Gesso is a priming agent that Artists use to prime their canvas. The Mixed Media community has adopted it as one of their own due to the fact gesso can be used in many ways.
First, let’s talk about Gesso and what it is used for. When prepping a surface you can use gesso to stiffen the paper, canvas or whatever substrate you are using. It helps prevent the paint from soaking in to the paper and it allows you to get a truer color when painting. It can also be used to gesso clay or any item you will be painting on. The consistency is that of watered down paint and you can use it to add a bit of texture on your substrate as well. It is also a wonderful way to make items acrylic paint ready. Since acrylic paint won’t adhere to some substrates, simply applying gesso to it first will help your acrylic stick to anything, including plastic and glass.
There are basically two types of gesso, student and artist. Student gesso is a less pigmented version and definitely cheaper in price. I like the student grade and use this often because you can add acrylic paint to it and you will have a base color which is mixed with gesso. This helps eliminate drying time and saves you money. Think about it as if you are buying paint for your walls with primer in it already. Artist grade gesso is much more opaque and thicker. You can swirl it on your canvas with a palette knife and add color to it too. Textures vary by brand. Some brands are thicker and grainier and some are smoother. They come in different thickness grades as well, such as light, heavy, and super heavy.
Gesso also comes in different base colors, such as black, white, clear, and other hues. Now, as I stated before you can just buy white and color it any color you want. I like to have these three on hand for different reasons. I also like to have the jars as well as the bottles on hand for different reasons. I get better control with the jars but love the bottles for when doing a larger project and for me bottles are easier for me to mix with colors as I can squirt out what I want to use and then mix. Clear gesso is my favorite as you can gesso over a color or whatever you have and paint right over it! You can also store it in air tight containers if you have any left or if you want to build your own collection of colored gesso. Gesso also comes in a spray can form that you can spray on your substrate just like a primer. I don’t use this as often because you have to use it in a well-ventilated area or outside. But, it is nice to have for different projects. There are so many different types of gesso, and they all have their place for use in different crafts.
Gel Mediums…How I love thee…. There are many types of gel mediums we are going to go through and I love them all! Let’s start with white school glue. Yes, I said white school glue. I save jars with lids, wash them out well and squirt tons of white school glue into the jar. I then add water to thin it out a bit and stir and stir. I now just made glue to collage my papers on with! That easy and simple! If you are dabbling in mixed media but do not have the money to buy all the things you need, this is the best thing for you to do! Mod Podge is another inexpensive item to buy that now comes in so many variations and is a step up from white glue and water (as well as Collage Pauge by Traci Bautista). These would be considered student-grade gel mediums.
Now let’s get into Artist grade. Golden, Liquitex, Winsor Newton, and list goes on and on of what brands have gel mediums. You can get matte or glossy thick or fluid, it all depends on what you are looking for. Gloss mediums give a glossy effect once dry on your project. You can mix paint in with these as well as you can with the matte ones which dry unreflective and flat. Fluid medium helps the paint flow better from paint brush to substrate and gives a glaze look to your work. These do not water down or change your paint colors at all.
Some fun ideas to use with the gel mediums are to add small rocks, sand, pencil shavings, crayon shavings, glitter and other household items to it. Use your imagination and you can use these types of mixtures to put on finishing touches instead of applying it underneath your project!
These mediums can also be used as a collage adhesive and as a “varnish.” Once your painting is done, lightly brush on the gel medium of your choice and let it dry. It will protect your work and seal it. It can also be used as a resist. You can get so many different uses from gel mediums! No matter the price, it is great to have around.
Glazing medium is a clear thin liquid that “waters down” your paint without losing color. Once dry it is waterproof. Glazing medium is such a fun thing to play with and has so many uses. If you use watercolor pencils, crayons or paints and activate them by using the glazing medium they will become permanent! I love this because I have been known to use my watercolors and forget that they are reactivated with water and ruin my whole painting! It is also great to use as a wash when you add your paint to it. It becomes see-through to a point so you can add layer upon layer if you like. As it dries it becomes level with no bumps or brush strokes.
Molding or modeling paste is a fantastic way to add texture to your project. It come is various weights and many people use spackle from the home improvement store in place of it. You can add color or any type of items to it and build on it as it dries hard. It also keeps the shape of whatever you have imprinted in it. You can use stamps, draw with end of paintbrush or whatever you come up with to add texture to your project. My favorite way is to take a palette knife and use it to lightly put the molding paste on my paper (you can even color the paste) and then I let it dry to add a great touch of texture. The heavier and thicker the paste is, the more it will hold peaks and shapes.
Any questions please do not hesitate to ask !