How to add gesso to a pre-primed canvas and why with video. (regular un primed canvas are treated similarly but with more coats and some light sanding) Many of the inexpensive canvas you find at hobby/craft store are pre-primed but did you know that adding just a bit more can make all the difference in your painting experience?
This also applies to the artist grade gallery wrapped canvas. No one is exempt.
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Why add more gesso?
Even though many of these canvases are pre-primed and claim to be ready to go they can still be thirsty. Meaning they will absorb your paint making it a bit difficult to glide your brush along.
Also the paint will absorb into the canvas dulling the colors and when you want bright, vibrant paintings, that is not acceptable! I love bright colors and easy strokes so adding another couple layers helps so much.
This applies to both acrylic paints and oils.
Supplies for Applying Gesso
Start with a good product. I have used a few and this is my current favorite one. Art Alternatives Gesso, I find it on Amazon.
I have also used Golden, which worked as well but is a bit more pricey. I do not like Liquitex, it leaves the canvas rough and does not create a good artist experience for smooth strokes.
I often use Michaels economy pack canvas for painting on and they work fine with the extra gesso but if you are looking to upgrade to some more premier canvases at a great price these ones from Dick Blicks art supply have been wonderful.
How to add gesso
Once you remove the protective wrap on your canvas lay it flat on a protected surface. I use this brown builders paper or many like a plastic table cloth.
This brown paper is useful for practicing painting too. This is a thicker paper than brown crafting paper so it is a bit better at protecting surfaces.
I pour out some gesso onto the canvas or onto a piece of palette paper and brush it on the canvas. I stroke it on in one direction aka horizontally. Don’t get it too thick. Thinner layers are better and won’t crack. You can see me do this in the video.
Make sure to clean up any drips along the edges but don’t worry about really covering the edges. Just catch any drips. The edges are not important to get gessoed.
Some of the canvases I will paint the sides also instead of framing them so I don’t want any paint drips there.
Let the first coat dry well. Then paint on another coat going in the vertical direction. Again, keep it smooth. You don’t want heavy ridges or brush strokes showing when it dries.
Let the second coat dry. If you feel the need you can lightly sand it with a piece of brown paper folded around a sanding sponge but I don’t find it necessary.
Now you should be ready to paint.
Many times I will gesso more than one canvas at a time. I lay them out, put on some music and just paint on the gesso. I use a fan to speed up drying.
In some of my painting tutorials I share how to use background color instead of priming with gesso and I always will tell you when that is the case in the lesson.
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