Gesso and Primers

Gesso and Priming Materials are traditionally supposed to have some tooth or texture in order to provide better adherence for the paint. This is particularly important when using oil paints on an acrylic base. However, there are gessos that are designed to be sanded smooth. At the same time, a gesso is supposed to prevent all of the medium, traditionally linseed oil, from being absorbed into the underlying support. But if there were no absorption or tooth at all, the two layers would not form a polymer bond. The right gesso is a particular tradeoff, in which the properties of both the paint and the surface matter.

Before the 1950s, all gesso was made of animal glue. Since the 1950s, acrylic gesso has largely replaced animal glues. Most artists feel that acrylic provides a more flexible surface and creates a painting that is easier to maintain. However, Blick continues to make traditional materials available for those who want them.

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Acrylic Gessos and Primers
Professional Grade
Black and Colored
Student Grade

Artist Grade Acrylic Gesso contains more pigment and less filler, but the filler is essential for tooth and absorbancy. Artist grade gesso will be more opaque, so that one coat may be sufficient.

Student Grade Acrylic Gesso will generally dry faster, but it may require more covering layers and more surface preparation time. Student grade gesso contains less pigment, but pigment (usually Titanium White) can easily be added, and it can easily be tinted or colored.

Oil Priming Materials

Specialty Gessos are gessos that are optimized for one particular technique or surface, not for general use. For example, panels and boards can be coated with a harder and less flexible gesso than canvas or fabric surfaces.

  • How to Prime Cotton Canvas
    How to Prime Cotton Canvas

    Protecting your painting surface from harmful acids is important if you want to ensure the longevity of your artwork. Kati shares some great tips for priming cotton canvas with acrylic gesso for smooth, even coverage.


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