- 1). Test the canvas to see if gesso is necessary. Many canvases are pre-primed and may not require gesso application. Apply a small amount of the paint you plan to use onto the canvas to see if it mottles on the surface or soaks into the canvas. If so, you will want to add one or two coats of gesso before beginning to paint.
- 2). Choose the type of gesso you need for your project. Gesso comes in two different grades -- artist-grade and student-grade. Artist grade is thicker and contains more pigment, making it more opaque. It’s higher quality but also more expensive than student-grade gesso. Student-grade gesso is also usually only available in white, while artist-grade comes in clear, white, black and colors.
- 3). Select thicker gesso to create textured or sculptural effects. Thicker gesso products can be applied to the canvas with either a brush or palette knife.
- 4). Squeeze gesso onto the canvas directly from the bottle. Gesso often comes in squeeze bottle packaging, making it easy to apply directly onto the canvas. Gesso also comes in jars and tubs that you can dip your brush directly into to apply it to the paint surface.
- 5). Use a wide, flat brush to smooth the gesso evenly over the entire surface of the canvas. The larger the surface you are painting, the larger the brush you will want to use.
- 6). Go over any lines that may develop at the edges of brush strokes with a thinner, dry brush to even them out.
- 7). Allow the gesso to thoroughly dry between coats.
- 8). Use sandpaper to gently sand the canvas surface between gesso coats. Use a clean cloth to wipe sanding residue off the canvas before applying the next coat.
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