View Full Version : marble dust and gesso

03-15-2010, 04:33 PM
Well, I had fun at Utrecht's today at lunch spending my gift card from my class... I purchased two gray Pastelbord's, some large navy blue sheets of Canson, and a big tub of gesso and a bag of marble dust.

Anyone tried creating their own surface with gesso and marble dust? I've read a few articles on doing this and am excited to give it a try.


03-15-2010, 06:09 PM
Kim. I don't know about the Marble dust but i make my own gesso and pumice. i put it on most of the time some 140# Canson watercolour paper smooth side. it's cheep. Michels sells it some times on sale for around 1.00 to 1.50 for a pad of 10 sheets. and i know the pumice does go a long long way. not sure with marble tho. with pumice i use about 4 or 5 coffee scopes to a quart of gesso. which i roll it on the paper you could use a foam brush. i find that i could get around 100 9/12 sheets covered 2 coats. i guess it would work some what the same. and you can add a little acrylic paint and change the paper colour also.

03-15-2010, 06:27 PM
Thanks Pete! I've got a lot of watercolor paper so I'll give it a try. I was also just browsing Deborah Secor's online book and found the following info:

2/3 cup Acrylic Gesso
1/3 cup water
4 level teaspoons extra-fine pumice (or marble dust, not as gritty)

4-ply museum rag board

small plastic container with lid

1”- 3” brush

Mix gesso, water and pumice together, carefully breaking up any chunks. The amount of pumice may be adjusted. Keep excess mixture in a closed container.

You may find pumice available at art supply stores, ceramic supply houses, or online. I recommend the 4F (fine) grit.

Thanks Deborah!

03-15-2010, 06:48 PM
Kim, Deborah told this to me some time ago. and have used it since. change it a little to i guess fit the gesso and surface i was using.I found you can use this mix on Masionite, foam board, mate board. for larger pieces. and it's got less of a grain than Colourfix. but than i'm using extra fine pumice. be careful of brush marks. they tend to be hard to paint and not for them to show throught at times. to me a brush creats lines and a roller more of a texture either way you want to get it as smooth as possable. a thinner gesso/pumice gets a smoother surface. you will need to play with it a little to you fine the right mix and thicknees for you.

03-15-2010, 06:58 PM
I've thought about trying it myself, it would save a lot of money as the pastelboards are not that cheap. Deborah's recipe looks great, it's also similar to something i've found a while back online:


Tell us how it turned out!

03-16-2010, 02:21 AM
Thanks for the tips Pete. I was thinking of using a foam brush, certainly not a regular synthetic brush... don't want all those brush strokes. I'll try the roller as well and see what I like better. If I'm doing abstracts I may like a bit of texture in the tooth, as long as it's varied.

Mihaela, I probably won't get a chance to try until this weekend because I'm cat sitting and now have FOUR cats in the house and I have no time painting time with them around, but I'll let you know how it goes this weekend. I'm excited to try it!

WC Lee
03-16-2010, 02:38 AM
I tried the gesso/marble dust mixture once a few years ago (still got the marble dust in a jar hidden in the closet) and to me personally, it doesn't have enough tooth. Right now, I use either 2F pumice or 400 grit aluminum oxide which I prefer over the pumice. The aluminum oxide gives me a toothier surface similar to Wallis, however, it cost almost 3 times what I would pay for the pumice but still way cheaper than buying commercially available sanded surfaces.

A foam brush will work fairly well but will still leave some texture unless it is brushed out very well. I normally brush in all directions lightly multiple times until the gesso gets tacky enough where the foam brush does not leave any texture.

Deborah Secor
03-16-2010, 07:34 PM
I like 4f pumice the best! It has enough tooth for me. I also sometimes color my gesso mix using acrylic paints.

I use a wide house painting brush to create striations and interesting textures, a brayer to roll it smooth, or a paint roller with a thin nap to make a nice even, pebbly texture.

You can also put down a layer of gesso and then sprinkle the pumice or marble dust into the wet gesso, using a sifter, which will result in some fall-off (that I then reuse) but gives a neat look of 'clouds' of thicker and thinner texture.

Try dabbing wet gesso and grit mixture with a paper towel for a stucco look (great for tree bark or other heavily textured spots).

I usually use 4-ply rag mat. Paint the back of the mat with gesso first, then turn it over once it's tacky and do the front. It reduces curl.


03-17-2010, 12:12 AM
I find 4-F too smooth, but I like big brush strokes and that makes up for it a bit in texture until I buy something toothier. If marble dust is less, I know to steer clear. However, I am doing landscapes and not portraits, so that might have something to do with my goals. Also, I use Goldens products (ones with and without pumice) instead of gesso. Not sure the difference, really. Goldens does tint easily with acrylics, but I'm sure gesso does, too.

03-17-2010, 02:14 AM
Sounds exciting, Kim! I should try it sometime, see if I can get a variety of homemade surfaces. I've been having so much fun with the Colourfix primer that I haven't gotten around to trying gesso and additives. But there are so many to pick from -- marble dust, pumice, garnet, sand in different grits, plus there's different colored gessos. I could see getting into this.

Watercolor paper's great for it though. I bought an extra watercolor pad to make a pastels sketchbook, need to go priming all the sheets in it one of these days. Or do some underpaintings first, that's a thought.

03-19-2010, 01:40 PM
So many surfaces, so little time!! Thanks for all your comments.

I can't wait to try some of this stuff. I'll pick up some pumice as well, they just didn't have it at the art supply store I was at. Guess I'll head down to Daniel Smith's to pick it up.

03-19-2010, 05:59 PM
W.C. Lee, where do you find aluminum oxide to buy? It isn't even sold to private persons where I live, so I'd have to order it online, likewise with ground pumice.


WC Lee
03-19-2010, 06:32 PM
Charlie, I order mine online .. there are only a few that carries sand blasting powder that will accept small orders and ship to a residential and it took me a while to find them if I remember correctly. The one that I use is http://www.metlabsupply.com/ and I checked, they will ship overseas using the cheapest UPS rate and the cost will be added to the order. But I am sure that there are places closer to where you are that carries it, just might need to dig through all the websites.

EDIT: btw, 25 micron will produce a surface close to UART 800 and the 400 grit size will produce a surface similar to UART 400 and Wallis, but I think Wallis is closer to 300 grit or 45 micron

03-19-2010, 10:46 PM
W C Lee thanks for the info. just ordered 1 lb to give it a try.I just go some 800 uart and really kind of like it so i went with what you said about the 25 micron. it's not as cheep as pumice. but if it goes as far as pumice and comes out like uart 800 it's sure worth it. or even close. thank you.

WC Lee
03-20-2010, 12:35 AM
you're welcome Pete :) the 25 micron powder produces a wonderful surface, toothy but smooth enough to blend without losing the fingerprints :D The pound that I got lasted me more than a year probably closer to 2 years, but then I don't paint that often plus I will use paper for sketching most of the time.

03-20-2010, 08:18 AM
W.C., your advice is gold worth to me! Thank you! I can find it locally, and may be able to coax them to sell to me (they only sell to industries), too, if I know the micron size! So, if I want finger-bleeding size, somewhere between 30 and 45 micron would be good.

I picked up that the brown aluminium oxide is more abrasive than the white, which corresponds to the two samples of Wallis that I have, where the Belgian mist is really aggressive while the white is similar to Fisher 400, and Fisher 400 is similar to Uart 400.

New possibilities!


WC Lee
03-21-2010, 02:36 AM
You're welcome, Charlie. Maybe you can get little of each micron size to see which you would like better.

I don't know, the belgium mist wallis I got doesn't feel more aggressive than the wallis pro, but it does feel more aggressive than the wallis museum. The aluminum oxide I get isn't exactly white but more of a grayish color and makes a grayish color support.