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Using Gesso in your Art Journal

Using Gesso in your Art Journal

Ah, Gesso. You start out confusing- what are you? Paint primer? Can’t I just use white paint? Then you become an artists best friend and I barely make any art journal pages without first giving them a coat of gesso.

When I first started art journaling, I saw things about gesso, but I didn’t really know what it was, or why I would want to use it, which is why I’m telling you now why I do use it! In case you’re wondering the same thing!

What is it? Here’s what the Google says:



  1. a hard compound of plaster of Paris or whiting in glue, used in sculpture or as a base for gilding or painting on wood.

It’s basically a “primer”, but it can be used in other ways as well. Why do you need it? Without gesso, you may notice that sometimes your acrylic paints (or other medium) tend to soak into the page, however if you give the page a coat of gesso first, they won’t do that.

What’s tooth? If you’ve read anything about gesso, you may have seen the word “tooth”. What’s that? Basically it means it gives your page/background a bit of texture, something for your mediums to hold onto. Regular white acrylic paint won’t give you this.

It’s traditionally made and used in White, however it also comes in black, as well as clear and even colored (which I haven’t tried yet).

(I applied a very light coat of gesso over this page, to act as a primer but also to lighten the book text.)

The main use of gesso is a primer, but you can also apply it through stencils, stamp in it, use a spatula to apply it thick for texture, etc. One favorite trick of mine is to apply it fairly thick, and then to stamp into it while it’s still wet.

Here’s how.

Use a spatula or an old gift card to apply the gesso onto your page. You want it a bit thick for this to work.

Once you’ve covered your page, take a stamp and stamp it directly into your wet gesso.

You want to have a baby wipe on hand to wipe off your stamp immediately to keep and gesso from drying on it.

Once your gesso is dry, you can add watercolors, gelatos or another medium over top to show even more of your stamped texture.

I used this clear stamp set by rukristin on this page.

Are you a gesso lover, or have you never used it? It’s not for everyone, but I love it.

*I was compensated in the form of free product for this post by DecoArt as part of their Blogger Outreach Program, however all opinions are my own.

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