Gesso: The Miracle Mark-Making Medium

What’s a quick and easy way to add texture and interest to your art journals, collages, paintings, and mixed-media art? Try mark making in gesso.

mark making with gesso and plaster
Artist Leighanna Light made these patterns using texture
and mark-making techniques and gesso or plaster.

Gesso is a relatively inexpensive chalky primer that comes in white or black. It adheres to most surfaces, including canvas, wood, and metal, and is not brittle. Because it has a thick consistency, you can use it for mark making in art using a variety of tools and mark-making techniques.

Once gesso dries, you can apply paints or inks over the textured gesso surface and all your lovely textures and marks will appear in glorious relief.

One of the easiest mark-making techniques using gesso is to draw into it. Paint a thick layer of gesso onto your substrate and then take a skewer or similar implement and make marks. You can write words, squiggle lines, draw a face-anything you want.

Other mark-making ideas to use with gesso include:

Stamping into.  Apply a thick coat of gesso to the entire surface. While it is still wet, stamp into it with a stamp.

Stamping onto: Paint gesso onto a chunky stamp, making sure not to get gesso into the crevices. Stamp onto the substrate and let dry.

Stenciling: Apply a thick coat of gesso over a stencil or doily and then gently remove the stencil.

mark making technique with writing
Writing in gesso is a neat mark-making trick.

I took a sneak peek at the March/April 2013 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, and saw that Leighanna Light provides a technique-packed how-to on creating texture and mark making in art with gesso and Venetian plaster.

The results, especially after she applies paint or ink, are astonishingly beautiful. You won’t believe how easy how easy it is to create the effects Leighanna demonstrates.

If you’re not already a Cloth Paper Scissors subscriber, sign up now so you won’t miss mark-making and texture techniques like Leighanna’s!

P.S. What’s your favorite mark-making technique? Share with everyone in the comments section below.


Blog, Mixed-Media Supplies, Mixed-Media Techniques


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