What is Gesso and How to Use It for Painting: Master the Art of Priming


Once upon a time, in a small, cluttered art studio, there lived a struggling artist named Sarah. With a brush in one hand and a dream in her heart, Sarah faced a common problem that many artists encounter: how to achieve that perfect surface for her paintings. Little did she know that there was a magical solution waiting for her – gesso!
You might be wondering, what exactly is gesso? Well, my dear art enthusiasts, gesso is like a master magician, conjuring up a flawless canvas for your creative endeavors. It’s a primer, a preparatory layer that artists apply to various surfaces before painting. This ancient art material has been around for centuries, and it’s an absolute game-changer for anyone seeking to elevate their artwork to new heights.
In this artistic guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of gesso and uncover its secrets. From explaining what gesso is to providing a step-by-step walkthrough on how to use it for your paintings, we’ve got you covered. So, let’s unleash our inner magicians and master the art of gesso together!

What is Gesso?

Gesso comes in two main forms: acrylic gesso and traditional gesso. Acrylic gesso, as the name suggests, is primarily made from acrylic polymers. This type of gesso has gained popularity due to its ease of use and quick drying time. On the other hand, traditional gesso is crafted from animal glue and chalk, reminiscent of the bygone era of Renaissance painters.
Now, you might be wondering, “Why bother with gesso, anyway?” Well, dear artists, the purpose of gesso is simple yet profound. It provides a smooth, even surface for your paint to glide on, creating an ideal foundation for your artistic visions. No more uneven brush strokes or bumpy textures – gesso ensures that your colors shine on a flawless canvas!

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Use Gesso for Painting

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Before we embark on our gesso adventure, be sure to gather the necessary materials. You’ll need some gesso, a trusty brush, a versatile palette knife, and, of course, the surface you wish to prime. Don’t worry if you’re not sure which brand of gesso to choose – there are plenty of options available to suit your artistic preferences.

Step 2: Prepare the Surface

Now that we have our arsenal of art materials, it’s time to prep the battlefield, I mean, the surface! Whether you’re working with canvas, wood, or paper, ensure that it’s clean and dry. A pristine surface sets the stage for gesso to work its magic. Remember, great artwork begins with a clean canvas!

Step 3: Apply the Gesso

Here comes the fun part – applying the gesso! You can opt for a brush or a palette knife, depending on the texture or effect you desire. And hey, don’t be afraid to get experimental! If you’re feeling adventurous, create some texture with your gesso and let your artistic instincts guide you. The beauty of gesso lies in its versatility.

Step 4: Let It Dry and Sand (Optional)

Patience is a virtue, my artistic friends! Allow the gesso to dry completely before proceeding to the next step. While waiting, you can engage in other creative activities or simply enjoy a cup of tea. If you’re aiming for an exceptionally smooth finish, you can choose to sand the gessoed surface gently. But remember, this step is optional, and it all depends on your artistic vision.

Step 5: Repeat If Necessary

Do you want to take your artwork to the next level? Consider applying multiple coats of gesso! Adding more layers can create interesting textures or enhance the overall durability of your masterpiece. However, keep in mind that this step isn’t always required. Trust your instincts, and let your artistic intuition guide your decision.

Step 6: Start Painting

Last but certainly not least, it’s time to unleash your creativity and let your brush dance across the gessoed canvas. Whether you prefer acrylics, oils, or watercolors, you’ll find that gesso provides a solid foundation for any medium. With your artistic prowess and the power of gesso, there’s no limit to what you can create!


As the story of Sarah unfolds, she discovers the incredible power of gesso, transforming her art from mediocre to magnificent. Now, armed with the knowledge of what gesso is and how to use it for painting, you too can embark on your own artistic journey. Embrace the magic of gesso, experiment with textures, and let your creativity soar to new heights. Happy painting, my fellow artists!

What is Gesso and Why Every Artist Should Know About It

As an art expert, I can’t help but share my enthusiasm for gesso—one of the unsung heroes of the art world. It’s like having a secret weapon in your artistic arsenal that can elevate your paintings to the next level. So, let’s jump right in and explore the fantastic world of gesso!

Gesso: The Magic Primer

Let’s start with the basics. Gesso is a primer or preparation layer used by artists to create a smooth and even surface before painting. It acts as a foundation, allowing your paint to adhere better while preventing it from seeping into the surface and causing unwanted changes to colors or textures.
Our team discovered through using this product that there are two main types of gesso: acrylic gesso and traditional gesso made with animal glue and chalk. Acrylic gesso is the modern-day superstar, quick-drying and versatile, ready to go straight out of the jar. On the other hand, traditional gesso has its own traditional charm, offering a unique texture that some artists adore.

Let’s Get Down to Business – How to Use Gesso for Painting

Imagine this: you have a stunning canvas, a blank slate for your artistic vision to come to life. So, how do you begin? Here’s a step-by-step guide to using gesso like a pro:

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Before diving into the world of gesso, make sure you have all the essentials at hand. You’ll need your chosen gesso, a quality brush or palette knife, and, of course, the surface you want to prime. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try out different gesso brands to find what works best for you?

Step 2: Prepare the Surface

Now that you have everything you need let’s prepare that surface! Remember, cleanliness is key, so make sure your canvas, wood, or paper surface is clean and dry before applying gesso. This way, you’ll avoid any unwanted surprises later on.

Step 3: Apply the Gesso

With your surface primed and ready, it’s time to apply the gesso. Pick up your trusty brush or palette knife and get creative! Use smooth, even strokes to apply a thin layer of gesso to your surface. But wait, don’t stop there! Gesso can also be a tool to add texture to your artwork. Experiment, play around, and see what astounding effects you can create.

Step 4: Let it Dry and Sand (optional)

Okay, you’ve applied the gesso, and now what? It’s time to practice a little patience and let it dry fully. This step is crucial to ensure a solid foundation for your masterpiece. Once it’s completely dry, you can even go a step further and sand the gessoed surface if you desire an exceptionally smooth finish. Remember, art is all about personal preference!

Step 5: Repeat if Necessary

You know what they say—sometimes more is more! You can apply multiple layers of gesso to achieve the desired effect. If you’re dealing with an incredibly absorbent surface or aiming for a particular texture, go ahead and layer up. Don’t be afraid to explore and experiment!

Step 6: Start Painting

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork with gesso, it’s time for the fun part—painting! Let your creativity run wild on that beautifully primed surface. Whether you love working with acrylics, oils, or watercolors, gesso provides a solid base for your chosen medium. It enhances the luminosity, depth, and overall longevity of your painting.


Congratulations, my fellow art enthusiasts—you are now well-versed in the remarkable world of gesso! What once may have seemed like a simple primer has now become a powerful tool in your artistic journey. So, go forth and unleash your creativity, armed with the knowledge of gesso’s potential. Remember, don’t be afraid to experiment, and let the magic unfold on your canvas.
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Imagine being an artist standing in front of a blank canvas, brimming with creative ideas but lacking the perfect foundation to bring your vision to life. This is a familiar struggle for many painters, including myself. We strive for that pristine, smooth surface that allows our brushstrokes to glide effortlessly. Thankfully, there’s a magical substance called gesso that can transform any surface into a painter’s dream canvas.

What is Gesso?

Gesso, my artist friends, is like a superhero primer for your artwork. It’s a preparatory layer that you apply to surfaces before you dive into your masterpiece. Its purpose? To provide a smooth and even foundation for your paints. There are two main types of gesso to choose from: acrylic gesso and traditional gesso made from animal glue and chalk.
Let me shed some light on these mighty primers. Acrylic gesso is water-based, dries quickly, and can be used on various surfaces like canvas, wood, or even paper. On the other hand, traditional gesso, made from a mixture of animal glue and chalk, creates a more absorbent surface and is often used for traditional painting techniques. Both types have their advantages and drawbacks, so choose the one that suits your painting style and preferences.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Use Gesso for Painting

Step 1: Gather your materials

Before you dive into gessoing, make sure you have all the essentials by your side. You’ll need gesso, a brush (or even a palette knife if you’re feeling daring), a sturdy surface to prime, and your unyielding passion for art. Don’t worry; I won’t leave you in the dark – there are plenty of reliable brands out there, such as Liquitex or Golden. But if you prefer exploring alternatives, our research indicates that some artists swear by homemade gesso recipes. The choice is yours, my friend.

Step 2: Prepare the surface

Much like a chef preps their ingredients before cooking up a storm, you need to prepare your surface for the gesso magic. Choose the right canvas, wood panel, or hefty paper, ensuring it’s clean and dry. Who wants dirt and grime stunting their artistic prowess, right?

Step 3: Apply the gesso

Now comes the exciting part – get your gesso ready. Whether you opt for a brush or unleash your inner abstract artist with a palette knife, it’s time to apply that glorious primer. Feel free to experiment with different techniques, creating subtle texture or bold strokes. Remember, this gesso layer is the foundation of your masterpiece – make it count.

Step 4: Let it dry and sand (optional)

Patience, my talented friend. After applying the gesso, allow it to dry completely. Depending on the environment, it might take a while, so find your zen and resist the temptation to speed up the process. Remember, good things come to those who wait.
For those seeking the ultimate smoothness, sanding your gessoed surface is an option. With a gentle touch and some fine sandpaper, you can achieve an even more pristine base for your artistic endeavors.

Step 5: Repeat if necessary

Sometimes, one coat just isn’t enough. If you feel like your surface needs a little extra love, don’t hesitate to apply additional layers of gesso. Some artists like to build up multiple coats for added texture, while others prefer a smooth and uniform base. It’s all about finding what suits your style.

Step 6: Start painting

Congratulations! You’ve conquered the art of gessoing. With your surface primed and ready, it’s time to grab your paintbrushes and let the creativity flow. Whether you’re an acrylic aficionado, an oil painting virtuoso, or a watercolor wizard, gesso prepares your surface for any medium you choose. Remember to experiment, play with your newfound smooth canvas, and let your imagination soar.


As artists, we are always searching for ways to elevate our craft. Gesso opens the door to a whole new world of possibilities, offering a smooth and even surface for your artistic expressions. Whether you opt for acrylic gesso or traditional gesso, the process remains the same – gather your materials, prep the surface, apply gesso with style, let it dry, and start painting like the creative genius you are.
So, my fellow artists, embrace the power of gesso and witness your artwork come to life with impeccable foundations. Let those brushstrokes dance on the gessoed canvas and watch your masterpieces unfold before your eyes. Happy painting!

Interesting facts

Here are some interesting facts about gesso and its usage in painting:
1. Gesso, derived from the Italian word “gesso” meaning chalk or plaster, is a primer specifically used in the art world to prepare surfaces for painting.
2. It acts as a barrier between the surface and the paint, allowing for better adhesion, preventing paint from soaking into porous surfaces, and creating a smooth and stable foundation for artwork.
3. Gesso can be made from various materials, with the two main types being acrylic gesso and traditional gesso made from animal glue and chalk.
4. Acrylic gesso is a popular choice due to its versatility, quick drying time, and compatibility with various painting mediums.
5. Traditional gesso, also known as chalk gesso, provides a unique texture and is favored by some artists for its archival properties and traditional feel.
6. Gesso can be applied using brushes, palette knives, or even your fingers, allowing artists to experiment with different techniques and create textural effects.
7. While gesso is commonly used on raw canvases, it can also be applied to other surfaces like wood panels, paper, or metal, providing a suitable base for different types of artworks.
8. Reapplying gesso on an already primed canvas is not always necessary. It depends on factors such as the quality of the existing primer, the desired texture, and the individual artist’s preference. To learn more about whether you need to reapply gesso on an already primed canvas, check out this helpful resource: Do You Need to Reapply Gesso on an Already Primed Canvas?.
Remember, gesso is a versatile tool that artists can use to enhance their creative process and achieve professional results in their paintings.


Can I use gesso on surfaces other than canvas?

Yes, gesso can be applied to various surfaces such as wood panels, paper, or even metal.

How many layers of gesso should I apply?

The number of gesso layers depends on personal preference and the desired outcome. Typically, artists apply 2-3 coats for a smooth and even surface.

Do I need to sand the gessoed surface?

Sanding the gessoed surface is optional, but it can help achieve an even smoother finish if desired.

Can I use gesso as a standalone medium?

While gesso is primarily a primer, some artists experiment with it as a textural medium, creating unique effects in their artwork.

Can gesso be tinted with color?

Yes, gesso can be mixed with acrylic paints or pigments to create tinted primers for added visual interest in a painting.

What is the drying time for gesso?

The drying time varies depending on the brand and thickness of the applied gesso. It typically ranges from 15 minutes to a few hours.

Can gesso be used with oil paint?

Yes, gesso can be used as a priming layer for both acrylic and oil paints.

Can I thin down gesso for a smoother application?

Yes, you can dilute gesso with water to achieve a thinner consistency for easier application or to create transparent layers.

Does gesso make the colors appear more vibrant?

Gesso provides a bright base and enhances color vibrancy, making your artwork look more vibrant and professional.

Do I need to reapply gesso on an already primed canvas?

Reapplying gesso on an already primed canvas is not always necessary. It depends on factors such as the quality of the existing primer, the desired texture, and the individual artist’s preference. To learn more, visit this resource: Do You Need to Reapply Gesso on an Already Primed Canvas?

Real experience

Once upon a time, in a small town nestled by an artists’ community, lived a passionate painter named Emma. Emma was known for her vibrant and expressive artworks but had yet to discover the wonders of gesso.

One sunny day, while strolling through a local art supply store, Emma’s curious eyes caught sight of a container labeled “Gesso: The Artist’s Secret Weapon.” Intrigued, she picked it up and read about its purpose as a primer for painting. Her excitement grew as she imagined the possibilities of creating even more professional and polished pieces.

Eager to test her newfound discovery, Emma purchased the gesso and rushed back to her studio. With her favorite canvas at the ready, she gingerly dipped her brush into the gesso and began to apply it smoothly across the surface. As the gesso covered the canvas, Emma marveled at how it transformed the once plain and porous fabric into a pristine base.

Unbeknownst to Emma, the gesso not only provided a smoother surface for paint application but also enhanced the vibrancy and longevity of her colors. With each stroke, she couldn’t help but feel a surge of inspiration and creative energy.

Days turned into weeks, and Emma became proficient in using gesso. She experimented with various techniques, applying thick layers to create texture or thin layers for a delicate touch. She even learned how to tint the gesso with different hues, enriching her paintings with a unique visual depth.

Word of Emma’s newfound artistic strokes spread, attracting the attention of fellow artists in the community. They marveled at the captivating texture and brilliance in her artwork, and Emma was more than happy to share her newfound technique of using gesso.

As her paintings continued to gain recognition, Emma found herself among the local art enthusiasts who flocked to her studio seeking guidance. She became a trusted mentor, patiently explaining what gesso was and demonstrating how to utilize it effectively. Through workshops and discussions, she inspired others to embrace this remarkable art material and explore the boundless possibilities it had to offer.

Emma’s journey with gesso not only transformed her own artistry but also left an indelible mark on the artistic community. As more artists embraced gesso, their works flourished with newfound clarity and depth. Gesso became a key ingredient in their creative recipe, a secret weapon for transforming ordinary canvases into masterpieces.

And so, the tale of Emma and her discovery of gesso became a source of inspiration for generations of artists to come, a reminder that sometimes, the most profound artistic breakthroughs can be found in the simplest of materials.

Our analysis of gesso and its role in mixed media artworks reveals that this versatile primer is a game-changer for artists seeking to elevate their creations. After putting it to the test, we’ve discovered a plethora of benefits that make gesso a must-have in any artist’s toolkit.
One of the most striking advantages is the ability of gesso to create a smooth and even surface for painting. Whether you’re using acrylics, oils, or watercolors, applying gesso as a base ensures that your colors will glide seamlessly across the canvas, resulting in a professional-looking finish.
But that’s not all – gesso also has the power to enhance the durability of your artworks. By forming a barrier between the paint and the surface, it helps protect your masterpiece from deterioration, ensuring its longevity for years to come. No more worrying about your art fading or flaking over time!
Another remarkable aspect of using gesso is its versatility. Mixed media artists rejoice! Gesso acts as a fantastic adhesive, allowing you to layer various materials onto your artwork. From collage elements to textured paper, gesso provides an excellent foundation for combining different mediums, adding depth and visual interest to your creations.
Moreover, our exploration into the world of gesso has led us to discover its tremendous transformative abilities. Not only does it create a blank canvas for your imagination to run wild, but it also offers the opportunity to experiment with texture. By adding multiple layers of gesso, you can create unique raised surfaces, giving your artwork a three-dimensional effect that truly captivates the eye.
Additionally, gesso’s ease of use is worth acknowledging. Applying it is a breeze – a simple brush or a palette knife is all you need to unleash its magic. Whether you prefer a smooth, polished surface or a more textured look, gesso allows you to tailor the finish to your artistic vision effortlessly.
In conclusion, the benefits of using gesso for mixed media artworks are simply unparalleled. From providing a smooth surface and enhancing durability to promoting versatility and transformative possibilities, gesso opens up a whole new world of artistic opportunities. So why not grab a jar, unleash your creativity, and witness the amazing results for yourself?
[The Benefits of Using Gesso for Mixed Media Artworks]()

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