Can You Paint Gesso Over Paint? The Surprising Answer!

Can you paint gesso over paint? It’s a question that many budding artists ask themselves when they want to create a mixed media masterpiece. And the answer is, yes, you certainly can! But before we dive into the how’s and why’s of painting gesso over paint, let’s take a moment to understand what gesso is, and what it’s typically used for in the art world.

For those who are new to the world of art, gesso is a primer that’s used to prepare a surface for painting. It’s essentially a mixture of glue, gypsum, and pigment that’s applied to a canvas or other surface to make it more receptive to the layers of paint that will be added on top. Gesso is typically used on surfaces like canvas, wood, or paper, and dries to a hard, opaque finish. However, sometimes artists find themselves with a surface that’s already been painted, and they’re left wondering if they can still use gesso. Well, the answer is, it depends!

Painting gesso over paint can definitely be done, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you start. For one, you’ll want to make sure that the surface you’re painting on is clean and free of any debris, as this can affect how well the gesso adheres. Additionally, if there are any glossy or slick areas on the existing paint, you’ll want to rough them up a bit with sandpaper before adding the gesso. And finally, it’s always a good idea to do a small test patch on a corner of your surface before painting the entire thing, just to make sure that the gesso adheres well and doesn’t cause any issues with the underlying paint. With these things in mind, you should be well on your way to creating a mixed media masterpiece that’s both beautiful and durable.

Applying gesso to a painted canvas

When it comes to painting, gesso is a crucial component. Gesso acts as a base layer for your canvas, helping to create a smoother surface that will be more receptive to the paint. But what if you’ve already painted your canvas? Can you add a layer of gesso over your existing painting? The answer is yes, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • First and foremost, make sure your existing paint layer is completely dry. If there is any moisture left in the paint, it can cause the gesso layer to adhere poorly and potentially damage your painting.
  • Next, consider the nature of your painting. If it is a thin wash or glaze, the gesso layer may be visible through it. However, if it is an opaque, heavily layered painting, the gesso will likely not be noticeable.
  • When applying the gesso, use a smooth, even stroke and work in thin layers. If you apply the gesso too thickly, it can crack and peel, leaving unsightly marks on your painting.

Overall, applying gesso to a painted canvas is possible and can even help improve the surface for painting. Just be sure to consider the nature of your painting and take your time when applying the gesso layer.

Benefits of Using Gesso Before Painting

Gesso is a primer that is applied on various surfaces before painting. It provides a smooth and uniform surface for the paint to adhere to and extends the life of a painting. Here are some benefits of using gesso before painting:

  • Increased durability: Gesso creates a strong bond between the paint and the surface, protecting the paint from chipping, cracking, or peeling over time.
  • Better color representation: Gesso has a bright white color that enhances the brightness and clarity of the paint colors, making them look more vibrant and true to life.
  • Improved texture: If applied thickly, gesso can create a textured surface that adds depth and interest to the painting, creating a unique visual effect.

The Types of Gesso

There are several types of gesso that artists can use depending on their specific needs and preferences. Here are some of the most common types of gesso:

  • Acrylic gesso: This is the most commonly used gesso. It is water-based, dries quickly, and is easy to apply. It can be used on a wide range of surfaces such as canvas, paper, wood, and metal.
  • Oil-based gesso: This type of gesso is made from a mixture of oil and whiting (chalk or gypsum). It takes longer to dry than acrylic gesso but provides a more traditional, old-world feel to the painting. However, it is not suitable for use on all surfaces.
  • Tinted gesso: Some artists prefer to use tinted gesso instead of traditional white gesso. Tinted gesso comes in a range of colors and can be used to create unique background colors or tonal changes in the painting.

How to Apply Gesso

Applying gesso is a simple process that can be done in a few steps:

Step Instructions
1 Clean the surface with a damp cloth to remove any dust or debris.
2 Apply a thin layer of gesso to the surface using a brush or a roller. Make sure to cover the surface evenly and avoid leaving any brush marks or bubbles.
3 Let the gesso dry completely before applying a second layer. Depending on the thickness of the gesso and the surface you are using, you may need to apply 2-3 coats of gesso.
4 Once the gesso is dry, you can begin painting on the surface. Make sure to let the paint dry completely before adding additional layers or details.

By using gesso before painting, artists can ensure that their artwork will last longer, look brighter, and have a smoother surface. With a little practice, applying gesso can become a natural and essential part of any painting process.

Types of gesso and their properties

Before we dive into the question of whether or not you can paint gesso over paint, it’s important to understand the different types of gesso and what makes them unique. Here’s a breakdown of the most common types:

  • Traditional Gesso – Made from chalk and rabbit skin glue, traditional gesso has a matte, slightly absorbent surface that provides an ideal foundation for oil paints. It dries hard and has a slightly rough texture that helps the paint adhere to the surface.
  • Acrylic Gesso – Made from an acrylic polymer emulsion, this type of gesso is similar to traditional gesso but has a smoother surface. It dries quickly and is more flexible than traditional gesso, making it a good choice for painting on surfaces that will be subjected to movement or bending.
  • Clear Gesso – This type of gesso is made from a clear acrylic emulsion and is used to create a non-porous, non-absorbent surface. It’s ideal for painting on non-traditional surfaces like metal or plastic, and can be used as a sealer or primer for other types of paint.

Each type of gesso has unique properties that make it ideal for certain types of painting. For example, traditional gesso is often used for oil painting because of its absorbent surface, while acrylic gesso is popular among acrylic painters due to its flexible surface. Clear gesso, on the other hand, is a versatile option that can be used for a wide range of painting projects.

Preparing a surface for gesso application

Before applying gesso on any surface, it is essential to prepare the surface properly for better adhesion and a smooth finish. A well-prepared surface will ensure that gesso adheres well and does not easily peel off in the future.

  • Clean the surface: Start by cleaning the surface you want to apply gesso to thoroughly. Ensure that it is free from dirt, dust, and any other debris using a brush or a damp cloth. The surface must also be entirely dry before application.
  • Smooth rough areas: Sand the surface to remove any rough patches, bumps, or ridges to create a smoother surface. Ensure that you use fine-grit sandpaper to avoid damaging the surface.
  • Prime the surface: If you’re working with a surface that is very porous, such as raw canvas, apply a thin coat of acrylic paint to prime the surface first. This helps create a barrier between the surface and the gesso, and it also prevents the gesso from soaking in too much, thus reducing the number of coats you need in the future.

After following the above steps, you can then proceed to apply gesso on the surface. Depending on your preferred finish, you may need to apply multiple coats of gesso, sanding between each coat as necessary.

It is also possible to apply gesso on top of a painted surface. However, it would help if you first roughened the surface with fine-grit sandpaper to promote better adhesion. This is especially important if the painted surface is glossy or in poor condition.

Materials needed Description
Gesso Acrylic primer used as an undercoat before painting
Sandpaper To smoothen the surface before gesso application
Brushes and Rollers To apply gesso evenly onto the surface
Acrylic Paint Used to prime surfaces that are porous or prone to soaking in gesso

By preparing the surface properly before gesso application, you’re sure to achieve a smooth and lasting finish that stands the test of time.

Tips for applying gesso to a surface

Applying gesso to a surface might look like an easy task when you see it done by professionals, but it is believed to be a difficult and daunting task if you don’t know how to apply it properly. It is essential to know some tips and tricks to help you apply gesso to your surface with ease and achieve the best results.

  • Clean the surface-
  • Before applying gesso, clean the surface of any dirt, oil or grease that may prevent the gesso from adhering properly. Wipe the surface clean with a damp cloth and let it dry completely.

  • Use a high-quality brush-
  • Using a high-quality brush will help you apply a smooth and even layer of gesso on your surface. It’s recommended to use a wide brush to cover more area at once.

  • Apply thin layers-
  • Applying thin layers of gesso is better than applying one thick layer as it will help you avoid bubbles or bumps and ultimately resulting in a smoother and even surface.

Once you have applied your gesso, use these tips to help it cure properly:

Allow the gesso to dry and cure completely before applying any other medium over it. Lightly sand the surface between each layer to remove any rough spots or bubbles that may have formed. The thickness of your gesso and the number of layers you apply really depends on the condition of your surface and the type of paint you plan to use.

Type of surface Type of gesso
Canvas Acrylic gesso
Wood Oil or acrylic gesso
Acrylic painted surface Absorbent gesso

Selecting the right type of gesso for your surface is also a crucial factor to consider. Different surfaces require different types of gesso, and using the wrong type of gesso can lead to adhesion failure. Follow these tips, and you will be well on your way to achieving the perfect gessoed surface.

Can you add pigment to gesso for colored backgrounds?

Gesso is commonly used as a primer for canvas and other painting surfaces to create a smooth, absorbent surface for paint application. Colored backgrounds can add depth and interest to paintings, but can you add pigment to gesso for this purpose?

  • Yes, pigment can be added to gesso to create colored backgrounds.
  • Professional artists often mix their own gesso and customize it to suit their needs.
  • Pigments can be added to gesso in powder or liquid form. When adding pigments to gesso, it’s important to mix them thoroughly to create an even color.

However, it’s worth noting that adding pigment to gesso can affect its absorbency and adhesion properties. Pigment can make gesso thicker and more prone to cracking, so it’s important to test the mixture on a small area before applying it to a larger surface.

Artists who want to use colored backgrounds but are hesitant to mix pigments with gesso can consider using pre-made colored gesso or applying paint directly to the surface without a primer.

Pros of adding pigment to gesso for colored backgrounds: Cons of adding pigment to gesso for colored backgrounds:
-Customizable -May affect absorbency and adhesion properties of gesso
-Can create unique color combinations -May make gesso thicker and more prone to cracking
-Good solution for artists who want complete control over their materials -Requires testing before application to larger surface

Overall, adding pigment to gesso for colored backgrounds can be a good solution for artists who want to customize their materials and create unique color combinations. However, it’s important to be aware of the potential drawbacks and test the mixture before applying it to a larger surface.

Alternative Primers to Gesso for Painting Surfaces

When it comes to priming a painting surface, gesso is the most popular choice amongst artists. However, there are alternative primers that can also be used depending on the specific requirements of the artwork. Here are some options:

  • Acrylic Polymer Emulsion: Similar to gesso, acrylic polymer emulsion is a water-based primer that provides a smooth surface and good adhesion for subsequent layers of paint. It can be tinted with acrylic paint to create a colored ground for the artwork.
  • Oil Ground: If you prefer oil paints, an oil ground or oil primer is an ideal choice. It is made up of a mixture of pigments, oils, and solvents that create a strong bond between the surface and the oil paint. However, oil ground takes a longer time to dry compared to gesso or acrylic polymer emulsion.
  • Shellac: Shellac is a resin derived from insect secretions that can be used as a primer for painting surfaces. It provides a hard, non-absorbent surface that is ideal for working with watercolor or ink. However, it is not recommended for oil painting as it can react with the solvents used in oil paints.

Each primer has its own unique properties and advantages depending on the medium and techniques used in the artwork. Before priming a painting surface, consider the specific requirements of your artwork and experiment with different primers to find the one that works best for you.

Can You Paint Gesso Over Paint FAQs

1. Can you apply gesso over dried paint?

Yes, you can apply gesso over dried paint. However, the paint should be completely dry before adding gesso on top.

2. Will the gesso stick to painted surfaces?

Yes, gesso will stick to painted surfaces. However, it is important to properly prepare the surface by cleaning and sanding it before applying the gesso.

3. Can you use gesso as a primer over paint?

Yes, you can use gesso as a primer over paint. Gesso is a great primer and can help create a smoother surface for painting.

4. Will gesso change the color of the paint underneath?

Gesso is white, so it may change the color of the paint underneath slightly. However, this can be easily fixed by applying another layer of paint after the gesso has dried.

5. Can you paint on gesso with watercolors?

Yes, you can paint on gesso with watercolors. Gesso can create a great surface for watercolor painting by providing a smoother and more absorbent surface.

6. Do you need to seal the gesso before painting on top of it?

No, you do not need to seal the gesso before painting on top of it. However, if you want to protect your painting, you can apply a varnish after the painting is done.

7. Can gesso be used to cover up mistakes in painted surfaces?

Yes, gesso can be used to cover up mistakes in painted surfaces. Just apply a thin layer of gesso over the mistake and let it dry before painting over it.


Thank you for reading about using gesso over paint. We hope these FAQs answered some of your questions! Remember to properly prepare your surface before applying gesso and let the gesso dry completely before painting on top. Happy painting! Don’t forget to come back for more painting tips and tricks.