DIY Guide: How to Make Homemade Gesso Easily

  • By: Michael Smith
  • Time to read: 14 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.

Are you looking for an affordable and creative way to prepare your canvas or other surfaces for painting? Making homemade gesso is the perfect solution. By following a simple recipe using readily available ingredients, you can create your own gesso at home. In this guide, we will explore different methods for making homemade gesso and provide step-by-step instructions to help you get started.

There are two popular methods for making homemade gesso: acrylic gesso and traditional oil gesso. Acrylic gesso is made using acrylic polymer gloss medium, titanium white acrylic paint, and whiting chalk or calcium carbonate. On the other hand, traditional oil gesso requires dried animal glue, water, whiting chalk or calcium carbonate, and optionally titanium white pigment.

Key Takeaways:

  • Homemade gesso is a cost-effective and creative way to prepare surfaces for painting.
  • Acrylic gesso can be made using acrylic polymer gloss medium, titanium white paint, and whiting chalk or calcium carbonate.
  • Traditional oil gesso requires dried animal glue, water, whiting chalk or calcium carbonate, and optionally titanium white pigment.
  • Thoroughly mix the ingredients to ensure a smooth texture without any lumps.
  • Store homemade gesso in a tightly sealed container at room temperature.

How to Make Homemade Acrylic Gesso

Making your own acrylic gesso at home is a cost-effective and creative way to prepare surfaces for acrylic painting. With just a few simple ingredients, you can create a smooth and durable primer that will enhance the adhesion and longevity of your artwork. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make homemade acrylic gesso:

Ingredients:

  • Acrylic Polymer Gloss Medium
  • Titanium White Acrylic Paint
  • Whiting Chalk or Calcium Carbonate

Recipe:

  1. Dissolve the whiting chalk or calcium carbonate in water to create a thin paste.
  2. In a separate container, mix equal parts of acrylic polymer gloss medium and titanium white acrylic paint.
  3. Gradually add the chalk paste to the acrylic mixture, stirring continuously until a smooth consistency is achieved.

Application:

Brush the homemade acrylic gesso onto your desired surface using a brush or palette knife. Ensure that the gesso is evenly applied and covers the entire surface.

*Please refer to the image below for a visual representation of the homemade acrylic gesso-making process.*

Allow each coat of gesso to dry for 10 to 20 minutes before applying additional coats. It is recommended to let the gesso dry for a minimum of 12 hours before painting on it with acrylics. This will ensure that the gesso fully cures and provides a stable base for your artwork.

Homemade acrylic gesso is an excellent choice for artists who want to have complete control over the quality and composition of their painting surfaces. By following this DIY recipe, you can create a customized gesso that suits your artistic needs and preferences.

How to Make Traditional Oil Gesso

If you prefer to make traditional oil gesso, you will need dried animal glue, water, whiting chalk or calcium carbonate, and optionally titanium white pigment. Follow these step-by-step instructions to create your own homemade oil gesso:

  1. Soak the dried animal glue: Begin by soaking the dried animal glue in water for at least 3 hours until it swells. This step helps to rehydrate the glue and make it ready for use.
  2. Heat the glue solution: Once the glue has swelled, heat the glue solution in a double boiler until it reaches a temperature of 140 °F (60 °C). This heating process helps to dissolve the glue and ensure a smoother consistency.
  3. Cool the glue solution: After heating, allow the glue solution to cool down until it reaches room temperature. This cooling period allows the glue to thicken slightly and achieve the desired texture.
  4. Weigh the glue: Once the glue solution has cooled, weigh it using a scale. Take note of the weight as it will be used to determine the amount of other ingredients needed.
  5. Weigh the chalk: Weigh an equal amount of whiting chalk or calcium carbonate to match the weight of the glue solution. This balance ensures the proper ratio of ingredients for the desired consistency.
  6. Mix the ingredients: Stir the whiting chalk or calcium carbonate into the cooled glue solution until a smooth mixture is achieved. The chalk helps to provide the desired texture and opacity for the gesso.
  7. Strain the gesso: To remove any lumps or impurities, strain the gesso mixture through a stocking into a clean storage container. This step ensures a smooth and even application when priming your painting surface.
  8. Use the gesso: Homemade oil gesso is ideal for priming rigid materials such as wooden panels or fiberboard before painting with oil-based paints. Apply the gesso to the surface using a brush or palette knife, ensuring full coverage.
See also
Gesso vs Acrylic Paint: Key Differences Explained

Now that you know how to make traditional oil gesso, you can enjoy the benefits of preparing your painting surface with this homemade mixture. Experiment with different application techniques and explore the unique effects it can create in your artwork.

Ingredients Ratio
Dried animal glue Equal weight to glue solution
Whiting chalk or calcium carbonate Equal weight to glue solution
Titanium white pigment (optional) As desired

Tips for Making Homemade Gesso

When making homemade gesso, there are a few tips to keep in mind. These homemade gesso tips will help you achieve the best results and create a high-quality gesso for your artwork.

1. Substitute for Whiting Chalk or Calcium Carbonate

If you don’t have whiting chalk or calcium carbonate, don’t worry! You can finely grind white chalk to use as a substitute. It will provide a similar effect and texture in your homemade gesso.

2. Adjust the Ratios

The ratio of acrylic polymer gloss medium, white paint, and chalk can be adjusted based on your desired consistency and whiteness. Play around with the ratios until you achieve the perfect balance for your project.

3. Thoroughly Mix the Ingredients

It is important to thoroughly mix the ingredients to ensure a smooth texture without any lumps. Take your time and mix until all the components are well-blended. This will help you achieve a professional-looking gesso.

4. Store Properly

After making homemade gesso, store any leftovers in a tightly sealed container at room temperature. This will prevent the gesso from drying out or spoiling, allowing you to use it for future projects.

5. Avoid Problematic Substitutions

Avoid using joint compound, baking soda, baby powder, or talc in your homemade gesso. These substitutions may affect the quality and longevity of the gesso, compromising its performance on the canvas.

Using Homemade Gesso

Homemade gesso is a versatile and affordable option for priming various surfaces before painting. Whether you’re working on canvas, raw linen, cotton, paper, fiberboard, or wood, homemade gesso can provide the perfect foundation for your artwork.

Before applying the gesso, it’s important to ensure that the surface is clean and dry. This will help the gesso adhere properly and create a smooth base for your paint.

You can apply homemade gesso using either a brush or a palette knife, depending on your preference. Use gentle, even strokes to spread the gesso across the surface, making sure to cover it completely. If you prefer a textured look, you can experiment with different application techniques to create unique effects.

Allow each coat of gesso to dry for 10 to 20 minutes before adding additional coats. This will ensure that each layer dries evenly and helps to build up a solid foundation for your artwork. It’s recommended to apply at least two to three coats of gesso, but you can add more if desired.

After the final coat, allow the gesso to dry completely for 12 hours before painting on it with acrylics or oils. This will ensure that the gesso is fully cured and ready to be worked on.

It’s worth noting that if you’re using homemade acrylic gesso, it’s best to avoid applying it on top of old oil paintings. The different properties of acrylic and oil paints can cause peeling or cracking if applied directly on top of each other.

Take advantage of the benefits of homemade gesso and experiment with different techniques and surfaces. The versatility and affordability of homemade gesso make it a great choice for artists of all skill levels.

Pros and Cons of Using Homemade Gesso

Pros Cons
Cost-effective Potential durability and archival quality concerns
Customizable consistency and texture Requires additional practice for desired results
Creative satisfaction May not provide as smooth of a surface as store-bought gesso

Overall, using homemade gesso allows you to have more control over the materials you use and the artistic process. Consider your artistic preferences and goals when deciding between homemade gesso and store-bought gesso.

Comparison of Homemade Gesso and Store-Bought Gesso

When it comes to gesso, you have two options: homemade or store-bought. Both have their advantages and considerations, so let’s explore the differences between the two.

Texture and Application

Homemade gesso tends to have a more textured finish, with visible brush strokes and a chalky feel. This can add character and depth to your artwork. On the other hand, store-bought gesso provides a smoother surface with less texture, ideal for creating a clean and professional look.

Coverage and Opacity

The coverage and opacity of gesso can vary depending on the ingredients and application technique used. Homemade gesso may require multiple coats for full coverage due to its textured nature, whereas store-bought gesso typically provides better coverage in fewer coats, offering a more consistent and opaque base.

See also
Revive Canvases: Reuse Without Gesso Guide

Durability and Archival Quality

It’s important to consider the durability and archival quality of gesso, especially if you want your artwork to stand the test of time. Store-bought gesso is often formulated with archival-grade materials, ensuring long-lasting quality. Homemade gesso, while perfectly suitable for most projects, may not have the same level of durability and archival properties.

So, when choosing between homemade and store-bought gesso, think about your desired outcome and artistic preferences. If you value texture, a personalized touch, and don’t require extensive longevity, homemade gesso might be the right choice for you. However, if you prioritize a smooth and durable surface with consistent coverage, store-bought gesso is worth considering.

Homemade Gesso Store-Bought Gesso
Texture More textured finish with visible brush strokes Smoother surface with less texture
Coverage May require multiple coats for full coverage Provides better coverage in fewer coats
Durability May have lower durability and archival quality Formulated with archival-grade materials

Ultimately, the choice between homemade and store-bought gesso depends on your artistic goals, preferences, and the specific project at hand. Experimenting with both options can help you determine which gesso suits your needs best.

Storing Homemade Gesso

To ensure the longevity of your homemade gesso, proper storage is essential. By following these tips, you can keep your homemade gesso fresh and ready for your next artistic endeavor.

Transfer to a Sealed Container: Once you have made your homemade gesso, transfer it to a tightly sealed container, such as a jar or airtight plastic container. This will help prevent moisture or air from affecting the consistency and performance of the gesso.

Keep at Room Temperature: Store the container of homemade gesso in a cool, dry place at room temperature. Avoid exposing it to extreme temperatures, as this can alter the texture and potentially compromise the quality of the gesso.

Shelf Life: Homemade gesso can typically last for several weeks to several months, depending on the ingredients used. However, it’s important to note that gesso made with organic materials, such as animal glue, may have a shorter shelf life compared to acrylic-based gesso.

Stir Before Use: Over time, homemade gesso may separate or thicken. Before using it, simply give the container a good stir to ensure a smooth consistency. This will help blend any separated components and restore the gesso to its optimal state.

Avoid Moisture: Moisture can be detrimental to the quality of homemade gesso. Be sure to keep the container tightly sealed and protect it from excessive humidity or direct contact with water. Moisture can cause the gesso to spoil or create mold, rendering it unusable.

Make Small Batches: It’s recommended to make homemade gesso in smaller quantities as needed. This ensures freshness and allows you to adjust the recipe as desired. Making smaller batches also minimizes the risk of wastage and ensures you always have a fresh supply of gesso on hand.

By following these storage tips, you can extend the shelf life of your homemade gesso and maintain its quality for future artistic projects.

Pros and Cons of Homemade Gesso

Making homemade gesso offers several advantages that make it an appealing choice for artists and crafters. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of DIY gesso:

Advantages of Homemade Gesso

  1. Cost-effectiveness: Homemade gesso is a budget-friendly alternative to store-bought gesso. By using readily available ingredients, you can save money while still achieving a primed surface for your artwork.
  2. Customizable consistency and whiteness: With homemade gesso, you have the freedom to adjust the ratio of ingredients to achieve your desired consistency and whiteness. This customization allows you to tailor the gesso to your specific artistic needs.
  3. Artistic satisfaction: Creating your own gesso can be a fun and fulfilling process. It gives you a sense of ownership and creativity, knowing that you’ve crafted an essential tool for your art.

Disadvantages of Homemade Gesso

  1. Durability and archival quality: Homemade gesso may not offer the same level of durability and archival quality as store-bought gesso. The ingredients and proportions used in homemade gesso may not provide the long-term stability needed for professional artwork.
  2. Texture and application technique: Achieving a smooth and consistent texture with homemade gesso may require additional practice and experimentation. It may take time to perfect your application technique and achieve the desired results.

When considering whether to choose homemade gesso or store-bought gesso, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons. Assess your artistic needs, budget, and desired outcome to make an informed decision. Whether you opt for the cost-effectiveness and customization of homemade gesso or the durability and professional finish of store-bought gesso, both options have their own merits. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

Tips for Using Gesso in Art Projects

Gesso can be a versatile and essential tool for various art projects. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, here are some helpful tips and tricks to make the most out of using gesso:

  1. Experiment with different application techniques: Use a brush, palette knife, sponge, or even your fingers to apply gesso to create unique textures and effects.
  2. Allow each coat of gesso to dry completely: Before adding additional layers or painting on top of the gesso, make sure each coat is fully dry. This will ensure a smooth surface and prevent any unwanted blending or smudging.
  3. Use gesso as a base for mixed media projects: Gesso provides a smooth and consistent surface, making it perfect for incorporating various materials and techniques in your artwork.
  4. Consider tinting the gesso: Add a touch of color to your gesso by mixing in acrylic paint or other pigments. This allows you to create colored gesso and adds visual interest to your art.
  5. Prepare surfaces for different types of paint: Gesso works well as a primer for acrylics, oils, or watercolors. Applying gesso before painting enhances adhesion and helps your artwork last longer.
See also
DIY Gesso Without Cornstarch: Easy Guide

By following these tips and experimenting with gesso, you can elevate your art projects and achieve stunning results. Gesso’s versatility and ability to enhance different painting techniques make it a valuable asset in your artistic journey.

A Stunning Gesso Artwork Example

“Gesso provides a solid foundation for my mixed media collages. Its smooth texture and excellent adhesion allow me to seamlessly incorporate various materials, from paper to fabric and even metal. I can’t imagine my art without the versatile possibilities that gesso brings to the table.” – Emma Thompson, Mixed Media Artist

Comparison: Homemade Gesso vs. Store-Bought Gesso

Aspect Homemade Gesso Store-Bought Gesso
Texture Varies depending on recipe and application technique; can have a more textured finish with visible brush strokes Provides a smoother surface with less texture
Customization Can be adjusted based on desired consistency and whiteness Consistency and whiteness are predetermined by the manufacturer
Durability May not have the same level of durability and archival quality Specifically formulated for durability and longevity
Price Cost-effective option Varies depending on brand and quality

Conclusion

Making homemade gesso can be a cost-effective and rewarding way to prepare your painting surfaces. Whether you choose to make acrylic gesso or traditional oil gesso, the process is simple and allows you to customize the recipe to suit your preferences. By mixing specific ingredients, you can achieve the desired consistency and texture, giving your artwork a professional touch.

Homemade gesso also offers the flexibility to experiment with different application techniques, whether you prefer using a brush, palette knife, or sponge. This allows you to create unique textures and effects that enhance the overall visual appeal of your paintings. Additionally, making your own gesso gives you a sense of creative satisfaction and allows you to have complete control over the preparation process.

While there may be differences between homemade and store-bought gesso, both options have their own advantages and considerations. Homemade gesso may not have the same level of durability and archival quality as store-bought gesso, but it can still provide excellent results for artists on a budget. Ultimately, your choice between homemade and store-bought gesso should be based on your artistic preferences, budget, and desired outcome.

In conclusion, making homemade gesso is a cost-effective and creative solution for preparing your painting surfaces. Whether you choose acrylic gesso or traditional oil gesso, the ability to customize the recipe and experiment with different techniques adds a personal touch to your artwork. Consider the advantages and considerations, and choose the option that best suits your needs as an artist.

FAQ

What is homemade gesso?

Homemade gesso is a DIY mixture used to prepare surfaces for painting. It serves as a primer, providing a smooth and consistent base for acrylic or oil paints.

How do I make homemade acrylic gesso?

To make homemade acrylic gesso, you will need acrylic polymer gloss medium, titanium white acrylic paint, whiting chalk or calcium carbonate, and water. Dissolve the chalk in water to create a thin paste. Mix equal parts of acrylic polymer gloss medium and white paint with the chalk paste to achieve a smooth consistency.

What are the ingredients for making traditional oil gesso?

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

How do I store homemade gesso?

Transfer homemade gesso to a tightly sealed container and store it at room temperature in a cool, dry place. It can last for several weeks to several months, depending on the ingredients used.

What are the advantages of homemade gesso?

Homemade gesso is cost-effective, customizable, and allows for creative experimentation. It also offers the satisfaction of creating your own art supplies.

Can homemade gesso be used on all types of surfaces?

Homemade gesso can be used to prime various surfaces, including canvas, raw linen, cotton, paper, fiberboard, and wood.

How does homemade gesso differ from store-bought gesso?

Homemade gesso tends to have a more textured finish and may not have the same durability and archival quality as store-bought gesso. Store-bought gesso provides a smoother surface and is often more consistent in coverage and opacity.

How should homemade gesso be used?

Apply an even coat of homemade gesso to the desired surface using a brush or palette knife. Allow each coat to dry completely before adding additional layers or painting on top of it.

What are some tips for using gesso effectively?

Experiment with different application techniques, allow each coat of gesso to dry completely, consider tinting the gesso with acrylic paint, and use gesso to prepare surfaces for different types of paint.

What are the pros and cons of homemade gesso?

Homemade gesso is cost-effective and customizable, but it may not have the same durability and professional finish as store-bought gesso. Its texture and application technique may require additional practice.

What can I use gesso for?

Gesso can be used as a base for various art projects, including painting with acrylics or oils, mixed media, and preparing surfaces for different types of paint.