How to Gesso Paper: the benefits

Preparing Your Paper for Painting

Whether you're an experienced artist or just starting out, gessoing your paper can make a significant difference in the quality and texture of your paintings. Gesso is a versatile primer that creates a smooth, even surface for your artwork, allowing you to achieve a range of effects and techniques.

What is Gesso?

Gesso is a white, chalky primer that is typically made from a mixture of chalk, white pigment, and a binder, such as acrylic or rabbit-skin glue. It is used to prepare surfaces for painting, creating a barrier between the paper and the paint, and helping to prevent the paint from soaking into the paper.

The Benefits of Gessoing Paper

Gessoing your paper offers several benefits for painters:

Improved Paint Adhesion

Gesso creates a smooth, absorbent surface that helps the paint adhere better to the paper. This is especially important for acrylic and oil paints, which can have a hard time sticking to the smooth surface of some papers.

Enhanced Texture

Applying gesso to your paper can also create a unique texture that can add depth and interest to your paintings. Depending on how you apply the gesso, you can achieve a range of effects, from a smooth, even surface to a more textured, impasto-like finish.

Increased Durability

Gessoing your paper can also help to increase the longevity of your paintings. The gesso creates a barrier that protects the paper from the acidity and other chemicals in the paint, helping to prevent discoloration and deterioration over time.


Gesso is a versatile medium that can be used with a variety of painting techniques and materials. Whether you're working with acrylics, oils, or even watercolors, gessoing your paper can help you achieve the desired effects and textures.

Applying Gesso to Your Paper

Applying gesso to your paper is a simple process, but it's important to do it correctly to ensure the best results. Here are the steps:

  1. Prepare Your Workspace: Cover your work surface with a protective layer, such as cardboard or a drop cloth, to prevent the gesso from staining or damaging your work area.
  2. Choose Your Gesso: Select a high-quality gesso that is suitable for the type of paint you'll be using. There are many different types of gesso available, so it's important to choose one that will work well with your chosen medium.
  3. Apply the Gesso: Use a brush or a palette knife to apply the gesso to your paper. Start at the center of the paper and work your way outward, using long, even strokes to ensure an even coverage.
  4. Allow the Gesso to Dry: Once you've applied the gesso, allow it to dry completely before beginning your painting. This may take several hours, depending on the thickness of the gesso and the humidity in your workspace.
  5. Sand the Surface (Optional): If you want to create a smooth, even surface, you can lightly sand the gessoed paper once it's dry. This will help to remove any bumps or uneven areas.

Choosing the Right Paper for Gessoing

When it comes to gessoing paper, not all papers are created equal. Some papers are better suited for this process than others. Here are a few tips for choosing the right paper:

  • Weight: Look for a heavier weight paper, such as 300-pound cold press watercolor paper. This will help to prevent the paper from warping or buckling when you apply the gesso.
  • Texture: Choose a paper with a slightly textured surface, as this will help the gesso adhere better and create a more interesting surface for your painting.
  • Absorbency: Consider the absorbency of the paper. Papers that are too absorbent may not hold up well to the gesso, while papers that are too non-absorbent may not allow the gesso to bond properly.

Experimenting with Gesso

Gessoing your paper is just the beginning of the creative possibilities. Once your paper is prepared, you can experiment with a variety of painting techniques and materials to achieve the desired effects. Try layering different colors of gesso, adding texture with a palette knife, or even incorporating mixed media elements into your paintings.

Remember, the key to successful gessoing is to take your time, experiment, and have fun with the process. With a little practice, you'll be able to create stunning, textured paintings that showcase the unique qualities of your gessoed paper.

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