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How to prime a canvas using FAS Gesso for Acrylic & Oil Painting


How to Gesso a canvas using FAS Gesso

What is a Gesso

Gesso (pronounced 'jesso '), is a primer, sealer or undercoat. Artists sometimes apply it to a surface before painting on it. The word Gesso is Italian for "chalk" or from the Latin 'gypsum'.

It is usually a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, pigment, or any combination of these. In short, it looks a lot like paint but dries to a chalky finish.

The most popular formulation is water-based, which is suitable for use as a primer and undercoat for acrylic and oil-based paints. Other than paint, Gesso is the most used product in an artist's studio.

NB: Don't use to undercoat water-based tempera school poster paint.

Why use a Gesso?

It is used as an undercoat to intensify colours and extend the lasting durability of your work.

Gesso seals absorbent surfaces, and it offers the surface a little more texture (tooth), so the paint sticks better. It also helps to prevent an uneven appearance and excessive fast drying resulting from paint penetration, much like a primer is used under exterior house paint.

But FAS Gesso differs from regular house paint primers by making the surface a little stiffer. Houses are solid surfaces that do move, but artists paint on a cotton canvas, which is a flexible moving surface. 

FAS Gesso is used in artwork as a preparation for any number of substrates such as wood panels, canvas and sculpture as a base for paint and other materials that are applied over it.

How to use FAS Gesso:

As with all paintings, surface preparation is everything.

Paint thin layers. The lasting quality of your finished painting is only as good as the preparation of the surface and undercoating that you apply underneath the paint.  Even if you have a pre-primed canvas, it is recommended that you still Gesso more than one coat.   Please make sure to stir before use. 

FAS Gesso can be applied directly from the bottle/jar.

​Try to paint thinner rather than thicker. Two or three thin layers are better than one thick coating. Try to work quickly. If you do go back over an area, streaks may develop.

Dampening your brush with water before you begin will help prevent air bubbles from forming on the surface.

Keep a ‘wet’ working edge moving as you move across your surface. Try to paint with short, even strokes. Typically, two to three coats are enough, but some artists looking for a denser white finish can paint up to six thin layers.    It is vital to allow the Gesso to dry completely between layers.

Gesso Sanding:

Light Sanding with sandpaper between layers

Light sand with a light grade sandpaper between coats may offer a better rough surface or tooth and last ability.

Tinting Gesso

Create the mood of your painting early.

Try tinting your Gesso. If you plan to paint a sunset, try tinting a white Gesso with a red acrylic to give your painting a ‘pink sunset mood tone’ even before you start to paint. The same thing for a cool feeling to your painting; tint your Gesso with blue paint for a cold mood.​​

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Tony Parker Ideas for Art Blog

by FAS | Fine Art Supplies NZ LTD


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