Gesso: what is it and what are my favorites?

I get a lot of questions about pastes and paints and things – today I want to take a moment to chat about gesso. Think of it as primer or thin white paint. You’d put it down before you got working, or use it when you want a very smooth blendable white paint someplace. Generally speaking, I don’t like it for anything that has me wanting significant texture or full thick coverage. Generally speaking, white paint will work just as well.

I use gesso for:

  • primer/base layer on art journaling pages
  • primer/base layer on canvas projects
  • base for watercolor projects where I want to be able to blend a ton
  • cover metal and plastic embellishments I want to re-color
  • in small amount for a streak/bit of white paint effect without a lot of wet medium
  • to mix with mist/color medium for a loose color wash paint

When doing side-by-side tests I could really see a difference in quality and effect for what I do with different brands. There are two stand-out favorites that are my recommended choices:

Art Basics Heavy Gesso (Prima Marketing)

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This product is heavy, meaning it is quite thick and works great with stencils – the only gesso that I like with stencils. It is great mixed with color mediums, but because it is thick it is not a great choice for a thin primer layer in my art journal.

Dina Wakley Media Gesso (Ranger Ink)

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This is my go-to for my art journal, and of the thin/traditional gessos it was by far and away the best. Love that it is small, and in a little tube for easy use.

Here are links to videos of my two favorite gessos:


link to YouTube


link to YouTube

Got questions? Ask away! I’m happy to chat with you about this or any other medium. I will continue my mixed media explorations on YouTube as well.

7 thoughts on “Gesso: what is it and what are my favorites?”

  1. I’m curious what other ones you compared it to. I use golden because I knew that was a good artist’s brand, and I only had an art store to shop at. I was wondering how it compared to the two “craft” brands you listed above.

    1. Golden, Liquitex, plain acrylic paint, and another that slips my mind were all used in side-by-side comparisons. All brands seemed “Fine” on their own but when placed next to each other these two brands were vastly superior in holding color and results for what I do. Do keep in mind I don’t use gesso to prime fine art canvas and oil paint… it is entirely possible for that another brand would be #1.

  2. i find these posts very helpful, given all the stuff that’s out there. it’s good to see how different people use different products.

    who knew you had a youtube channel that had even more videos?!? i happened to see scrappy in the mosaic, after the gesso video ended and i clicked on the photo. looking forward to watching even more of your videos.

  3. Cool, thanks. Watched these comparison videos when you first put them up. I appreciate very much you explaining the differences and how and what they are best used for. Thanks. Michelle t

  4. I haven’t tried either of these, but I’m really wanting some of that Prima. Do you find that it dries out faster? I have some Liquitex stuff that I usually use for thicker applications, but I find that it tends to get dry/harder to spread faster than my ‘softer’ gessos.

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