Art Journaling 101: Supply Basics – Taking the Mystery Out of Gesso

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Julie Ann Shahin, Social Media Team

Taking the Mystery Out of Gesso

When I started out in mixed media and art journaling, it took me forever to figure out what Gesso is used for. It seemed to me that I heard the term used quite often, but could never figure out quite exactly how and why it was used. Let me put you on the fast track to learning all about Gesso today!

My first word of advice is you do not have to go out and buy Gesso right away! Some artists use Gesso all the time, some artists never use it. If you are a beginner, I suggest take your time just doing art journaling with what you have, but read this and have the knowledge of what Gesso is. You’ll know when you’re ready to buy Gesso. When I was a beginner, the curiousity of Gesso was killing me…I just couldn’t find anyone to explain it to me to my satisfaction. So check out this post, and then put Gesso on your wish list!

This article will also show you a number of projects using gesso, and then a handful of free online tutorials of gesso techniques. Enjoy!



One very useful website for information on using Gesso in Art Journaling is Aisling’s Artist’s Journals. In an art journal, one can use Gesso underneath paint, under embellishments, as a support under heavy collage, to keep acrylics and markers from bleeding through to the next page, and to adhere two pages together in an altered book to make them strong enough to art journal on. You can also transform a glossy paper or covering to a matte one with Gesso.

Gesso looks like paint unless it is Clear Gesso. Most often you will see Gesso in white, less often in black, but it does come in many colors.


Gesso is sold at art stores and big box crafts stores in the paint aisle. You can buy it online as well…usually it is at least $10 however, I found this Certified Artist’s Gesso for less than $7 here. If anyone can testify to it, please leave a comment. The same link offers many other types and brands of Gesso. Usually I have used Liquitex and Golden.



Gesso, unlike paint, creates a rough surface when applied, which allows other mediums to catch to it.  It is not as thick as paint, so it can merge into the background.

You can add acrylic paint to Gesso. You will get a muted in color, chalky result when you add a color acrylic to Gesso.  However, the acrylic paint will now be thicker. suggests using Golden Acrylic Paints to mix with Gesso as “as they have a lovely color intensity in their pigment but also don’t alter the fluidity of the gesso too much.” She also suggests, “You can also add concentrated watercolors like Dr PH Martins Watercolors or colored inks. Colored pigments can be added to gesso as well like twinkling H2o’s, Pearl Ex Powders for a shimmering effect.”
You can use just a foam brush with gesso. Or you can use an implement to create a texture, such as a comb to leave ridges.

Here is a wonderful video by Milliande creating an art journal page with Gesso:

Source: via Julie on Pinterest


Let’s see some projects using gesso:

Valentine Postcard Swap  Hand stitching, gesso, stamps, and flowers on recycled packing paper. by HagitR

Valentine Postcard Swap Hand stitching, gesso, stamps, and flowers on recycled packing paper. by HagitR All Rights Reserved

Background Gesso Texture: Made for Mary Green's Paper collage class. The gesso is white digital paint over torn papers to make an unusual background. Texture free to use. If you do, let me know, I'd love to see what you create. This also looks great with a dark texture underneath and blended with the Blend If tool !


Source: via Julie on Pinterest


Copyright 2008 Judy Scott All Rights Reserved


Source: via Julie on Pinterest


by Kathryn Johnson

Supplies: Image transfer, mono print, gesso & paint layers, masking, spray ink


Source: via Julie on Pinterest


by Didi aka OnFoot4Now

Artist states: “My acrylic paints, gesso, pages from old textbook, printout from my digi stash and a bit of a magazine clipping.”


Time Is A Circus by itstimetostamp (Kristy C)

by itstimetostamp (Kristy C)

Supplies: Black Gesso, layers of ephemera underneath , acrylics, graphite, stamping. Collage image is one artist got a few years back from Bernie Berlin.-she used peerless watercolors to add some color to the image.


Art Journal Page by dearlydee

by dearlydee

Supplies: Old envelope, lace, staples, masking tape, gesso, sequins.



by Pringle Hill (Terri Kahrs)

by Pringle Hill (Terri Kahrs)

Supplies: Mixed media journal spread created for 2011 calendar project. The background was created with Inktense pencils over gesso and fluid acrylics.



art journal: dreams by Francoise MELZANI

by Francoise MELZANI



Grace by By Bellah (gabriella travaline)

by Bellah (gabriella travaline)


Source: via Julie on Pinterest


by ke_cupcake (Elaine)


Journal Pages by By beamahan (Bea Mahan)

by beamahan (Bea Mahan)


Source: via Julie on Pinterest


Cream Journal by FishStikk (Debi)
There is alot of collage here with vintage Time articles and clippings, tags from work, paper towels handmade papers and of course the beads on the tiara. And of course, lots of gesso.



From – lots of gesso and tags



From – gorgeous collage and gesso work




From Great Texture. Gesso sprayed with Shimmerz.



From – Dye and alcohol inks on gesso and embossing powders



From – inks, stamped with gesso, plus correction tape to set up journaling spots


Tutorials Using Gesso:

Source: via Julie on Pinterest


The One Minute Muse – Art Journal Technique – Gesso Figure




From – working with gesso



Source: via Wendy on Pinterest


From – Gesso and magazine images tutorial




From – gesso resistance background technique



From – Gesso Resist Tutorial



Gesso and Stencils by

Gesso With Stencils Tutorial from



From – Make your own borders with masking tape, shimmerz, stamps and gesso!




How To Make Gesso



Tee's Gesso Recipe

Tee’s Gesso Recipe



Julie Ann Shahin is a New York-based art journaler, scrapbooker, mixed media craftster who specializes in hybrid and altered art techniques. She will be blogging regularly for on Tuesdays and Saturdays. You may contact Julie Ann directly at julieann dot shahin at gmail dot com

20 Responses to Art Journaling 101: Supply Basics – Taking the Mystery Out of Gesso

  • Fantastic info! Now how would I use gesso for digital journaling? :mrgreen:

    • Julie Ann Shahin says:

      You can simulate gesso in digital art journaling with white paint or black paint. Or you can make hybrid art journaling pages. You can view my previous posts for more information on hybrid art journaling!

  • Melinda says:

    Thanks, Julie Ann! very informative. Now Tangie needs to make us some digital gesso to play with so those of us who don’t want to get our hands and tables dirty can play too LOL that collaged paper with white gesso is exactly what I wanted last week when I started on a project and couldn’t find :) I actually do have a bottle of gesso in my craft supplies- just no time to play with it these days.

  • Sherry says:

    This is a wonderful article Julie! I too have had no clue what Gesso was, and was tempted to buy it just to see, but now I can be a little more purposeful in my decision. Your examples are lovely and the tutorials very helpful!

    • Julie Ann Shahin says:

      Thanks Sherry! I’m glad I could help your decision-making process. Like I said, you’ll know when you are ready to buy it. xoxo

  • Laurie Star says:

    I use Gesso to prime my oil painting canvases before I paint. But these are ways I never thought to use it. Thanks for sharing all this beautiful inspiration! :)

  • Monica says:

    Awesome info and eye candy :)
    Thank you

    • Julie Ann Shahin says:

      You’re welcome Monica! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you are inspired. xoxo

  • Bonnie says:

    Nice tut, JA! I learned a lot. The first time I have used gesso was when I was doing the bad girl challenges – had never even thought of using it before that. Then I used it in Claudine Helmuth’s class at Big Picture but I still don’t reach for it when I am scrapping. This article has lots of ideas to try!

  • Terri Kahrs says:

    Wow, Wow, WOW! AWEsome tut on gesso — everything you need to know about it plus MORE!!! I’m honored that you chose my calendar spread for your fabulous post. Thank you and keep these articles coming!!! Hugs, Terri

  • Lynda says:

    Great info! And thanks for showing my tut! Lynda at Bloom, Bake & Create

  • Gina Rodgers says:

    great post, and thanks for sharing my layout ’5 things..’

  • Balinda says:

    thanks for this very timely posting for me…I have been gesso shopping and OH MY>>>>the shelves of it can be quite overwhelming.

  • Pingback: Art Journaling 101 | Gesso Basics · Scrapbooking |

  • Inger says:

    I really like the idea of making my own gesso. I especially like Tee’s Gesso recipe. So simple and easy to go to. And I can make it as thick as needed. I have a habit of always buying the ‘runny’ kind, when I truly want the more sculpting kind LOL. Thanks for sharing.

  • Nicolette says:

    Thank you so much!
    I am a beginner to art journaling and as you said, gesso is mentioned everywhere!
    Finally I found a site that can answer all of my questions about the medium. I feel much more comfortable starting (and loving) my project <3

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