How to Make Gesso

Hello my enchanting friend! It's Loida Fajardo here, ready to show you how to make gesso.

As an artist who's all about creativity on a budget, I've experimented with various gesso recipes to find the perfect mix. Today, I'm excited to share my go-to homemade gesso recipes that will elevate your canvas and oil painting projects to the next level!

Let's dive into the wonderful world of homemade gesso. 

The Best Homemade Gesso Recipes for Canvas and For Oil Painting

white gesso coat on a canvas

How to Make Gesso with Plaster of Paris

Ever wondered how to create that ideal surface for your masterpieces? Let's kick things off with a homemade gesso mixture featuring plaster of Paris. I feel like this traditional recipe is the best homemade recipe, however, your favorite gesso might depend on the results you are trying to achieve.

So I encourage you to first give it a try and then tweak it or look at my other recipes if you are looking for something a little bit different. Okay, here's the way to make it.

Ingredients Needed:

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Mix together the plaster of Paris, glue, and white or black acrylic paint until well combined.
  2. Gradually add hot water while stirring to achieve the desired consistency for your gesso.
  3. Ensure the mixture is smooth and free of lumps before application.
  4. Apply the plaster of Paris gesso to your canvas using a brush or roller.
  5. Allow each layer to dry completely before adding additional coats for a beautifully textured finish.

Watch this tutorial video if you have questions.

DIY Gesso with Baby Powder: Unveiling a Creative Twist

appying homemade gesso on a canvas

Looking to get innovative with your gesso-making? Let's explore a recipe featuring an unexpected hero: baby powder! These simple ingredients can be found at Dollar tree or other dollar stores.

Ingredients Needed:

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Mix the baby powder and white glue until thoroughly combined for a smooth consistency.
  2. Add in the white acrylic paint, stirring to achieve a uniform mixture.
  3. Gradually add water to reach your desired gesso texture.
  4. Apply the baby powder gesso to your canvas, ensuring even coverage.
  5. Allow each layer to fully dry before adding additional coats for a flawless finish that pops with creativity.

Curious About Gesso Without Glue?

If you're interested in exploring a glue-free gesso recipe, check out my other article "Homemade Gesso Without Glue: A Vegan-Friendly Alternative" for a step by step guide on creating a vegan-friendly gesso.

If you want more gesso recipes, check out my homemade gesso with cornstarch, chalk gesso, and homemade clear gesso recipe.

More Ways to Customize Your Gesso:

green crackled gesso

Want to take your gesso game to the next level? Here are a few additional tips and tricks to enhance your diy gesso:

  • Adding Texture: Mix in a small amount of fine sand or crushed eggshells for added texture and interest.
  • Experiment with Colors: Play around with different acrylic paint colors to create custom-tinted gesso for unique effects.
  • Crackle Finish: Achieve a crackle effect by applying a thick layer of gesso, allowing it to partially dry, then gently heating it with a hairdryer before adding another layer.

Suggestions When Making Gesso

  • Homemade gesso doesn't last as long as the store bought kind so don't prepare big batches.
  • Adjust the amount of water you use in your recipes to make thicker or thinner gesso.
  • If you want to make black gesso, just substitute the white acrylic paint with a black acrylic paint.
  • Let your gesso dry for at least 24 hours before painting on top of your gessoed surface.
  • Lightly sand your gessoed surface before your start painting on it to remove brushstrokes and imperfections. Wear a respirator when sanding.
  • Wipe your painting surface with a cloth slightly wet with denatured alcohol to remove any gesso dust before painting.

So, whether you're a seasoned artist or just starting out, get ready to unleash your creativity with these homemade gesso recipes. Dive in, experiment, and let your artistry shine!

Frequently Asked Questions

What can be used instead of gesso?

If you're in a pinch and don't have gesso on hand, there are a few alternatives you can consider:

  • Acrylic Paint: A layer of acrylic paint, especially white, can act as a substitute for gesso. It provides a similar surface for your paints to adhere to.
  • PVA Glue (Polyvinyl Acetate): Mixing PVA glue with water can create a primer-like substance that can be used as a base for your paintings.
  • White Chalk: Ground white chalk mixed with glue and water can also be used to prime a canvas or surface before painting.

What are the three ingredients of gesso?

Traditional gesso consists of three main ingredients:

  • Plaster of Paris: This is a fine powder made from gypsum. It serves as the primary binder in gesso.
  • White Glue or Acrylic Binder: This provides the adhesive quality needed to bind the plaster and create a smooth surface.
  • White Pigment: Typically, titanium white pigment is used to give gesso its characteristic bright white color.

Is homemade gesso as good as store-bought?

The quality of homemade gesso can rival that of store-bought versions, especially if made with care and quality ingredients. Many artists prefer making their own gesso because they can control the texture, thickness, and coverage according to their preferences. Plus, homemade gesso can often be more cost-effective, especially if you are working on large surfaces.

How do you make gesso with baking soda?

Creating gesso with baking soda is a simple and cost-effective method. Here's a basic recipe:


  • 1/4 cup Baking Soda
  • 1/4 cup White Glue (PVA)
  • 1 tablespoon White Paint (optional, for added brightness)


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the baking soda and white glue.
  2. Stir the mixture thoroughly until it reaches a smooth consistency.
  3. If desired, add a tablespoon of white paint to achieve a brighter white color.
  4. Continue stirring until all ingredients are well incorporated.
  5. Your baking soda gesso is now ready to use! Apply it to your canvas or surface using a brush, and allow it to dry completely before painting.

This homemade gesso primer provides a smooth and absorbent surface for your artwork, allowing your paints to adhere well and creating a professional finish.

I tried to include a homemade gesso recipe for different purposes and different budgets. Hopefully one of these recipes works for you. Let me know which one you like the best!

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