may cause confusion since the packaging does say "Talens" and "Gouache", but Art Creation is their lesser quality line. It has a lower pigment load, possible fillers and cheaper pigments, so it is generally suitable for kids/beginner practice. The colors in the "Art Creation" line will not give you the same painting experience (the consistency can be runny, apply streaky and there are no pigment codes or lightfast ratings). I do not recommend it for serious work, however it may be of interest to those who wish to practice using opaque watercolor-like paints. If you'd like to see what other people are saying about their cheaper gouache line, check the Amazon reviews below:
Where to buy? You can find Talens 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.
Last I checked Jackson's carried Art Creation bargain sets, but not the Talens extra fine line. You can check if this has changed at:
Amazon USA continues to offer more and more art and craft supplies, here's some links to what I've found there. 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.