Gesso is a flexible and important medium in painting and art. Before painting, it is a white paint-like liquid used as a primer on surfaces such as canvas, wood, and metal. Gesso has a long and rich history in the arts, reaching back to the Renaissance when prominent painters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo utilized it. Gesso is still a fundamental substance for artists today, offering the perfect foundation for creating amazing works of art. Understanding the principles of gesso and how to use it is a vital aspect of the painting process, whether you are a skilled artist, a beginner, or somewhere in between. This blog will explore the history, uses, and benefits of gesso, as well as tips for applying and creating your gesso.
What is Gesso and its history?
Gesso is a primer applied to surfaces before painting. “gesso” comes from the Italian word for “chalk.” It was used as a background for paintings on wooden panels made of gypsum, chalk, and glue during the Renaissance. Gesso evolved to include new elements like rabbit skin glue and titanium dioxide to improve its durability and transparency. Gesso is used in various painting mediums, including oil, acrylic, and watercolor, to produce a smooth, firm foundation for the paint to adhere to.
How to use Gesso in Painting
Gesso is applied on a surface with a brush or a roller, such as canvas, paper, or wood. It dries quickly and can be sanded smoother if desired. Applying at least two coats of Gesso is advisable, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next. The surface is ready for painting once the final coat has dried.
Different types of Gesso
Traditional Gesso: Traditional Gesso is the original sort of Gesso and has been used in painting and art for generations. It is made from animal glue, chalk, and white pigment.
Acrylic Gesso: This form of Gesso is water-soluble and dries quickly since it is made from acrylic polymer emulsion. It’s a great choice for artists who want to use acrylic paints.
Clear Gesso: This form of Gesso is fully clear and is used to seal and prime surfaces without changing their original color.
Black Gesso: This black-tinted Gesso is used as a base layer for dark-toned paintings. It aids in increasing the intensity of the colors applied on top.
White Gesso: This sort of Gesso is used as a base for paintings with lighter tones. It serves as a neutral backdrop for painters to work on and prevents the paint from soaking into the surface.
Heavy Body Gesso: This type of Gesso has a thicker consistency, making it ideal for creating a textured surface for paintings.
Sandable Gesso: This Gesso dries to a firm, sandable surface, making it a great choice for painters seeking a smooth ground for their works.
Each variety of Gesso has distinct features, and artists should select the one that best meets their needs according to the surface they are working on and the type of paint they intend to use.
How to Prime a Canvas with Gesso
Canvas priming is necessary while creating a painting because it gives a surface for the paint to cling to. Gesso, a mixture of a binder and white pigment that forms a smooth, neutral surface for painting, is the most common primer used on canvas.
- Brush or roller
- Palette or mixing bowl
Step 1: Clean the Canvas
Before priming the canvas, ensure it is clean and clear of dirt or debris. Wipe down the surface of the canvas with a clean, moist cloth to eliminate any dust or debris.
Step 2: Prepare the Gesso
Gesso is available in various formats, including ready-made bottles, jars, and tubes and a dry powder that must be mixed with water. Shake the bottle of pre-made Gesso thoroughly before using it. If you’re making your own Gesso, combine the powder with water in a palette or mixing bowl until you get a smooth, consistent slurry.
Step 3: Apply the Gesso
After preparing the Gesso, apply a thin layer to the whole surface of the canvas with a brush or roller. Work in small parts, applying the Gesso in long, smooth strokes and covering the entire canvas. Depending on the type of canvas and the desired finish, you may need to apply additional layers of Gesso.
Step 4: Let the Gesso Dry
Before applying any paint, let the Gesso dry fully. Depending on the type of Gesso and humidity and temperature of your workstation, this could take several hours to overnight.
Step 5: Sand the Canvas
After the Gesso has dried, softly sand the canvas to achieve a smooth surface. Sand in the direction of the canvas fibers with fine-grit sandpaper, being careful not to sand too forcefully and remove too much Gesso.
Step 6: Repeat the Process as Needed
You may need to repeat the priming process several times depending on the type of Gesso and the desired result. Apply additional layers of Gesso, sanding between each coat, until the desired degree of primer coverage is achieved.
Tips for Applying Gesso
To avoid breathing fumes, operate in a well-ventilated environment and wear a dust mask when applying Gesso. It’s also critical to allow each coat to dry completely before moving on to the next, as applying Gesso too thickly or too soon might result in cracking.
Gesso vs. Primer: Understanding the Difference
While Gesso and priming may appear the same, they are not. Primer is used to provide a consistent foundation color to a surface, whereas Gesso is used to prepare the surface for painting. Primers are also commonly used to seal surfaces such as walls, whereas Gesso is specifically created for painting.
The benefits of using Gesso for painting
There are various advantages to using Gesso when painting. It serves as a sturdy foundation for the paint to cling to, keeps the paint from soaking into the surface and can also be used to create a desired texture or surface finish. Furthermore, because it functions as a barrier to protect the paint from moisture, dust, and UV light, Gesso can assist in extending the life of the painting.
Gesso for Acrylic Painting: Techniques and Applications
Acrylic Gesso is perfect for acrylic paintings since it dries rapidly and is flexible, allowing for seamless application. If desired, it can also be sanded down to a flat surface. When using Gesso for acrylic painting, it is critical to allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next and to avoid using Gesso too thickly, as this can create cracks.
Gesso for Oil Painting: What to Know Before Using It
Because it is absorbent and porous, oil gesso is suitable for oil paintings because it bonds nicely with the surface. It should be noted, however, that oil gesso takes longer to cure than acrylic Gesso. Therefore patience is essential while applying it. To avoid cracking, oil gesso should be used in thin, even applications.
Making Your Own Gesso: A Guide to DIY Gesso
Gesso is an essential ingredient for artists and painters since it provides a perfect surface for painting on and helps to maintain the artwork. However, store-bought Gesso can be rather expensive and difficult to come by. Making your own Gesso is a terrific choice for artists who prefer to work with their supplies more hands-on. You can make a high-quality gesso with just a few materials for a fraction of the price of commercial Gesso.
White glue (PVA glue)
Calcium carbonate or white chalk
In a mixing bowl, combine one piece of white glue and 1 part of water. To blend, thoroughly stir the mixture.
To the glue and water mixture, add calcium carbonate or white chalk. You’ll need to add chalk to the mixture until it resembles toothpaste.
Stir the ingredients thoroughly to ensure that the chalk is evenly distributed and that the Gesso is free of lumps.
Fill a clean container with a tight-fitting lid halfway with Gesso. This prevents the Gesso from drying out and makes it easier to apply in the future.
When you’re ready to use the Gesso, apply a brush or roller to your surface. If the Gesso is excessively thick, you may need to dilute it with water.
DIY Gesso is an excellent way to save money while reaping the benefits of Gesso in your painting process. It’s also a fun and unique way to personalize your artwork.
Gesso: A Must-Have in Your Art Supplies Collection
Gesso is an essential ingredient for artists and painters since it provides a perfect surface for painting on and helps to maintain the artwork. Gesso is a must-have in any artist’s supply kit, whether purchased professionally or homemade.
Because it does not interfere with the color of the paint, Gesso creates a neutral surface that is ideal for painting on. It protects the artwork by acting as a barrier between the paint and the surface it is applied to. This aids in the preservation of the artwork and prevents deterioration over time.
Furthermore, Gesso is adaptable and may be used on a variety of materials, including canvas, paper, wood, and others. It is also compatible with oil and acrylic paints, making it a versatile medium for painters of all levels of experience.
Finally, gesso is a crucial tool in the artist’s toolbox, providing the basis for long-lasting and attractive works. Whether you use pre-made gesso or make your own, knowing the many varieties, their purposes, and how to apply gesso properly will take your art to the next level. So make sure to include gesso in your art tools collection and reap the benefits it has to offer.