Gesso - When to use - when not to use ?

Mixed Media Art Question


Hello Milliande,
Thanks so much for your wonderful videos and prompts.

I have never made an art journal before so it is a steep learning curve for me.

This may seem a silly question but do you always gesso the page first or can you go straight in? And if you do use gesso will distress inks dry on it or does it act like a resist?

I took a look at Teesha Moores videos and I can't see that she has used gesso at all.

Also she seems to just use tape rather than a gel medium or glue stick. Does this matter or will it all fall off in time?
Many thanks-Gabby

Mixed Media Art Questions answered by milliande

Hi Gabby ,

Gesso is a wonderful medium for all kinds of applications but it can be a bit difficult to learn what and how to apply it ..

A While back I did a little video on Gesso and Gel medium and how I use it .. take a peek here if you like

As for art Journaling and when to use Gesso ...

~ If I am doing an altered book art journal, then i tend to glue some of the pages together with gel medium first .. leave it to dry and then put a base coat of gesso on the gesso serves to coat the page giving it a bit of a stronger substance to work on with mixed media techniques ... also a lot of altered books are vintage books ..and the pages can be soft and brittle -- gesso helps stabilising them

~ Gesso comes in a variety of colours .. white, black and clear gesso ... its application depends on what surface you want to work on white gesso in altered book art journals help to cover up the writing underneath and provide a white surface to work on .. clear gesso would allow for the writing to show through yet still provide a suitable surface for mixed media collage etc

~ If I start of with a purpose bought sketchbook for art jouraling .. then more often than not i dont use gesso as a base the surface is already suitable for what i do --- however here are a few points to consider

~ if you are intending to art journal with wet art supplies -- like watercolours, wet glues, gel medum etc .. then the blank journal would be best to contain paper of a heavy grade that is designed to cope with wet applications ..however here is where gesso comes in handy if you have thinner pages in your blank art journal, or pages that have a high absorbency to them .. then a layer of gesso can help to thicken the page, seal it and therefore making it able to withstand wet art supplies :-)

~ if your art journal is mainly going to contain sketches, pen and ink work, rubberstamping and gluesticks etc ..then no gesso would be needed underneath either... as the quite happily sit on top of the paper

As to gelmedium versus gluestick versus tape ?

~ it depends on again on whehter a lot of wet media for mixed media background collages is going to bes used

- my rule of thumb

~ Gel medium if I am going to use paint, acrylics, lots of collage and layering

~ gluestick -- if I am mainly foing pen and ink work, rubberstamping etc

~ glue tape -- I rarely use it but would assume the same goes as for gluestick ... wet media would lift of the glue

If one creates a keepsake art journal then always look for archival type glues , they will not brittle or yellow with age

hope this helps
♥ milliande

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Mar 02, 2010
Prepping pages with gesso
by: Heather Earnhart

I am a newbie of gesso, but will not ever go without again, just amazing stuff. I like to add a few pages down with gel medium prior to gesso if thin pages are involved. I use old phone book pages, old dictionaries, books, ledger paper,etc. This is where I also like to add "texture" to my pages with tissue paper, more phone book pages, cheesecloth, sand, etc.

Milliane has mentioned all the goods in glue for collage. I would like to add one more option if I might. I recently purchased a tub of YES! It is amazing stuff and my inkjet pics did not run or smear. It is a consistancy of petroleum jelly and you brush on a very thin, thin, layer and it wont wrinkle your paper and I buffed it once dry and it shined bright.

Anyway, just thought I would add some of my newly found art techniques and supplies. I hope it helps you or anyone else.


Jan 13, 2010
Thankyou Milliande you are a godess!
by: Marcy

BRILLIANT ANSWER to a question I never knew I needed to ask but now realise I did! LOL Seriously I had never thought that one out, thats really helpful info. Now when my friends ask why I use guesso I can give them a decent answer! :)
Thankyou Milliande you are a godess!

Jan 13, 2010
Gesso reply
by: Gabby

Super quick, clear and informative answer that is really helpful. Thanks Milliande.

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