What is Gesso?
In painting, the term "priming" refers to the application of a groundwork or undercoat to a support such as canvas, paper, wood, or metal. This initial layer helps to prepare the surface for subsequent layers of paint and can have a significant impact on the finished work.
Gesso is a substance used as a primer for painting. It is usually white and made from a combination of chalk and gums. Gesso was traditionally used to prepare drawing surfaces for oil paint, but it can also be used with acrylic paints. When applied to canvas, gesso provides a tooth or surface roughness that helps the paint adhere more effectively.
In addition, gesso can be tinted with colors/mediums to provide a range of different effects. For example, adding a small amount of black acrylics to a white gesso primer can create a grayish effect that can be helpful in establishing mid-tones in a painting.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to prime a support depends on the artist's preference and the intended effect of the finished work.
When do you use gesso?
If you're new to painting, the array of choices in materials can be overwhelming. One important question is whether or not to gesso your canvas. However, if your canvas is already pre-primed, you may not need to use gesso. Pre-primed canvases have a layer of gesso applied at the factory, and they are ready to use out of the box.
For most purposes, a pre-primed canvas will provide an adequate surface for painting. However, if you're looking for a particularly smooth finish, you may want to apply another layer of gesso before beginning your project.
How do you prime a canvas or panel?
It is easy! You can use a big brush or paint roller. Drip some gesso on your surface and spread it out evenly to cover it all. You might want 2 thin layers (wait between) because if they are too thick then sanding may be necessary. Wait till the gesso is dry (mostly noted in product description how long this would normally require) and your surface is ready to be painted on!