gesso mixed media

This mixed media sculpture uses black gesso as the background..

What is gesso?

Gesso is a thick chalky primer that can be painted onto paper or fabric to provide a rough-textured surface. There are two categories, oil or acrylic, and both generally come in black, white and clear varieties. Both types stick to most surfaces, including wood, canvas, paper and metal. However, if you will be using oil paints, you should only use oil-based gesso, and the same goes for matching acrylic gesso with acrylic paints. While oil paint will not suffer so much from being painted on acrylic gesso, it does not work in reverse. Acrylic paint will not adhere permanently to oil gesso, and will eventually peel off.

Gesso is most commonly used for mark making in art. Mark making techniques that include gesso usually require knowledge of stamping or stenciling to get the most out of the primer.

It can also serve countless other purposes, since it also makes a good glue, transfer medium, modeling paste, glaze, and more.
For more mark making ideas using gesso, download our free art tutorials on how to use gesso.

Gesso pronunciation

As gesso is an Italian term, it is pronounced with a soft ‘g’, as in ‘jesso’.

How to make gesso

Expect to dedicate an entire day making gesso, as well as four to six days waiting for it to develop. See this traditional gesso recipe for more.

For more inspiration, follow Cloth Paper Scissors' Mixed Media Supplies board on Pinterest.

See also: Gesso collages




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