DIY Gesso for Oil Painting Guide | Easy Steps

  • 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.

Making your own gesso for oil painting can be a cost-effective and convenient solution. By using simple household ingredients, you can create a gesso that prepares your canvas for the perfect painting surface. In this DIY gesso guide, we will walk you through the easy steps to make your own gesso at home.

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn how to make gesso for oil painting using household ingredients
  • Customize the thickness and texture of your homemade gesso
  • Store your homemade gesso properly for extended shelf life
  • Compare store-bought gesso and homemade gesso for cost-effectiveness and customization
  • Properly prepare your canvas with gesso for optimal results in oil painting

Why Make Your Own Gesso?

Making your own gesso offers several advantages, especially for artists just starting out or those on a budget. Homemade gesso is cost-effective, as it uses readily available ingredients that are much cheaper than store-bought gesso. Additionally, making your own gesso allows for customization, as you can adjust the thickness and texture to suit your preferences. This makes it an ideal choice for beginners who want to experiment with different techniques and styles.

“Making your own gesso offers flexibility and cost savings.”
– Artist’s Magazine

By creating your own gesso, you have full control over the composition of the primer that will prepare your canvas for painting. Not only does it give you the freedom to adjust the recipe based on your artistic needs, but it also empowers you to explore various application techniques.

Whether you prefer a smoother surface for detailed work or a more textured one for expressive brushstrokes, homemade gesso allows you to tailor the primer to your desired effect. This level of customization is especially valuable for beginners who are still refining their artistic style and experimenting with different approaches.

Benefits of Making Your Own Gesso:

  • Cost-effective alternative to store-bought gesso
  • Customizable thickness and texture
  • Perfect for beginners exploring different techniques

By making your own gesso, you can save money while gaining more artistic freedom. In the next section, we will provide a step-by-step tutorial on how to prepare your own homemade gesso.

Homemade Gesso Recipe

To make your own gesso, follow these simple preparation steps using easily accessible ingredients. This DIY gesso for artists will help you create the perfect painting surface for your artwork.

  1. Mix 3 parts cornstarch and 3 parts baking soda together until any lumps are broken up. This combination forms the base of the gesso.
  2. Add 1 part glue to the mixture, ensuring all ingredients are well combined. The glue helps bind the gesso and provides adhesion to the canvas.
  3. Incorporate 1 part white acrylic paint into the mix. This addition helps give the gesso a smooth, uniform color, ready for your artwork.
  4. Gradually add 2-3 parts water to the mixture. Add water slowly and mix well to achieve the desired consistency. For a thicker texture paste, use less water. If you prefer a more traditional gesso texture, add water until the mixture resembles pancake batter.

And there you have it! Your homemade gesso is ready to be applied to your canvas, providing a solid foundation for your artwork.

“Making your own gesso allows you to have control over the texture, consistency, and color of the gesso. It’s a great way to customize your painting surface according to your artistic preferences and requirements.”

Shelf Life and Storage

One thing to keep in mind when making your own gesso is that it has a shorter shelf life compared to store-bought gesso. Homemade gesso can last about a week or two when stored in an airtight container. It’s important to ensure the container is tightly sealed to prevent air exposure, which can cause the gesso to dry out. Store your homemade gesso at room temperature in a cool and dry place to maintain its quality for as long as possible.

See also
Prep Your Canvas: How to Gesso a Board

Proper storage is key for maintaining the shelf life of your homemade gesso. Here are some essential storage tips to keep in mind:

  • Use an airtight container: Store your homemade gesso in a container with a tight-fitting lid to prevent air exposure and moisture from ruining the mixture.
  • Keep it cool and dry: Store the container in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures, which can affect the consistency and quality of the gesso.
  • Avoid contamination: Ensure that the container and any tools or brushes used to apply the gesso are clean and free from any contamination, as it can introduce bacteria or mold to the mixture.

Following these storage tips will help extend the shelf life of your homemade gesso and ensure that it stays usable for a longer period of time.

Gesso Storage Tips
Use an airtight container
Store in a cool and dry place
Avoid contamination

Note: Proper storage of your homemade gesso is crucial to maintain its quality and extend its shelf life. Follow these storage tips to keep your gesso fresh and ready to use for your next painting project.

Store-Bought Gesso vs. Homemade Gesso

When comparing store-bought gesso and homemade gesso, there are a few differences to consider. Store-bought gesso tends to have a smoother and more consistent texture, while homemade gesso may have a slightly rougher texture due to the variation in ingredients and preparation techniques.

Store-bought gesso offers a wider range of options in terms of thickness and formulation. You can find different variations, such as gesso for canvas, wood, or other surfaces, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your painting needs. Additionally, there are options for different artistic styles, such as transparent or colored gesso that can add unique effects to your artwork.

On the other hand, homemade gesso provides more customization and cost-effectiveness. You have the freedom to adjust the consistency and texture according to your preferences. This allows for experimentation with different textures and finishes, giving your paintings a unique, personalized touch. Homemade gesso is also a great choice for artists on a budget, as the ingredients are readily available and more affordable compared to store-bought gesso.

In summary, while store-bought gesso offers convenience and consistency, homemade gesso provides more customization and cost-effectiveness. The choice between the two ultimately depends on your artistic goals, preferences, and budget.

To further illustrate the differences between store-bought gesso and homemade gesso, here’s a comparison table:

Comparison Store-Bought Gesso Homemade Gesso
Texture Smoother and more consistent Slightly rougher due to variation in ingredients and preparation techniques
Options Wider range of thickness and formulation options Customizable to achieve desired consistency and texture
Cost Generally more expensive More cost-effective
Customization Limited customization Highly customizable

As you can see, both store-bought gesso and homemade gesso have their own advantages and considerations. It’s important to weigh your options and choose the one that aligns with your artistic vision and needs.

Tips for Using Homemade Gesso

When using homemade gesso, there are a few tips to keep in mind. First, remember to apply a thin and even layer of gesso to the surface of your canvas or other painting surface. This will ensure proper coverage and prevent the paint from soaking in.

See also
Smooth Gesso Like a Pro: Sanding Techniques & Tips

Allow each coat to dry completely before applying additional coats for a smoother and more consistent surface. Experiment with different application techniques, such as using a brush or palette knife, to achieve unique textures and effects. Practice and experimentation will help you find the best application method for your artistic style.

“Applying a thin and even layer of gesso ensures proper coverage and prevents paint from soaking in.”

Whether you choose to brush on the gesso or use a palette knife, it’s important to apply the gesso evenly to achieve a smooth and well-prepared painting surface. Don’t rush the process; take your time to ensure each layer of gesso is dry before adding more.

Experimenting with different techniques can lead to exciting results. Try using a brush for a smooth and traditional texture, or use a palette knife to create interesting textures and patterns. The choice of technique depends on your artistic vision and the desired effect you want to achieve.

Remember to practice and refine your gesso application skills. Each artist develops their unique style and preference for gesso application. Don’t be afraid to explore and experiment with different approaches to discover what works best for you.

Tips for Using Homemade Gesso:

  1. Apply a thin and even layer of gesso to ensure proper coverage.
  2. Allow each coat to dry completely before adding additional layers.
  3. Try different application techniques, such as using a brush or palette knife.
  4. Experiment with different textures and patterns to achieve unique effects.
  5. Practice and refine your gesso application skills to develop your artistic style.

Alternative Gesso Recipes

While the recipe mentioned earlier is a popular choice for homemade gesso, there are also alternative recipes you can try. Some artists use different ingredients to customize their gesso and achieve unique textures and finishes in their paintings. Here are a few alternative gesso recipes:

Plaster of Paris Gesso

Plaster of Paris is a common ingredient used in alternative gesso recipes. It provides a smooth and slightly gritty texture, creating an interesting surface for your artwork. To make plaster of Paris gesso, combine:

  • 1 part plaster of Paris
  • 1 part water
  • 1 part white glue

Mix the ingredients thoroughly until you achieve a creamy consistency. Apply the plaster of Paris gesso to your canvas or painting surface using a brush or palette knife, allowing it to dry completely before painting.

Dextrin Powder Gesso

Dextrin powder is a starch-based ingredient that can be used in gesso recipes to create a smooth and flexible surface. To make dextrin powder gesso, you will need:

  • 3 parts dextrin powder
  • 1 part white glue
  • 2-3 parts water

Mix the dextrin powder, white glue, and water until well combined. Adjust the amount of water to achieve the desired consistency. Apply the dextrin powder gesso to your canvas, allowing it to dry before adding additional layers or starting your painting.

Drywall Compound Gesso

Drywall compound, also known as joint compound, can be used as an alternative ingredient in gesso recipes. It creates a smooth and slightly porous surface, allowing for excellent paint adhesion. Here’s how you can make drywall compound gesso:

  • 3 parts drywall compound
  • 1 part white glue
  • 2 parts water

Thoroughly mix the drywall compound, white glue, and water until well blended. Adjust the consistency by adding more or less water. Apply the drywall compound gesso to your canvas or painting surface, ensuring a thin and even layer, and let it dry completely before painting.

Experimenting with these alternative gesso recipes allows you to explore different textures and finishes in your artwork. You can even combine different ingredients or adjust the ratios to create your own unique gesso recipe. The key is to find the recipe that best suits your artistic needs and preferences.

Preparing Your Canvas with Gesso

Before you embark on your oil painting journey, it is crucial to properly prepare your canvas with gesso. This essential step sets the foundation for a successful painting, ensuring a smooth and stable surface for your oil paints to adhere to.

See also
DIY Gesso for Acrylic Painting – Quick Guide

Applying a thin layer of gesso using a brush or palette knife is the key to achieving optimal results. Make sure to evenly distribute the gesso, covering the entire canvas surface. This ensures that the paint will not seep into the canvas and allows for better control over the application of colors.

Allow each layer of gesso to dry completely before applying additional coats, if necessary. This ensures that the gesso has fully cured and provides a solid base for your oil paints to interact with.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the step-by-step process of preparing your canvas with gesso:

  1. Step 1: Gather your materials – canvas, gesso, brush or palette knife.
  2. Step 2: Prepare your workspace by laying down a protective cover.
  3. Step 3: Shake or stir the gesso to ensure it is well-mixed.
  4. Step 4: Dip your brush or palette knife into the gesso, ensuring an even amount is applied.
  5. Step 5: Begin applying the gesso to the canvas, starting from one corner and working your way across the surface.
  6. Step 6: Use smooth, even strokes to distribute the gesso and cover the entire canvas.
  7. Step 7: Allow the first layer of gesso to dry completely.
  8. Step 8: If needed, apply additional layers of gesso following the same process, ensuring each layer is dry before adding the next.
  9. Step 9: Once the gesso is fully dry, your canvas is ready for your oil painting masterpiece!

Remember, proper canvas preparation with gesso is essential for achieving the desired results in your oil paintings. Take your time, follow the steps, and set the stage for a successful artistic endeavor.


Making your own gesso for oil painting can be a rewarding and cost-effective process. It allows for customization and experimentation, giving artists like you the ability to create unique textures and finishes on your artwork. While store-bought gesso offers convenience and consistency, homemade gesso provides a more affordable and customizable alternative.

Whether you choose to make your own gesso or purchase it from a store, the key is to ensure your canvas is properly prepared for the best painting experience. By applying a thin and even layer of gesso to your canvas, you create a smooth and stable surface that allows the paint to adhere properly and prevents it from seeping into the canvas.

So, whether you’re a beginner artist on a budget or an experienced painter looking to explore new techniques, homemade gesso can be a valuable addition to your art supplies. Experiment with different recipes, application techniques, and textures to find what works best for your artistic style. Happy painting!


What are the advantages of making your own gesso?

Making your own gesso is cost-effective and allows for customization, making it ideal for beginners and artists on a budget.

What are the ingredients needed to make homemade gesso?

The ingredients for homemade gesso include cornstarch, baking soda, glue, white acrylic paint, and water.

How do you make homemade gesso?

To make homemade gesso, mix cornstarch and baking soda, then add glue, acrylic paint, and water until you achieve the desired consistency.

How long does homemade gesso last?

Homemade gesso can last about a week or two when stored in an airtight container.

How does homemade gesso compare to store-bought gesso?

Homemade gesso may have a slightly rougher texture, but it is more customizable and cost-effective.

What tips should I keep in mind when using homemade gesso?

Apply a thin and even layer, allow each coat to dry completely, and experiment with different application techniques.

Are there alternative gesso recipes?

Yes, some artists use ingredients like plaster of Paris or drywall compound in their homemade gesso.

How do you prepare a canvas with gesso?

Apply a thin layer of gesso using a brush or palette knife, allowing each layer to dry before applying additional coats.