What Is Gesso

What Is Gesso? – Its Usage and Benefits


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    What is Gesso? Gesso is usually pronounced as “Jesso,” commonly used to adhere oil or acrylic paint. In other words, it’s usually used to prime a wall surface and act as a thin layer primer between wall and oil paint. Therefore, Gesso may be called a “pre-primer.” It’s of white or off-white color with tooth texture that helps to grab the acrylic paint over the wall.

    Support Your Paint

    Would you like to support your paint over raw Canvas for a long time? Some canvas comes with a rough surface that may consume more paint. After using canvas two to three-time, it may become brittle and run out of order. In this case, you need a thin layer of primer under an oil painting that can stick a little paint over the wood panels and give a smooth painting surface for acrylic painting.

    If you want to serve less paint in painting, use acrylic Gesso because it helps the color retain and support for a long time. Now, the question arises here: what is Gesso, its uses, and where can you buy it? Keep reading this article because we will explain all information about acrylic Gesso here. Let’s explore!

    What is Gesso Ingredients?

    Gesso is made up of three main ingredients that are chalk, paint pigment, and binder. Sometimes, animal glue blinders such as rabbit skin glue make glue gesso. All the ingredients let the Gesso be more adsorbent that sticks the acrylic paint over it and gives excellent friction to work for a long time. With acrylic Gesso, you will feel easy doing either oil painting or acrylic painting on canvas or wood panels. Let’s see three main ingredients along with their functions in Gesso!

    Chalk (Calcium carbonate)

    Chalk contains calcium carbonate to give a tooth-like texture to Gesso. In addition to chalk, we can also use gypsum to make a gesso mixture.

    Paint Pigment

    Usually, white pigment gives Gesso an off-white or opaque colored appearance. To get different colors of Gesso, you may replace white pigment with others.


    Binder plays a significant role in sticking or absorbing paint over the wood surface of stretched canvas. You may use animal skin glue-like rabbit skin glue as a binder in the gesso mixture.

    Traditional Gesso

    When acrylic Gesso was not invented, traditional Gesso was used to prime raw or wood for painting. Traditional Gesso combines rabbit skin glue, chalk (calcium carbonate), gypsum, and paint pigment. It gave acrylic paint good stickiness to the canvas due to its tooth-like texture. Moreover, traditional gesso uses rabbit skin glue and gypsum. Therefore, it is significant because it consumes less acrylic paint.

    Acrylic Gesso

    Acrylic gesso also acts as a primer that gives the paint flexibility and long archival life. It’s composed of Calcium Carbonate, Binder (Acrylic Polymer Medium), Titanium white pigment (paint pigment), and other trace chemicals like linseed oil.  In addition, you can also use acrylic Gesso under oil painting because it adheres better than sitting on oil. So, acrylic Gesso protects the canvas from the corrosive nature of oil painting.

    Recycled Soya Gesso

    Soya gesso is named after the usage of soya bean in gesso ingredients. After re-cycling soya sauce, we can make acrylic Gesso, also called “Echo gesso,” as a natural primer for oil painting. It provides flexibility to the painting surface of the wood for the image. In addition, you can apply acrylic paint over the wood panels without any fear of damage or brittle issue.

    Gesso for Canvas

    You can use acrylic Gesso over the canvas or wood panels to get an efficient surface for working. Often, some Canva boards are pre-primed in which you must know that it already contains a layer of Gesso. Gesso acts as a good primer, so there’s no need to apply acrylic Gesso over pre-primed Canvas.

    Why is it essential to use Acrylic Gesso?

    To retain your stretched Canvas and avoid its brittleness, you should use Traditional Gesso. But if you’re using acrylic paint over Canva, then there’s no need to use acrylic gesso because acrylic paint is frictionless and doesn’t affect the stretched canvas.

    But if you’re using paint in addition to acrylic paint, then we suggest you add a thin layer of acrylic Gesso under linseed oil paints.  It will help your canvas retain for a long time while working for oil painting. In addition, if you have bought pre-primed Canvas from the market, then don’t apply Gesso again.

    Homemade Gesso

    Homemade traditional Gesso also works the same as acrylic Gesso. You have all the ingredients that I’m going to share with you. And follow the same guidelines to make perfect Gesso at home for oil painting. Let’s start!

    Material Required

    • Talcum powder
    • White acrylic paint
    • White glue
    • Water as per requirement

    Homemade Acrylic Gesso recipe

    Take 1/4 cup talcum powder, one tablespoon white oil paint, linseed oil, and white glue in a small bowl. Talcum powder works as calcium carbonate in homemade Gesso. Mix them well and add water until the mixture becomes liquid with a glue-like texture to apply over the Canva board. That’s it. Now, the homemade Gesso primer to use under oil painting is ready. You can also color it if you love to color your raw Canva with Gesso. You can replace the white pants with colored acrylic paint.

    How to use Gesso on Canvas

    Make your raw canvas smooth by applying acrylic Gesso. Gesso is very straightforward to use. First of all, if you’ve initial Gesso in thick cream form, then thin it with water. Add some quantity of water that may cover your Canva easily. Pour it on raw Canva and blend it with a paintbrush to cover the whole area of the canvas.

    Again move the brush back and forth to remove any air bubble over it. Give a smoothie appearance to Canva. Once acrylic Gesso gets adsorbed, then sand it with sandpaper. Repeat the process similarly. Now, Leave this thin layer of Gesso and wait for the new pre-primed canvas for a night for effective results for oil painting.

    Multiple Styles of Gesso

    Acrylic gesso comes in two types, each with a different pricing range. Acrylic Gesso for students is less pricey, but Gesso for artists is more costly. It is owing to the pigment-to-filler proportion. Artist-grade acrylic gesso, predictably, has much more pigments and fewer fillers. It’s typically thicker and dense Student-grade Gesso, on the other hand, is usually appropriate for all save the far more accomplished artists. It may necessitate an additional coat under oil painting, but the savings are generally well worth it.

    In addition, Super Heavy Gesso is, however, present, which serves as a primer and textural agent. Hard Gesso is designed to be rubbed down after using it.  It’s pretty thick, and then after scrubbing, it provides complete coverage and a perfectly smooth base. Smoothing acrylic gesso is usually done with very grit sandpaper. Certain firms sell colored Gesso for oil painting.

    However, the painter can almost always blend acrylic paints or crushed pigments into the acrylic gesso; buying pre-colored variants saves time and materials. Alongside white, black is now the most popular color. However, other colors such as blue and yellow are also obtainable. Also available is clear Gesso.

    There still are spray gessos that make the method of preparing, yet they are often sold in bottles and jars. This type cannot be blended with pigments to create different hues. Texturizing gel and providing color can be added into acrylic Gesso to produce sculptural elements beneath the acrylic paint or oil paint and seal the ground.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What can be used instead of acrylic Gesso?

    Other alternatives of Gesso are either clear Gesso, rabbit skin glue, or acrylic primer. In addition, you can also make Gesso at home by using ingredients that are explained above. If you have to use acrylic paints, you can maintain raw canvas without Gesso.

    What if you don’t Gesso your canvas?

    Suppose you will find no gesso your raw canvas and use it, again and again, to paint with oil or acrylic paint. So your canvas board may be damaged, and you need to rebuy it. To protect stretched Canvas from becoming brittle, you should use gesso canvas before painting with oil paints.

    Does Gesso come in different colors?

    Usually, Gesso is off-white, but you can also color them with a bit of colored paint. If you want to buy colored Gesso, then it is possible. You may get any Pre-primed canvas primed with multiple colors of your choice for oil painting.

    Can you use acrylic Gesso as glue?

    Yes, you can use Gesso as glue, but there is an issue in using it like glue. When you use Gesso to stick papers, it colors the white paper. As Gesso has an off-white or opaque color, applying it like glue imparts an opaque color to the white paper drying. So it is better to use Gesso for priming under oil paint or acrylic paints.

    Can I use white glue instead of Gesso?

    Yes, you can use glue to the prime canvas, but you need to change the composition of the Gesso for oil painting. To get the best acrylic gesso primer for oil paint, take one cup of glue and add two cups of water to it. After this, you can use glue as an alternative to Gesso to prime stretched canvas.

    Can I dilute Acrylic gesso?

    Traditional Gesso can dissolve water and become thin. So, you can also dilute acrylic gesso, either homemade or readymade. Just add a suitable amount of water to it and check by applying over Canva. In this way, painters can save money and use it for a long time by thinking about it.


    To sum up, gesso acts as a primer for oil painting over the canvas. The main ingredients used in the formation of Acrylic gesso include rabbit skin glue, white acrylic paint, white pigment, and chalk or calcium carbonate. You can make your canvas smooth and long-lasting if you apply a thin layer of Gesso before using oil paints. Acrylic gesso comes in different types, each with a diverse pricing range. 

    Gesso for students is less pricey, but acrylic gesso for artists is more costly. Artist-grade Gesso, predictably, has much more pigments and fewer fillers. It’s typically thicker and dense. On the other hand, it is usually appropriate for all save the far more accomplished artists.

    Gesso is not expensive. You can also make it at home. Acrylic Gesso is water-soluble, so you can thin it by adding a small amount of water and using it for a long time. Make acrylic painting surface smooth by using Gesso as a pre-primer under the oil paints over the raw Canvas.

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