Gesso is a staple in the supply arsenal of artists everywhere, and it can be used to prime any surface in preparation for acrylic paint. It is usually a thin white or clear liquid, but you can also find color options.
Brushing gesso all over your chosen work surface will make it more textured. The paint will then cling better to the canvas, which will make it more durable.
If you’re interested in adding the best gesso options to your art supplies, read on to see what the market has to offer you.
Liquitex BASICS Gesso Surface Prep
This affordable option is a must-have if you’re looking for the best basic gesso on offer. This white gesso with a matte finish increases your chosen surface’s resistance, durability, and paints.
This gesso works best with acrylics, oils, chalks, and charcoals, but it can be used on any surface, from paper to wood.
If you use it with oil paints or pastels, make sure to wait for the gesso to be fully dry (around 24 hours) before proceeding with the paint application. Applying one coat is usually enough unless you are aiming for a specific texture.
Although the Basics label on this Liquitex collection might suggest some limitations to what it can do, users have reported that both this range and the professional one are equally high-quality.
HandyArt 440-003 Acrylic Gesso
This excellent student primer is another white gesso with a medium body, and it has a smooth matte finish that doesn’t yellow with time. If you want to get the most out of it, you can also use it as an undercoat and not just as a primer.
One coat is enough to prepare the surface, but if you’d rather have it as textured as possible, you can layer it until you achieve the desired result. You’ll have to add more than one coat if your surface is very dark too.
This gesso can be very versatile and, considering that it’s one of the cheapest options, you will get a lot out of it. If you frequently use dark surfaces, you can try out the black version of the HandyArt Acrylic Gesso.
R&F Handmade Paints Encaustic Gesso
If your artistic preferences feature plenty of encaustic painting, this will be the best gesso for you. R&F designed this product to be as adherent as possible for encaustic paint, which is usually hot.
The gesso has a grainy texture when applied that increases adhesion and creates intriguing visual effects.
This is one of the most absorbent gesso choices available on the market, so it’s also good to keep in mind if you’re looking to work with materials that are runnier.
Keep in mind that the composition of this gesso features more filler than binder, which makes it less suitable for stretched canvas.
Apart from that exception, it’s great on most surfaces and can be used with oil paints.
Mont Marte Premium Clear Texture Gesso
This clear gesso from Mont Marte is an excellent choice to prime surfaces for pastels, charcoals, and color pencils. It’s also ideal for acrylics, oils, and enamels and suits most surfaces, from clay to cardboard.
Beyond its use as an excellent primer, this option is one of the best for adding effects to the artwork with gesso. It dilutes well with water and seals the media as you use it, making it smudge-proof.
The best way to apply this Mont Marte gesso is with a wide brush that allows you to get everywhere across the surface. This is also a certified non-toxic choice so that you can use it on more delicate materials too.
It is excellent for adding texture and dynamism to your artworks, regardless of what you use to create them.
US Art Supply Gesso
This popular choice from US Art Supply comes in black and white versions so that you can pick the most suitable one. It’s an ideal base for oil and acrylic paints, and it’s a lightweight water-based option with flexible and permanent coverage.
This gesso prevents yellowing, and it can be mixed with other paints to create tinted versions if you’re looking for a specific tone to go with your work.
You only need one coat of it to cover your surface, and a jar of it can last for a long time, even with frequent use.
Users praise it for its thick consistency and its coverage. It also dries quickly, and its versatility makes it easy to use and practical.
Sargent Art Gesso
This gesso from Sargent Art is an excellent choice for artists on a budget looking for as much quality as possible. It is water-resistant and lightweight, and ideal for oil and acrylic paints.
This choice is on the thinner side, so it’s not for those who prefer a thicker consistency, but it fulfills its purpose with excellent results.
It applies smoothly and offers full coverage from the first coat, and it dries quickly. You can also use it to fix mistakes in your work or add texture to it as you paint it.
The drying time increases if you add it on top of anything or to cover up issues that you don’t like, so adjust your schedule with that in mind.
Its affordable price makes it a great draw, but its quality makes the loyal customer base return.
Prima Marketing Art Basics Gesso
This clear gesso is water-based and permanent, with a matte finish. It allows you to create a non-yellowing transparent background for your work to preserve it on any surface. It is a great option for fans of bible journaling, as it has a very smooth texture that doesn’t crease even on such thin paper.
One layer provides more than enough coverage, but the Prima Marketing gesso dries so quickly that you won’t need to worry about waiting if you’d like to add more coats.
Don’t be surprised if the gesso is white when applied. It dries transparent and leaves no trace when you apply paints on top of it.
Liquitex 5332 Professional Gesso
If you need a high-quality professional gesso, this is one of the most popular choices. This white gesso is excellent for surface preparation and sealing.
It works best with oil and acrylic paints, but if you use it under oil, remember to apply at least two coats to prevent cracking or bleeding.
Apart from the white gesso, there are also clear and super heavy options, so you won’t have to limit yourself to one of them. The texture is slightly grainy because it is designed to be as absorbent as possible.
It’s also a great texture for the paint to adhere to after it is applied.
Golden Acrylic Gesso
Golden Acrylic Gesso is a flexible and versatile option in two versions: bright white and black. It is affordable and can be applied on most surfaces.
It works best with oil and acrylic paints, but if you use oil, you should layer three or more coats of gesso to make sure it sticks.
Golden Acrylic Gesso has a great consistency that can be easily used to prime paper for journaling. It doesn’t streak, and its creamy texture makes it very quick to apply.
If you’re covering permanent marker traces, you may have to add more than one coat, but other than that, it’s an easy-to-apply choice.
This Grumbacher offering is a white gesso that’s ideal for oil and acrylic paints. It should not be applied on top of oil paints or turpentine but otherwise provides great coverage as a primer.
This is one of the most popular and well-known gesso options because of its thick consistency and high quality.
This gesso may be a bit more expensive than others, but you would be paying for an extra level of quality. You can prepare most surfaces with it, and you can even dilute it with water to add small touches on top of the paint.
The Grumbacher Gesso is frequently praised by artists for its opacity, especially as it keeps winning ahead of other established brands. It’s also easy to use, and it dries quickly.
Winsor & Newton Galeria Gesso
This Winsor&Newton gesso has excellent pigment levels, and it’s made from resin. It also includes an excellent texture that’s toothy enough to provide as much adhesive to the paint as possible.
Only one application tends to do the trick, but certain materials or colors will require two, especially if oils are involved. Galleria is an excellent gesso to create mixes with, and you can have the tint you like after making it yourself.
It has great coverage, and it’s helpful to amateurs and experts alike as it’s practical and easy to add to your preparation routine.
Ranger Dina Wakley Media Gesso
This primer is designed to appeal to artists and can cover all surfaces. The texture is subtle and toothy, while the gesso applies smoothly to the work surface you have chosen. There are three versions of this gesso:
This variety of options makes it easier to choose one that fits perfectly with the work and the surface you’re using. The gesso is great at showcasing the details involved in the artwork, especially if you opt for the clear one.
This choice has excellent consistency and flow, and it’s much cheaper than many of its counterparts with the same level of quality.
It usually dries quickly, but you should leave it alone longer if you require more than one application. This will usually be the case if you use heavier or more pigmented acrylics.
Daniel Smith Iridescent Gold Acrylic Gesso
If you’re looking for a touch of luxury, this opulent iridescent gold gesso from Daniel Smith is a great way to feel like royalty. It is a thick mix with intense gold pigments.
This gesso can add style and uniqueness to your preparation for painting, and it can also add a specific glow to the work whenever you use it as a primer.
The Gold Acrylic gesso can make any color above or underneath as vibrant as can be. It’s a favorite among artists when they feel like standing out from the crowd.
The high quality of the texture and the golden sheen may surprise you at this low price, but let yourself be amazed at what this type of gesso can do for you.
Bob Ross Gesso
There is a collection of art supplies that carries the name of Bob Ross, the legendary artist. The Bob Ross supplies seek to assist amateur painters on their journeys while also checking in with the more advanced artists.
This gesso option is available in white, clear, and black. It works great with watercolors, acrylics, tempera, and oils. It has a very thick consistency that can be easily diluted with water to achieve the desired levels from one artwork to another.
It provides excellent coverage from the start and even manages to make fully painted canvases look new, even with just one coating.
Art Alternatives Black Acrylic Gesso
This black opaque primer is an excellent choice for any dark works you want to make. It is excellent to use with oils, tempera, and acrylics. It can be used on numerous surfaces like wood and paper, and it can also be combined with various media, like colored pencils and pastels.
This gesso is smooth and dries quickly without smudges or streaks. It also prevents cracking and yellowing, and a little goes a long way, so you’ll be able to have it for a while.
This gesso is easy to use, but it can require a little maintenance by ensuring no condensation build-up around it.
Art Advantage Acrylic Gesso
This gesso has a carefully designed non-yellowing formula that puts the focus on canvas preparation. It is also ideal for hardboard and plaster. Here’s the best media to go with this acrylic gesso:
- Colored Pencils
This versatility makes the gesso a helpful ally in many situations. You can dilute it with water, but it’s recommended to use it without changing it too much because it is in the ideal ratio when it is produced.
There is a slight disappointment to be found when using this gesso, mainly because it leaves a lovely pearlescent finish on top to make your work shine. You can even use it to prime backgrounds for holiday cards, for example, by using a stencil or drawings you’ve made.
Blick Artists’ Acrylic Gesso
The Blick Artists’ Acrylic gesso is a carefully curated option meant to help you through this experience. It is full of acrylic polymer, responsible for the great texture that helps create a great background for art.
This is a water-resistant option that works well with wood, hardboard, paper, and canvas. It has a smooth and viscous consistency that spreads perfectly on any surface.
It includes titanium dioxide to make it as bright as possible and entirely prevents potential yellowing.
As such, the Blick Artists’ Acrylic Gesso is an excellent choice for works that use richer or darker color palettes. Another advantage is tinting it with any matching acrylic color and creating the perfect tone for your vision.
This is another affordable, high-quality option that you can add to your list of future artwork supplies that should become staples.
Utrecht Black Acrylic Gesso
The Utrecht Black Acrylic gesso is made from polymers and titanium dioxide that form a viscous, thick, and high-quality product to be used in painting. This option is the black version, which provides a smooth ultra-matte application.
The surface doesn’t crack even after six hours with it on, even though it is one of the cheapest options of its type. The viscosity of the gesso might make it feel like a gel when you apply it, but it will quickly smooth over as you go.
If you continue to be displeased with the consistency, you can add a little bit of water to the mix, and that should help.
The gesso dries flat and perfectly matte, and if you wait for it to dry correctly, that deep color will be preserved and make all others more vibrant in turn. This opens up interesting new color-matching possibilities.
Krylon Gesso Spray
This spray from Krylon is one of the easiest and quickest ways to prime a surface before painting. It takes 15 minutes for the surface to become dry to touch and a maximum of two hours to be dry to handle.
It can be used on most surfaces like wood, canvas, plastic, metal, fabric, paper, and ceramic.
Apply it by spraying it onto the canvas or on a suitable cloth. Leave it to dry, and then apply the paint as soon as that’s done. This is a great choice if you’re in a rush or too busy to properly prepare a surface for painting.
Holbein Acryla Color Gesso
This collection of colored gesso from Holbein is a fun and creative option for when you want to experiment with how color can affect your work. It includes 21 highly-pigmented colors with a matte finish.
With a thick, creamy, and smooth texture to apply, you can use this colorful collection to create a base for a painting or to paint with it. If you’re looking for a brand interested in sustainability, Holbein is committed to fighting to eliminate waste.
After purchasing one of these products, you’ll quickly notice that the packaging used by the brand is significantly reduced.
Liquitex Professional Black Gesso
If you’re looking for another black gesso option, you have to consider what popular brand Liquitex has to offer. Like the white and clear options, this choice is an excellent idea if you’d like to build upon the contrast of the lighter parts of the work with the darker ones.
It’s an excellent choice to add texture to cardboard and mix with pastels once it’s dry. This makes the pastels pop and allows creativity to grow to build projects you weren’t expecting.
Cool Things to Do With Gesso
Gesso can be fun to use for more than just priming surfaces before painting, and you can turn it into a versatile tool and experiment with various tricks. Here are some ideas of cool things you can do with it:
- Create texture: When priming, you can add objects like yarn, raffia, rubber bands, puzzle pieces, and even leaves to the layers of gesso. This combination will add dimension to the work. You can also use gesso for your dry brush method.
- Use it as an alternative to chalk: If you enjoy chalk finishes to your paintings, mixing gesso in with the paint will add a touch of that. This is also useful if you’d like to make the paint look more matte or if you’d like to add a vintage feel to it.
- Add it to stencils to make fun backgrounds: Add gesso to a stencil on top of your chosen painting surface and create unique backgrounds for journaling or cards.
- Enhance your art journals: Adding gesso to paper makes it more resistant. It prevents materials from bleeding through, and it can also cover or edit pages you don’t enjoy.
- Whitewash: If you’d like to highlight specific details in your artwork, you can dilute gesso and gently apply it on top. This will create lighter notes across your work that will draw the attention of the viewer.
The top best gesso for painting choices will provide plenty of variety, colors, and features guaranteed to fit your painting project needs.
From the clear and light to the back and matte, you will easily find something interesting to do with them. The big art supply brands have an impressive catalog of options, but don’t discount the indies – you may find magic there yet.