Hi, I’m Kaley with the Hobby Lobby Creative
Studio! Did you know it’s important to prep your canvas before starting to paint? Well,
today I’m going to show you just how to do that using gesso. Let’s dive right in!
The main reason you want to prepare your canvas with gesso — or acrylic gesso, to be more
exact — is because it gives your surface a finished seal. Without that seal, the paint
soaks into the naturally porous canvas first before spreading more freely. You’ll end up
using more paint and it may be harder to get the texture, layering, and strokes you want.
On the other hand, prepping your canvas with acrylic gesso covers up those pores and creates
a special, somewhat rough texture that paint alone can’t produce. This gessoed surface
is ideal for both oil-based and acrylic paints because they can adhere and cover the canvas
much more easily. A lot of canvases you find may already have
gesso on them — just check the manufacturer’s label. But it’s a good idea to go ahead and
add some of your own so that you have good, even coverage and the right texture for your
painting. Let me show you how to do that! I’m using a relatively large brush to apply
the gesso, but of course use a smaller one if your canvas is smaller! I’m spreading a
thin layer of gesso on the canvas with up and down strokes. Once that is completely
dry I can add another thin layer going the opposite direction, or side to side. If you’re
going to use oil paints, it’s best to add several coats of gesso.
With each new layer of gesso, I’m creating more texture, or what’s referred to as “tooth”.
Now if you’d rather have the benefits of acrylic gesso without a lot of tooth, just use a fine-grit
sandpaper between each coat of gesso to lightly sand away unwanted texture.
Did you know you can also tint your gesso? Just add in the acrylic color of your choice
and apply like normal! Whatever color your canvas is when you begin
painting individual elements is called your ground color, so tinting your gesso and applying
it to your canvas would be changing your ground color.
Many artists opt to tint their canvas with a ground color so that they can better visualize
their painting. For example, an earth-tone is a great ground color when you don’t want
the background to compete with the other colors. A complimentary color makes the subject of
your painting really pop, like this teal ground color behind bright red flowers. Black or gray ground colors make perfect backdrops
for deeply shadowed paintings or nightscapes. And you can actually get ready-made black
and gray gesso! The last things I want to show you is how
to have a little more fun with gesso using a palette knife or brush.
Because gesso is relatively thick, it’s easy to form peaks and other types of raised texture
with it. It’s available in light, medium, and heavy-bodied consistencies, so the heavier
the body, the easier it is to use as a sculptural medium. See all the texture we can create
using this heavy bodied gesso? This will add a whole new element of interest to our work.
Well, I hope this canvas prep info has helped prep you for your next painting! Be sure to
check out our other how-to videos, and I’ll see you next time here at the Hobby Lobby