View Full Version : How to apply Gesso to Watercolor Paper?

07-08-2004, 09:22 PM
Hi folks,
I'm curious to know how Acrylic Gesso is correctly applied to watercolor paper...

I tried laying the paper flat on a plywood board and then brushing the gesso on. This resulted in the paper being stuck to the plywood. The only way to remove it caused the paper to tear...

Any suggestions, tips, FAQs, tutorials, links, etc?

07-08-2004, 11:08 PM
If you attach the paper to the board using painter's or watercolor tape all around, it should not only keep the gesso from going over the edges and glueing it to the board, but will also give you a nice clean border when you remove the tape after the painting is dry.

I'm curious whether you will be painting with acrylic or watercolor. If watercolor, you don't need to gesso the paper first (unless you've got an interesting experiment planned ;) ).


07-09-2004, 12:16 AM
I talked to an artist who did this and her method was to use a paint roller to apply the gesso. I think she did two coats, one 90 degrees off the other (if that makes sense).

She painted with watercolour on it and said it was much like using Yupo for lifting and moving paint around. She also said that it needed to be sealed afterwards.

07-09-2004, 12:17 AM
Hi Debra,

Thanks for the tip. I'll be trying that tomorrow, it sounds like it should work.

I'm interested in painting watercolor on gesso. Hopefully it will achieve translucency and colors similar to this:


I have no idea what my "experiment" will turn out like. I could find very little information on how to do this online...

My only reference book is titled Everything you Wanted to Know About Watercolor. It only mentions gesso as a possibility, it never actually explains much about it...

Thanks again.

07-09-2004, 12:22 AM
Hi Christie,

Thanks for the info. It sounds like I can at least get started on this now.


07-09-2004, 12:24 AM
Not a problem. Please let us know how it works.

07-09-2004, 08:39 AM
I posted a few weeks ago "clematis-watercolor on gesso" in the Gallery. I described how I did. Let me know if you have any questions.

Gisele :)

07-09-2004, 11:33 AM
Malo, Sounds like a fun experiment. Can't wait to see your results. I think I'll give it a try, too, to see if it is different handling than the new Fredrix watercolor canvas. I've tried the canvas, but didn't care for the texture.

07-09-2004, 12:00 PM
I frequently use gesso....sometimes with pumice in it and other times plain...I staple my paper to a gatorboard and then brush it on...two coats usually...one vertical and one horizontal.....if you want it smoother, you can sand it

Let us see the results

07-11-2004, 01:09 AM
Sounds like fun, I guess the effect varies with the number of coats of gesso you apply, the paper absorbancy would decrease with each coat,

I must try it,


07-13-2004, 09:05 AM
I recently started using gessoed paper for my watercolor paintings also. I can't imagine going back to non-gessoed paper, I like it that much. At first I was careful to get even coats. After watching Nicholas Simmons Faded Glory WIP, I've since been brushing it on with a 3/4 inch flat brush in every which direction. It makes for a very interesting texture and the paint moves in surprising, but exciting ways :)

Have fun with the gesso. I bet you'll really like it :)


07-13-2004, 10:51 AM
Painting watercolor on gesso is great fun. The look is so different. Of course it is hard to paint over it as it moves about.

I don't bother using expensive watercolor paper. I gesso left over mat/mount board most of the time, or even some types of cardboard. It doesn't wrinkle or stretch. It does bend a bit after drying, but can be flattened very easily.

I do several coats, drying in between each one. I sometimes sand it but most times just paint on it as is, with texture causing interesting effects. I have several paintings from years back and the colors are still vivid as when they were applied. I also will gesso 4 or 5 pieces at a time just to have on hand. I recently gessoed over the sueded side of mat board and have a very interesting texture. Can't decide to use it for watercolors or oil pastels.

Try it, you'll like it :)

Here is a watercolor on gessoed mat board I sold last year. 14"x20"

04-29-2017, 01:59 PM
I've painted watercolor on gesso-ed paper and it's great. I had put together a ton of info for my students but had just a few unresolved questions....and I found this super duper instructional on-line by Ellen Fountain. She shares everything! I see I'm not allowed to post a link here, but do a search for: watercolor_on_gessoed_paper.pdf