DIY Gesso Guide: How to Make Gesso at Home

  • By: Michael Smith
  • Time to read: 10 min.
Michael Smith
I'm Michael Smith, the founder and creative director of Art and Drawing. With over a decade of experience in the art and design industry, my keen eye for detail and passion for creating inspiring artwork drive my work. I'm dedicated to capturing the world's beauty through vibrant, expressive pieces that spark imagination and emotion.

Gesso is an essential primer that creates a smooth and non-absorbent surface for painting. Whether you’re an artist on a budget or enjoy the satisfaction of creating your own art supplies, making DIY gesso at home can be a rewarding option. In this guide, we will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to make gesso using various methods.

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn how to make your own gesso primer at home.
  • Save money with DIY gesso and customize it to your needs.
  • Follow step-by-step instructions for making acrylic and traditional oil gesso.
  • Discover tips and alternatives for making gesso.
  • Understand the pros and cons of homemade gesso compared to store-bought gesso.

Acrylic Gesso Recipe

When it comes to priming surfaces for painting, acrylic gesso is a popular choice. Its versatility and ease of use make it a go-to option for many artists. If you’re interested in making your own acrylic gesso at home, you’ll need a few essential ingredients:

  1. Acrylic Polymer Gloss Medium: This is the base of the gesso and provides the necessary adhesion and durability.
  2. Titanium White Acrylic Paint: The white pigment in the paint ensures opacity and brightness in the gesso.
  3. Whiting Chalk or Calcium Carbonate: This ingredient adds texture and absorbency to the gesso.

To make the acrylic gesso, simply combine equal parts of acrylic polymer gloss medium, titanium white acrylic paint, and whiting chalk or calcium carbonate. Dissolve the whiting chalk or calcium carbonate in water before mixing it with the other ingredients. This recipe allows you to create a smooth and non-absorbent surface for your acrylic paintings.

Here’s the recipe at a glance:

Gesso Ingredients Proportions
Acrylic Polymer Gloss Medium 1 part
Titanium White Acrylic Paint 1 part
Whiting Chalk or Calcium Carbonate 1 part

Remember to dissolve the whiting chalk or calcium carbonate in water before mixing everything together for the best results. Once the gesso is ready, you can apply it to various surfaces, such as canvas, raw linen, paper, or wood, to prepare them for acrylic painting.

Traditional Oil Gesso Recipe

When it comes to oil painting, traditional oil gesso provides a more traditional and absorbent surface, allowing the paint to adhere better and creating a rich texture. If you prefer this approach, here is a simple recipe for making your own traditional oil gesso at home.

  1. First, gather the following ingredients:
  • dried animal glue
  • water
  • whiting chalk or calcium carbonate
  • optional titanium white pigment
  • Soak the dried animal glue in water until it becomes soft and pliable.
  • Next, heat the glue in a double boiler until it melts and becomes liquid.
  • Weigh the glue solution and then measure an equal amount of whiting chalk or calcium carbonate.
  • Mix the two ingredients together thoroughly until they form a smooth paste.
  • Strain the gesso to remove any lumps or impurities.
  • Now, you have your homemade traditional oil gesso. Use it to prime rigid materials such as canvas, wood, or fiberboard before painting with oils.
  • See also
    DIY Guide: How to Make Gesso Paint at Home

    By following this recipe, you can create a traditional oil gesso that provides the perfect surface for your oil paintings, giving them an authentic and timeless look.

    Method 1: Acrylic Gesso Recipe

    Creating your own gesso at home can be a fun and cost-effective way to prepare surfaces for painting with acrylics. The first method we will explore involves using a combination of simple ingredients to make your own acrylic gesso.

    Gather the following materials:

    • Whiting chalk
    • Water
    • Acrylic polymer gloss medium
    • White paint

    Step-by-step instructions:

    1. Dissolve the whiting chalk in water to create a smooth paste.
    2. Add equal parts of acrylic polymer gloss medium and white paint to the paste.
    3. Mix the chalk paste, acrylic polymer gloss medium, and white paint together until you achieve a smooth and consistent texture.
    4. Using a brush, apply the homemade gesso over the surface you wish to paint with acrylics.
    5. Allow the gesso to dry completely before starting your acrylic painting.

    Making your own acrylic gesso gives you the flexibility to customize the texture and coverage according to your preferences. Experiment with different ratios of chalk, medium, and paint to achieve the desired results.

    Pro Tip: Adding small amounts of water to your gesso mixture can help adjust the consistency to your liking. Remember to mix well after each addition.

    Now that you know how to make your own acrylic gesso, you can easily prime surfaces for your acrylic paintings without the need for store-bought gesso. It’s a simple and rewarding DIY project that allows you to unleash your creativity.

    Pros Cons
    Cost-effective Potential variations in texture
    Customizable to your preferences May require additional coats for coverage
    Satisfaction of creating your own art supplies

    Method 2: Traditional Oil Gesso Recipe

    If you prefer a more traditional and absorbent surface for your oil paintings, then this method of making homemade gesso is perfect for you. Follow these step-by-step instructions for creating traditional oil gesso:

    1. Soak dried animal glue in water until it softens.
    2. Once softened, heat the glue solution in a double boiler.
    3. Allow the glue solution to cool down, and then measure its weight.
    4. Weigh an equal amount of whiting chalk or calcium carbonate.
    5. Stir the whiting chalk or calcium carbonate into the glue solution until smooth.
    6. Strain the gesso mixture to remove any lumps.
    7. Your homemade traditional oil gesso is now ready to use for priming rigid materials.

    By following this method, you can create a high-quality traditional oil gesso that provides the perfect surface for your oil paintings. The absorbent nature of traditional oil gesso allows the paint to adhere better, giving your artwork a professional finish.

    If you need visual reference to guide you through the process, refer to the helpful table below:

    Traditional Oil Gesso Recipe

    Tips for Making Gesso

    When it comes to making gesso, there are a few important tips to keep in mind to ensure the best results for your art projects. Whether you’re using acrylic gesso or traditional oil gesso, these tips will help you achieve a smooth and professional finish.

    Care for Leftover Acrylic Gesso

    If you have leftover acrylic gesso, it’s essential to store it properly to maintain its quality. Simply cover the container tightly and keep it at room temperature. This will help prevent the gesso from drying out or becoming unusable over time.

    Avoid Using Joint Compound or Baking Soda

    While there are various recipes and methods for making gesso, it’s important to avoid using joint compound or baking soda as substitutes for the main ingredients. These alternatives may not provide the same quality results as the traditional ingredients, compromising the effectiveness of your gesso.

    Consider Gesso Alternatives

    If you’re looking for alternatives to gesso, there are other primers and surface preparation options available. Experiment with different materials to find what works best for your specific needs. Some alternatives include using clear gesso, matte medium, or even preparing the surface with acrylic paint for a similar effect.

    Friendly Reminder: It’s always a good idea to test any alternative primers or surface preparations on a small, inconspicuous area before applying them to your entire artwork.

    Pros and Cons of Gesso Alternatives

    Gesso Alternatives Pros Cons
    Clear Gesso
    • Provides a transparent base
    • Allows the texture of the surface to show through
    • May require additional coats for opacity
    • Can alter the color of the paint slightly
    Matte Medium
    • Creates a matte finish
    • Enhances adhesion of paint
    • May require more coats for a smooth surface
    • Can affect the texture and absorbency of the surface
    Preparing with Acrylic Paint
    • Allows for seamless integration of colors
    • Provides a consistent surface
    • Requires thorough drying time between layers
    • May require more paint to achieve desired coverage
    See also
    Can You Put Gesso Over Oil Paint? Find Out Here!

    By following these tips and exploring alternative primers, you can find the approach that best suits your artistic style and preferences. Remember to always experiment and adapt techniques to create personalized results that enhance your artwork.

    Using Homemade Gesso

    Homemade gesso is a versatile primer that can be used on various surfaces, including canvas, raw linen, cotton, paper, fiberboard, or wood. Applying gesso before painting with acrylics helps create a smooth and non-absorbent base for your artwork.

    When using homemade gesso, it’s essential to let each layer dry completely before adding additional coats. This ensures proper adhesion and prevents cracking or peeling. Following the recommended drying time guidelines provided by the manufacturer is crucial for achieving the best results.

    However, it’s important to note that acrylic gesso should not be used on old oil paintings. The compatibility between different painting mediums can lead to undesirable effects on the artwork’s surface and longevity.

    Explore the possibilities of homemade gesso and experiment with different application techniques to achieve the desired texture and coverage for your art.

    Surface Application Technique
    Canvas Apply gesso using a broad brush, ensuring even coverage
    Raw Linen Apply gesso using a brush or a roller, working from one edge to another
    Cotton Apply gesso using a brush, paying attention to any raised fibers
    Paper Apply gesso using a wide brush or a foam roller, allowing it to penetrate the paper fibers
    Fiberboard Apply gesso using a brush, focusing on any rough areas or imperfections
    Wood Apply gesso using a brush or a foam roller, following the wood grain for optimal coverage

    Experiment with homemade gesso and discover its unique qualities and how they enhance your painting process. Remember to let your creativity and personal preferences guide you as you explore the world of gesso application!

    Comparison with Store-Bought Gesso

    When it comes to gesso, there are two options you can consider: homemade gesso or store-bought gesso. Each has its own characteristics and qualities that may influence your decision. Let’s compare the two to help you make an informed choice.

    Texture and Finish

    • Homemade Gesso: Homemade gesso often has a more textured and chalky feel compared to its store-bought counterpart. This can add an interesting and unique touch to your artwork.
    • Store-Bought Gesso: Store-bought gesso tends to have a smoother finish, providing a more polished look to your paintings.

    Coverage and Opacity

    • Homemade Gesso: Homemade gesso may require additional coats to achieve optimal coverage and opacity. Depending on your desired outcome, this may be seen as an opportunity for layering and experimentation.
    • Store-Bought Gesso: Store-bought gesso typically offers better coverage and opacity in fewer coats, providing a more consistent and uniform base for your artwork.

    Ultimately, the choice between homemade gesso and store-bought gesso depends on your personal preferences and artistic goals. If you enjoy the process of creating your own supplies and want to explore a more textured finish, homemade gesso can be a great option. On the other hand, if you prioritize convenience and a smoother finish, store-bought gesso may be the better choice for you.

    Pros and Cons of Homemade Gesso

    Making your own gesso at home has both advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore the pros and cons of this DIY approach to art supplies.

    See also
    Prep Your Art: How to Gesso a Wood Panel

    Pros of Homemade Gesso

    • Cost-effectiveness: Homemade gesso can be significantly cheaper than store-bought options, allowing you to save money on your art supplies.
    • Customization options: When you make your own gesso, you have the freedom to customize the recipe to suit your preferences. You can experiment with different ingredients and proportions to achieve the desired texture and coverage.
    • Satisfaction of creation: Making your own gesso can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. It allows you to take control of the creative process, from preparing the surface to the final brushstroke.

    Cons of Homemade Gesso

    • Quality and texture variations: Homemade gesso may not always provide consistent quality and texture compared to store-bought options. Factors such as ingredient quality, measurement accuracy, and mixing technique can affect the final result.

    When deciding whether to make your own gesso or purchase it, consider your specific needs and preferences. As with any DIY project, it’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks before making a decision.

    Conclusion

    Making your own gesso can be a rewarding and cost-effective option for preparing surfaces for painting. By following the step-by-step instructions provided in this guide, you can create a smooth and non-absorbent base for your artwork. Whether you choose to make acrylic gesso or traditional oil gesso, the DIY methods outlined here offer you the flexibility to customize your gesso to suit your artistic needs.

    Experimenting with homemade gesso and store-bought gesso can help you determine which option works best for you. Homemade gesso allows for greater customization and can be more budget-friendly, while store-bought gesso offers a smoother finish and may save you time. Ultimately, the choice depends on your preferences and the specific requirements of your artistic projects.

    Now that you have learned how to make your own gesso, you can confidently move forward in your artistic journey. Happy painting!

    FAQ

    What is gesso?

    Gesso is a primer that prepares surfaces for painting by creating a smooth and non-absorbent base.

    How can I make gesso at home?

    There are different methods for making gesso at home, including acrylic gesso and traditional oil gesso.

    What ingredients do I need to make acrylic gesso?

    To make acrylic gesso, you will need acrylic polymer gloss medium, titanium white acrylic paint, and whiting chalk or calcium carbonate.

    What ingredients do I need to make traditional oil gesso?

    To make traditional oil gesso, you will need dried animal glue, water, whiting chalk or calcium carbonate, and optional titanium white pigment.

    What is the process for making acrylic gesso?

    There are different methods, but one involves dissolving whiting chalk in water, adding equal parts of acrylic polymer gloss medium and white paint, mixing until smooth, and brushing the gesso over the surface.

    What is the process for making traditional oil gesso?

    One method involves soaking dried animal glue in water, heating the glue solution, stirring in whiting chalk or calcium carbonate, straining the gesso, and using it to prime rigid materials.

    Can I store leftover acrylic gesso?

    Yes, you can store leftover acrylic gesso by covering the container tightly and keeping it at room temperature.

    What are some tips for making gesso?

    Avoid using joint compound or baking soda, and follow the drying time guidelines provided by the manufacturer for best results.

    What surfaces can I use homemade gesso on?

    Homemade gesso can be used on various surfaces such as canvas, linen, cotton, paper, fiberboard, or wood.

    Can I use acrylic gesso on old oil paintings?

    It is not recommended to use acrylic gesso on old oil paintings, as it may cause peeling or cracking.

    How does homemade gesso compare to store-bought gesso?

    Homemade gesso may have a different texture and coverage compared to store-bought gesso.

    What are the pros and cons of homemade gesso?

    The pros include cost-effectiveness and customization options, while the cons include potential variations in quality and texture.