Skip to content

Making gesso, part 1

Note: I’ve kept this post here for archival pur­poses, but deleted the con­tent because I’ve con­sol­i­dated it, with the other post on the topic, into a sin­gle arti­cle. Please go read it.

You can find it here.

Posted in art materials, oil painting, painting, tempera.

Tagged with , , , , , , , .

4 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Alex says

    Thanks for all the great info David. One quick ques­tion: is it nor­mal that the chalk pre­cip­i­tates to the bot­tom when attempt­ing to mix with the glue??? I’ve been try­ing to dilute it but it just will not form a solu­tion! Is this nor­mal??? Thanks!!


  2. David says


    It is nor­mal for the gesso to need to be stirred peri­od­i­cally to main­tain the solu­tion. I haven’t found that the glue and chalk fail com­pletely to go into any kind of solu­tion, so if that’s what’s hap­pen­ing, there is a prob­lem. I won­der what kind of glue you are using. There is some vari­a­tion in qual­ity. Are you using the kind that comes pow­dered, in gran­ules, or in sheets? There is also gelatin from the gro­cery store and I have heard of pre-gelled hide glue in a tube.

    One test of glue once it has com­pletely gelled is to use a fin­ger to cleave a seam in it. The edges should sep­a­rate firmly and the sur­face within the fis­sure should look lumpy rather than smooth.

  3. Kay says

    Sure do want to try to make this gesso for use with encaus­tic art. I have read this over sev­eral times and just can’t fig­ure out how much chalk/whiting I should add.
    Would appre­ci­ate a for­mula to make about 1 quart of gesso. I have the rab­bit skin glue and have tried one batch, adding the whit­ing last. Mine also kept set­tling to the bot­tom, pos­si­bly I aded too much as it never seemed to incor­po­rate and did not make a really good gesso.

    • David says


      Not sure how this will work for encaus­tic. A quart of gesso will cover a very large sur­face; if you’re hav­ing trou­ble with gesso, you might want to work with smaller batches until you have your process worked out.

      For the ratio, I use a mea­sur­ing cup to fig­ure out the vol­ume of glue I have. I mul­ti­ply by 1.5 to fig­ure out how much whit­ing to add. It takes some gen­tle stir­ring to get it all to go into solu­tion, but I’ve never had too much trou­ble with that, myself.

      One quart is 4 cups. If you make 2 cups of glue, you’ll add 3 cups of whit­ing. I’d guess that will end up with a bit less than a quart of gesso, since much of the vol­ume of whit­ing is air.

      Hope this helps.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.