Gesso is a fantastic and versatile paint that is often used to prime a surface. It helps paint pigment maintain its vibrancy as you use it to create something beautiful. There are a few types of gesso paint that each act as excellent primers for multiple surfaces.
Canvas in and of itself makes for a great painting medium, but one often wants to add some kind of primer to ensure no paint seeps into the fabric. This is true no matter what canvas you prefer from pre primed or inexpensive canvases to canvas you stretch yourself. Since gesso is a preferred priming paint, can you use gesso on fabric such as canvas?
Gesso happens to work very well on canvas as well as multiple other types of fabrics. Gesso does change the physicality of a canvas in certain areas, but this isn’t typically a bad thing.
Understanding Gesso’s Role in Preparing Canvas
Canvas is a preferred surface for many painters. It’s inexpensive and it can be found in multiple sizes, and can often be found with a backing already attached. However, canvas tends to be pretty porous and can absorb paint if there’s no primer used. That’s where gesso and any other kind of primer comes in handy.
Gesso can help give your canvas that crisp white priming layer that is smooth and consistent so that paint will adhere to the gesso and canvas. Simple white paint isn’t ideal as it’s not going to give as effective of a priming effect as something like gesso. You can also find clear or black gesso should you want a different background. Gesso also mixes well with colored paint.
To paint gesso onto canvas, you’ll want to use a wide paintbrush that is designed specifically for gesso application. You’ll want to brush the canvas from side to side using slow and even brushstrokes. Use a dry brush to smooth over any streaks in gesso before you allow it to dry.
Typically one to two layers of gesso is sufficient, but you can ultimately use as few or as many as you want. Gesso creates a smooth layer over canvas, but if you like that grainy and toothy texture that canvas is known for, you can use a thinner gesso. In between layers, it’s recommended to use a thin piece of sandpaper to eliminate any flaws in your primer.
We always suggest using a premium gesso like Mont Marte. To check the current price and availability of this gesso, click here to view the listing on Amazon.
Understanding Canvas Tightness
A canvas needs to be stretched and tightened over some type of frame in order to make painting as seamless of a process as possible. You can purchase canvas that’s already been stretched onto a frame or you can learn the craft of tightening canvas yourself should you want to customize your canvas shape or just simply appreciate the process.
Tightening a canvas requires a few simple tools as well as a careful sense of precision. It involves taking accurate measurements, cutting the canvas to size, and stretching it enough so the fabric is tight and taut. Once the canvas is secured, it should be tight enough that the canvas remains flat and intact as you start painting.
Finding the right balance in terms of tightness is a bit of an art in and of itself. You don’t want canvas stretched so thin that it rips with a simple brushstroke, but you don’t want it buckling and moving around when you paint either. You should also be cognizant of moisture and how it can cause canvas to tighten.
Relationship Between Gesso and Canvas Tightness
It’s important to use proper technique when applying gesso to a canvas. This means using the right brush and the right amount. It’s best to paint a thin coat and let it dry overnight and apply more should you feel the need to have an extra layer of protection.
As you work with gesso more often, you’ll be able to determine how many layers work best for your artwork. Because gesso is wet, it does cause the canvas to become a bit tighter on impact. This makes it important to avoid oversaturating the canvas with too much gesso.
It also means you should avoid diluting gesso too much. So long as you don’t overload the canvas with gesso, the shrinking that naturally occurs when the fabric is exposed to moisture shouldn’t have an impact on your canvas’ integrity.
Discussion of Different Gesso Types and Their Effects on Canvas Tightness
Not only does gesso come in different colors but it’s also made in different consistencies. Some painters find thicker gesso much easier to handle than thin gesso and vice versa. Gesso can also be found with varied amounts of white pigment and filler which can change its texture and its concentration of color.
The moisture content of the gesso you prefer to use will have different effects on canvas tightness. As mentioned, gesso can also be diluted with water to customize its consistency to your preference. As such, if you like thick gesso but find it hard to utilize on a canvas, you can mix in some water. Just be sure the gesso isn’t dripping wet or runny.
You have to be careful because too much water can make canvas tighter than you may want it to be. There are advantages to diluting gesso when you are careful with your measurements. Having your gesso be a good consistency means you’ll be able to get a smooth and even layer on your canvas.
Gesso can slightly alter how tight a canvas is but not to the extent that it’s damaged. The only way this will happen is if you don’t use gesso properly or end up oversaturating it. Canvas is always best when it’s primed and gesso is truly an excellent paint to prime with.
If you’re someone who is new to gesso you may want to play with the different formulas to see what works best for your own personal style of painting. Whether you use canvas, fabric, or other surfaces, you’ll find that gesso can make sure your paintings and illustrations truly shine.