Acrylic gesso (pronounced JESS-o) is a water-based primer that is used to prepare a surface for painting. It decreases the absorbency of paper, adds “tooth” (rough texture) to smooth surfaces, and improves the adhesion of acrylic paint. Originally only a white primer, gesso is now available in white, black, gray, clear, and a variety of colors. It can also be mixed with acrylic paint to create custom colors, allowing the artist to establish a color tone in the base layer. Apply with a brush, roller, or sprayer, and mix with other acrylic mediums to add texture.
In addition to surface preparation, black gesso can be used over a white gesso surface to create a two-value drawing to establish the value structure of a painting. The advantage to using black gesso is that it accepts the next payer of paint the same way as the white gesso.
Black gesso can also be an unusual basis for a painting. Build up layers of semi-transparent paint, leaving some of the black showing for a moody, atmospheric effect.
Another use is for making corrections. Opaque gesso can be used like “WiteOut” to reestablish a fresh surface on an unsuccessful section of a painting. In fact, you can paint over an entire painting and start over completely.
So look around your studio and start experimenting with new ways to use your gesso. Post a comment and let me know how you use gesso.