Art Journaling 101 Series – Gesso

Want to know everything about gesso on art journaling? What is it, why we use it, types of gesso, and how different mediums react on it? Let’s get started!

What is gesso?

Gesso is very similar to white acrylic paint, but it has less pigment. It dries hard but flexible and can be applied to a variety of textured surfaces without cracking. Gesso works as a primer for any surface, making it slightly textured. And that’s why it provides the needed “tooth” so that paint can “stick” on your surface while at the same time it helps paint to be applied easily without being soaked in the paper/canvas.

gesso

 

You can apply gesso to almost any surface, and then you can paint that surface with acrylic paint, gelatos, inks… For example, you can apply a layer of gesso on fabric, burlap, paper, metal embellishments, wood, vinyl and you can then paint it with acrylics! The possibilities are endless!

And here are my TOP 10 reasons I use gesso. Make sure to pin this image if you like it!!!

10 reasons to use gesso

 

Types of gesso

Gesso is traditionally white, but you can also get black, clear and colored. Personally I only use white and if I ever need colored gesso I can always mix it with the acrylic paint of my choice. Just remember that if you do so, you will never get gesso that has the same color as the acrylic paint you used. Since gesso is white you will get a paler version of your mixed color. Don’t forget your color theory.

 

Which one should I get?

You’ll have to experiment with different brands to find the one you like best.

The consistency and texture of gesso will vary from brand to brand. Some are more liquidy and others are more thick. Some apply more smoothly and others leave a more textured, toothy surface.

If you are wondering about the price range and why some are so expensive than others there is an explanation. The difference in gesso is in the quantity of the white pigment and the filler in it. The more pigment, the more opaque it is and more expensive …but one coat will do the job. The gesso filler and pigment may also be ground more finely, giving a smoother finish when dry. Gesso comes in a variety of brands, sizes and prices and that’s why I suggest to get the smaller package first to try it out. If you like the texture and thickness then you can invest in a bigger size. I have used many different brands and really for art journaling anything you get will do. Currently I am using gesso by Ranger, Faber-Castell and Windsdor&Newton that are pretty much the same. I just pick one randomly each time. But I also have (and you might have seen me using) the Bob Ross one. It’s more liquid and it’s perfect for gesso washes.  

How do I apply it?

It really depends on the look you want to achieve on that particular project you are working on! You can use bristle or foam brushes for a smooth finish, or brailers,scrapers and gift cards for wide strokes and you can even apply it with paint knifes for even more texture. Are you messy enough? Then just use your fingers!!!


How different mediums react with/without gesso?

I would use gesso when I would use acrylic paint, markers, distress paint, ink, permanent paint of any kind including sprays. I wouldn’t use gesso on the back if I was going to watercolor or use dylusion sprays. Check the video below and find out why!

Notepad

In the video I am using a new notepad. It’s my new Nu:Elite Casebound by Nuco

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Questions & Answers

If you have any questions leave me a comment and I will come back with another post with Q&A about gesso.

 

You made it through the end? WOW! That was a huge post and I hope it was helpful too.

Have a great week!

66 Comments

  1. Seanna said:

    This is great, Vicky, thank you for taking the time to write this!

    Do you ever use gesso in your card making? There are so many similar mediums, like embossing paste, texture paste, gesso, etc that I’m not sure if I can make due with one or if I could get some of reach. I’m primarily a card maker right now, and would love to add some texture to some of my cards.

    October 5, 2014
    Reply
  2. conil said:

    Thank you for this very informative report. It clears up a lot of things for me.

    October 5, 2014
    Reply
  3. Glo said:

    Loved your post! You have shared a lot of information and cleared up a few questions I had. Thanks for the much needed info.

    October 5, 2014
    Reply
  4. surabhi said:

    Thanks a lot for the wonderful post. I have recently started using gesso and this post come in right time. Very well explained . (Y)

    October 5, 2014
    Reply
  5. This is such an informative post and really clears up some questions I had. Thanks for posting this for us. 2 thumbs up for this one!

    October 5, 2014
    Reply
  6. Lucy Schmidt said:

    Thank you! I think I have a better understanding now. It’s just the info I’ve been looking for. I’ve got it bookmarked and Pinned, just in case I need a refresher.

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
  7. Regina said:

    Thank you so much for this great post. You have answered so many
    questions I had about gesso. I feel that I can use it with some confidence now. Looking forward to some fun. I always look forward to your videos.

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
  8. April G. said:

    Thank you for posting this information! Funny, I was just looking at gesso in Michaels yesterday but decided to put it back since I was unsure what brand is the best to buy. Do you think if I mixed CLEAR gesso with Faber Castell Gelatos I would get the same paint-like consistency but without toning down the color?

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
    • Vicky said:

      oh yes, you can so do that!!! or just add acrylic paint instead of wasting your gelatos 😉

      October 7, 2014
      Reply
  9. Barb said:

    Oh, am I going to love this series, Vicky! Even for those who already know about Gesso, it’ll be awesome that we can go back and refer to these videos at a later date, just in case! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this – so appreciated! ♥

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
  10. Doreen said:

    The first time I ever heard of Gesso or Gel Medium was when I ran across your videos for the first time a week ago. I’ve been watching them multiple times to try and figure out why you use Gesso sometimes, and why Gel Medium. This video was so informative and I can’t thank you enough!! Thank you Vicky with your patience in helping your “Cyber Students”!!

    Doreen

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
  11. Cyndie said:

    Thank you for the lesson! I knew a little about gesso but had no idea there were so many different kinds with different consistencies; I thought they were all like the Faber-castell stuff. So I learned some valuable information today!

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
  12. Tasha said:

    I’m going to love this series! My question is not about gesso…as you flipped through your completed art journal pages I noticed you had no sticking. How do you do that? All my pages stick together mostly at the spine, even when I let them dry for a couple of days. I think it is the gel medium causing the problems. I use the same gel medium you use in your videos. Please help! My pages are getting ruined 🙁

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
    • Vicky said:

      I get this question a lot! I use matte gel medium, not glossy. Also I think it has to do with humidity… since others have the same problem while using the same products. I will come back to this in one of my future videos with more info and solutions!

      October 7, 2014
      Reply
  13. Jeannine Brenner said:

    Great information, thank you for sharing! Can’t wait to see more videos! I had started a journal months ago and didn’t finish my first page…I was too overwhelmed! I think this series will totally help me!

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
  14. Christi Hicks said:

    This was so informative. Thanks for going to so much trouble to show everyone this.

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
  15. Marilyn said:

    Thanks Vicky, this made so much clear.

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
  16. patricia p. said:

    Vicky thank you for the lesson on gesso…Very interesting and they do have different purposes..
    pat

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
  17. Diane said:

    Thanks for all the great information on Gesso and gel mediums. I will be referring back to this post. Have you ever these products on cards?

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
  18. Jess S. said:

    Great video. I’ve been wondering what gesso is and what it’s used for. I’ve got the same question as someone above, how is gesso different from embossing/texture paste? Can’t wait to see more videos.

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
  19. Nimmy said:

    Its just like you read my mind… 🙂 i was badly looking for these information… i made big mistake in my journal by using ink sprays over gesso . still got few doubts, why are you using gel medium as glue secondly how does texture paste differ frm gesso

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
    • Vicky said:

      Thanks for commenting. I will refer to glue and gel medium in one of my upcoming 101

      October 7, 2014
      Reply
  20. Becky Jo said:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to do this video! Loved it! You are so inspiring with your art journal and cards! I like hearing your voice on the videos, too! Hugs!!

    October 6, 2014
    Reply
  21. Kat said:

    Vicky, thank you so much for this. I came across your YouTube videos for art journaling and card making a couple of years ago and have been a faithful follower since. I have tried bit of art journaling myself but have always been a bit intimidated , not really knowing what to do so this is absolutely wonderful. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for, some guidance and inspiration. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    October 7, 2014
    Reply
  22. Paula said:

    Thank you for this great informative post and the video. Is there a way to thicken the thinner gesso? I like the gesso I have , but would like to have it a little thicker sometimes. I cant wait to see more of this type of videos and posts from you. Thanks again.

    October 7, 2014
    Reply
    • Vicky said:

      you can add water to thin thick gesso but I don’t know how to do the other way around…

      October 7, 2014
      Reply
  23. Nancy said:

    Which type of gel medium do you use…..matte or gloss? I want to try doing an art journal but not sure which to use.

    October 7, 2014
    Reply
    • Vicky said:

      I only use matte but that’s because I hate glossy pages. I add shine here and there with other products if I want to. It’s a matter of preference…

      October 7, 2014
      Reply
  24. Kris Boydstun said:

    Wonderful tutorial! Loved every single example. Thank you so much!

    October 7, 2014
    Reply
  25. Darlette said:

    Love it, thanks Vicky i love all you do, allwais so inpiring

    October 7, 2014
    Reply
  26. Diana W. said:

    Vicky – what a great tutorial. Thanks for the examples. You’re the best!

    October 7, 2014
    Reply
  27. Boo said:

    Wonderful overview of Gesso. I shared the link on my blog!!

    October 7, 2014
    Reply
  28. Mary-Anne V. said:

    Great post and I learned a lot! THanks1

    October 7, 2014
    Reply
  29. Jessica said:

    Thank you for sharing all these great uses for gesso. I had been using white acrylic before I found your videos and this post. Thank you for sharing your creativity; I always feel inspired after seeing your vids.

    October 7, 2014
    Reply
  30. Mildred Mildew said:

    Vicky, thank you so much for this video. I have been slowly collecting supplies..gesso and gel medium among them, to start my art journal. However, I have not felt that I knew enough about these products . Quite frankly, I was afraid . This video gives me the information I need to get started. Thank you so much!!

    October 7, 2014
    Reply
  31. Jacelyn said:

    Thank you so much for posting this!! I love the idea of art journaling, but find it so intimidating because I’m not quite sure how to use certain products. This cleared so much up! Thanks again, love all your videos!!

    October 7, 2014
    Reply
  32. Valerie said:

    I knew a little about gesso, but you provided so much more information than I would have even thought about asking!

    October 7, 2014
    Reply
  33. Dorothy said:

    This is great, and so comprehensive. Thank you so much.

    October 8, 2014
    Reply
  34. Amy said:

    This video is very helpful to those of us who are not real familiar with these sorts of products. Thank you very much! If I want to make a card with a gelato background would I use gesso on the card base first? And what kind of card stock would be best? Neenah? Watercolor color card stock? Thanks!

    October 8, 2014
    Reply
    • Vicky said:

      I would use any kind of cardstock and since it’s a card I wouldn’t use gesso. It is a small surface and you can blend the color easily. I would use gesso only in art journaling since it’s a big area and it would make it easier to blend with your finger.

      October 8, 2014
      Reply
  35. Melodie said:

    What a fabulously comprehensive post and video!! I have been art journaling for a couple of years but without benefit of actually ‘knowing’ what I’m doing! I especially appreciated the examples in your video, because I use all those paint mediums and never knew why my dylusions sprays acted the way they did. I thought I ‘had to’ gesso every page before art journaling, period. Thank you thank you, and I am so thrilled you are going to do a series of these informative posts, can’t wait!!

    October 8, 2014
    Reply
  36. Bee said:

    Love your art journal videos. I always learn new techniques. Thank you for sharing. I have learned to use gesso through your videos. Please keep them coming!

    October 10, 2014
    Reply
  37. Lizzie said:

    Thank you for this it is very informative. Looking forward to next post in series.

    October 11, 2014
    Reply
  38. Sheryl Kramer said:

    Thank you for sharing! This answered many of the questions I had concerning gesso. I look forward to seeing more of your art journal pages. They are such an inspiration to me! I so appreciate all you do for us fans!

    October 12, 2014
    Reply
  39. Barbara Bass said:

    I sincerely thank you for this information. Truly appreciate those of you who have a passion for the craft as well as a passion for teaching others. These explanations mean a lot to folks like who are new the the art form and have more questions than can get answers. I anxiously await the next post in the series.

    October 13, 2014
    Reply
  40. Shy said:

    Hi Vicky. I started Art Journaling only a few months ago and really like yor videos. I’ve always have been creativ but never had enough space to let this creativity flow… Who would have thought one could use a book to be creative….. *blush*. I’m looking forward to your new series. Thanks for sharing.

    October 13, 2014
    Reply
  41. Cris G. said:

    Really helpful, Vicky. I know I will love this series, and read it with all attention. A big Thank You for taking your time to do it!

    October 19, 2014
    Reply
  42. sofia papastathopoulou said:

    Παρα πολύ ωραία δουλειά

    October 20, 2014
    Reply
  43. Lea Hyde said:

    Great information. This has been so helpful, Thank you

    Lea

    October 20, 2014
    Reply
  44. kris kaufman said:

    This video is exactly wht I needed. I am fairly new at art journaling and this answered many questions, I will be watching more of your videos!

    October 31, 2014
    Reply
  45. AJ said:

    What a fantastic post!I love watching you create your journal pages (and cards too!) and have started researching products and techniques to start my first journal. This information is exactly what I needed! I’m looking forward to your 101 series. Thank you for taking the time to put this info together for us!

    November 8, 2014
    Reply
  46. Lynn C. said:

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and ideas with us, Vicky. They’re always helpful and inspiring. I do have a question about gesso. Currently I’m using Liquidtex Basics gesso in my art journal. It leaves a rough surface so it’s hard to spread and blend my gelatos. Do you have any ideas to make the page smoother or should I just try another brand of gesso?
    Thanks.

    January 3, 2015
    Reply
    • Vicky said:

      have you tried applying and blending with a wet finger or a baby wipe?

      January 5, 2015
      Reply
  47. Meghna said:

    Hello Vicky
    Thank you for such an informative video on Gesso. Would you recommend using distress ink pad with gesso if you don’t have the distress stains? TIA and Happy 2015 🙂

    January 4, 2015
    Reply
    • Vicky said:

      Distress stains and distress ink are both water soluble and non permanent. They will work over gesso but they will act as watercolor. That means that if you add more layers of color on top or spray the ink will move. If you need to use any of these two mediums though, I wouldn’t recommend adding gesso. I have explained why you don’t need gesso in the video for watercolors.
      However, distress paint is permanent when dry and you can use it with or without gesso. Remember distress ink, stains and paint are all different products. But stains are actually the ink diluted with water. Hope this helps.

      January 5, 2015
      Reply
  48. Anna Stevenson said:

    This is so helpful thank you. The gesso I bought says it is acrylic gesso; is that different again? I’ve been using it on card with Gelatos and then putting layers of clear embossing powder on and I’ve had some fabulous results but as others have said I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m just playing.

    February 17, 2015
    Reply
    • Vicky said:

      You have the right type of gesso! I don’t really know what I am doing either… lol … I just sit down and m=play with my supplies and I so love it!!! Sending hugs 🙂

      February 17, 2015
      Reply
  49. Noemi said:

    Thank you so much for your helpful video. I appreciate that you took the time to share your knowledge. I have just started art journaling and your video helped me understand gesso — what it is, what it does and how to use it. I am so thankful I found this site!

    June 11, 2015
    Reply
    • Vicky said:

      Thank you so much for the lovely feedback! I really appreciate it and I am always happy to help 🙂

      June 12, 2015
      Reply
  50. Cindy said:

    I absolutely love your videos! I would like to start faith journaling either in sketchbook or my bible. Since the pages in a bible are so thin, I would like to prepare the pages first with gesso. Can you recommend a gesso that is thin/smooth that would work well on thin paper?

    July 9, 2015
    Reply
    • Vicky said:

      Any gesso would do, if you find it thick then you can use a bit of water to make it thinner.

      July 9, 2015
      Reply

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