Importance of Gesso in oil painting and how to Apply Gesso

Oil painting is a popular art form that has been practiced for centuries, and its popularity continues to this day. One of the key elements of oil painting is the use of gesso, a substance used to prepare a surface for painting. In this article, we will explore the importance of gesso in oil painting and how to apply it.

What is Gesso?

Gesso is a mixture of glue and plaster that is applied to a surface to create a smooth, even texture for painting. It is typically made from a mixture of water, calcium carbonate (chalk), and an adhesive such as rabbit skin glue or acrylic polymer. The primary function of gesso is to create a surface that is more absorbent than the raw surface, allowing the oil paint to better adhere to the surface.

Why is Gesso Important in Oil Painting?

Gesso is an essential component of oil painting for several reasons. Firstly, it creates a barrier between the paint and the raw surface, preventing the oil from seeping into the surface and causing damage over time. Secondly, it helps to create a more even texture on the surface, allowing for smoother brushstrokes and better color blending. Finally, gesso helps to prevent the oil paint from peeling or flaking off the surface over time.

How to Apply Gesso


Applying gesso is a relatively straightforward process, although it does require some patience and attention to detail. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to apply gesso:

Step 1: Choose your surface – Gesso can be applied to a variety of surfaces, including canvas, paper, and wood. Make sure the surface is clean and free of any dust or debris.

Step 2: Prepare your gesso – If you are using rabbit skin glue, you will need to soak it in water overnight before heating it in a double boiler until it melts. If you are using acrylic polymer, it can be used straight from the bottle.

Step 3: Apply the first coat – Using a wide, flat brush, apply a thin, even coat of gesso to the surface. Be sure to work in one direction, and avoid overworking the surface.

Step 4: Let it dry – Allow the first coat to dry completely before applying the second coat. This can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight, depending on the thickness of the coat and the temperature and humidity of your workspace.

Step 5: Apply the second coat – Apply a second coat of gesso in the opposite direction of the first coat, using the same technique as before.

Step 6: Let it dry – Allow the second coat to dry completely before sanding the surface to create a smooth, even texture.

Step 7: Sand the surface – Using a fine-grit sandpaper, sand the surface lightly to create a smooth, even texture. Be sure to remove any dust or debris before painting.


Gesso is an essential component of oil painting that helps to create a smooth, even texture on the surface and prevent the paint from peeling or flaking over time. By following these simple steps, you can apply gesso to your painting surface and achieve a more professional finish to your artwork. So, if you are an aspiring oil painter, be sure to give gesso a try and see how it can enhance your artwork.