Here's to Clear Gesso!

I have a little primer on how to use clear gesso. Haha. See what I did there?

I used to have a love/hate relationship with clear gesso. I first heard about it when I took classes with Suzi Blu a few years back. Great for layering colored pencils and such. But whenever I used it (and I can't remember the brand) it would EAT UP my markers and pencils. I don't know how many marker tips I ruined trying to write over it.

Fast forward a few years and let me introduce you to... Dina Wakley's Media line of Gessoes. Artistcellar has the black and white versions, I just added the Clear Gesso to the shelves because.... LOVE! A lot of gessoes have a very rough gritty feel to them. This one is much smoother to the touch and still does the job! It still has some grit, but it's more like a chalkboard than sandpaper.

I went ahead and did a comparison between the Media Clear Gesso and a matte Gel medium (which has many merits of it's own!) in my art journal.

I grabbed as many art journaling tools that I could think of: watercolor, Neo2 watercolor crayon, water soluble graphite pencil, watercolor pencil, inktense, sharpie, india ink, permopaque marker, prismacolor marker, fude ball pen, pitt pen, pastel chalk...

Just looking over the pages as a whole, I can see that the gessoed page, on the right, has more intense colors. It was especially apparent in the area of the watercolor and the water soluble writing tools.

I glued book pages down in the journal to give some idea of how translucent the colors are. The picture below shows the page with the matte gel medium background. It's respectable and perfectly doable. It has a nice, subtle watercolorey look to it. From top to bottom is Neocolor2 crayons in purple, Water soluble graphite in gray, watercolor pencil in red, and inktense in green.

Now compare the clear gessoed page with the same colors below. MUCH more intense and vibrant. That gesso just grabbed onto the color.

I also tested a bunch of different pens and markers. India ink looked the same over both surfaces, but the others worked a lot better on the gessoed surface than the gel medium. Below is the mark test with gel medium:

It's okay. It gets a little smudgy. Below is the page with the gesso base.

Definitely has more intensity to it. And it wasn't so gritty as to chew up the tips of my markers. The sharpie marker really stood out, as well as the Fude Ball pen. The pan pastel chalk (blue in the corner) really did a LOT better over the gesso, chalk needs something to cling to.

One thing to remember is that ALL water soluble mediums (pens, paints, dyes) will smear if you put gel medium OR clear gesso over the top. Anything wet will smudge them. I had a page in my art journal that I had sprayed with Dylusions Black Marble ink spray and did a little stenciling to give it some depth and texture. I wanted to use the background for a Journal52 prompt "a tribute to David Bowie" but I knew that if I tried to write with white paint pens over Dylusions Ink spray I would get a muddy gray mess, because the ink spray would migrate into the white paint pen on top. This is a perfect example of how to use the clear gesso. I simple brushed a layer of clear gesso over the ink spray to seal it without changing the background much. Because my background was abstract more or less, I didn't mind that it smudged with the brush strokes. If you don't want it to smudge, use a makeup sponge and DAB the clear gesso on top without rubbing it. Let it dry thoroughly before adding anything on top.

I got nice and clear, WHITE lettering with a paint pen, no bleed through. (The white you see behind is a stabilo pencil I first wrote lightly with, to grunge up the piece a little.)

Something else to note, is that if you use a clear gesso over a page, then write on top with a water soluble medium like a neo2 crayon, it WILL continue to be water soluble, until you seal it again. Both gel medium and gesso are water proof and will hold that medium on TOP of the surface. Simply seal with another (dabbed) layer of clear gesso, or a spray sealant. Or don't seal it at all, consider it a top final layer and you're done!

Thanks for reading, see you next time!



Lisa Cousineau
Lisa Cousineau


1 Response


January 30, 2016

Hi Lisa – did you try the clear gesso over watercolor too or just the the sprays? Curious. Thanks. Stephanie

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