Using Guesso Instead of White Paint.

  • What you should know about Guesso

    If you are new to acrylics, you may be wondering - what is gesso and why do I need to know about it? Step right up - this page will tell you all about the glories of gesso and how to use it.

    Gesso is an important art supply to get your canvas ready for painting which you can apply it to any surface and then you can paint on that surface with acrylic paint. Gesso is made for acrylic paint to bind to it in a way that looks non-plasticky and gives the application dimensionality. If you applied paint directly on the canvas, the finished product has a plasticky look

    Gesso is not only a better surface than white paint but also gives some texture to the surface. But what's more important, if you don't use gesso, the canvas will soak the painting and you will spend more paint. Almost all canvas you buy has been primed with gesso but I advice you to put another coat of gesso over it, or two.

    Using gesso you can ultimately paint on anything, from canvas to cotton to vinyl, to wood, plastic, rubber - it creates a painting surface for paint to adhere to.

    It provides an excellent surface to paint on. It adheres well to most surfaces, and provides a great surface itself, without over-absorbing your medium

    Applying gesso will establish a better "working surface", as it forms tiny rough edges for paint to cling to. Also, it's gonna dry a lot faster than oil paint.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    Hi Adam, Thanks for the post. I wanted to clear up a couple of details about gesso if you don't mind.

    Gesso is basically a primer made from Calcium Carbonate and binder. The binder is the same acrylic binder used in all the acrylic paints, so gesso doesn't actually have a less "plasicky" look to it. It's the same stuff as all the acrylics except that instead of pigment, the calcium carbonate gives the surface a tad bit of 'tooth" for the paint to adhere to.

    Gesso is mainly used for sealing unprimed canvas. Gesso can be used in place of white during the painting process which I recommend if you want to draw on top of your painting. If you use only white paint, the surface may be too slick to draw on. Any gloss will increase this slick quality. If you aren't drawing on top of your acrylic painting, I'd suggest sticking with titanium white paint.

    In the past, they used to make gesso using glue made from rabbit skin (yuk). I've heard this is a lovely surface to paint on but is kinda nasty if you think about it.

    Gesso shouldn't be used on rubber or vinyl because it can't bind to the surface properly and due to the substrate having more flex than the paint, it will ultimately peel off. You can paint on metal, but I would suggest coating metal with a primer made for metal first, then gesso, then acrylic paint.

    Acrylic gesso is a great primer for oil paint. I suggest doing underpaintings in acrylic and then switching to oil for the final layers. This combines the pros of both mediums while avoiding their pitfalls.

    Hope that helps some. You guys let me know if you have any questions about materials, etc. I've tried almost everything and even made my own materials when I didn't think the art store stuff was working that well. It's been exhausting and expensive, but worth it in the end. I hope. : )


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