Friday, April 19, 2013

Homemade Gesso, the good and the bad plus Link Love Friday

A couple of weeks ago I started to run out of gesso.  To some, this would not be a catostrophic event, while others (like myself) starts to freak out and want to go buy a five gallon pail of it.  I use it *ALL* the time.  If my background is too bright....throw a wash of gesso on it.  Oh that picture I just slapped on doesn't fade well into the picture....throw some gesso on it.  I messed up and HATE what I just did....put some gesso on it.  You get the idea.  I *heart* gesso.  BUT.  Yes, there is a but. But it is not in my budget.  We are on a crazy strict budget, tight is NOT the word for it.  But I do pretty good with getting artsy things with it.  I get twenty dollars a month right now for me, for whatever I want to use it for.  Now picture Gollum from Lord of the Rings....that is me holding my twenty dollar bill, saying my precious, my precious...and I am NOT kidding.  Ask my sister, she saw it first hand. I milk that twenty for all it is worth.  I buy cheap acrylic paint, even though I drool over Golden Fluid Accrylics (someday....someday!!!).  I have even made my own alcohol inks because of the price of a tiny bottle of the beautiful Ranger inks.  I am limited and I still make me  some arty happiness in my art journal.  So I went to Hobby Lobby and looked at gesso, by the way, can I live at hobby lobby?  Anyways I digress, nothing against Hobby Lobby, but it would have blown my twenty bucks down to fifteen.  So I went to Walmart.  Again, I hesitated because it was ten dollars for a bottle that wouldn't last me that long.  I was frustrated. I asked an online group if they had ever made there own gesso and this is a reply of two recipes from a very nice lady!

"There are two recipes you can use I haven’t as yet tried the second one as I have decided I really like using the drywall compound recipe because it can double as modeling paste. You can buy a gallon bucket or a quart tub at wal-mart I paid $5 for the gallon bucket which will last forever even if my husband digs into it when we turn the daughter’s bedroom into a guest bedroom ;) lol

Gesso Recipe 1
3 Parts Drywall Compound.
1 Part PVA (Elmer’s) Glue)

You can a little extra glue or a bit of water if you want to thin it down some I have to mixtures because I like it thick so it can be used as modeling paste.

You can add a bit of paint if you wish to color it just an FYI adding white really isn’t going to help much with this compound recipe unless you add a whole bunch if you’re going to cover your page with another color don’t waste your paint. I added about an 1/8 of a cup and still it had more of a clear grey tint about it. My tip if you just put your gesso on your page dry and then paint over it with white you get the same white gesso look and don’t waste your paint. But if you want black or grey gesso go for it.

Gesso Recipe 2
1 Part PVA (Elmer’s Glue)
3 Parts Water
6 Parts Baby Powder (or any kind of powder this adds the tooth)
White (or any color you want) paint just add until you get the desired color.

If you are unsure try the mixture on a test sheet before your project to see how it will look."
Thank you Theresa Lisiecki-Pillow!  So I decided to try it. I did recipe number two with the baby powder.  I have mixed reviews on it. I will not be throwing out the store bought gesso yet.

I did a LOT of testing (playing) with the homemade version I made and took a lot of notes.  Here is what I came up with!

Homemade Gesso-the good
  • It is toothier and grabs on to the paint more
  • works well on a more porous surface
  • Charcoal sticks to the page better
  • Watercolor (tubed) on a rough surface grabs on to the page better
  • Can achieve more of a transparent glaze like look
Homemade Gesso-the bad
  • Waterier
  • Smells like baby powder (I do NOT like the smell of baby powder
  • Takes longer to dry
  • Takes more coats to fully cover words and images 
  • Does not scrape well onto the page for texture
  • Does not stay put for a heavy texture, especially on smooth surfaces
  • Do not like how fluid acrylics work on this surface

Store Bought Gesso-the good
  • Smoother
  • Less coats for full coverage
  • Scrapes better for texture especially on smooth surfaces
  • Fluid acrylics work much better, flows onto the page better
  • Oil pastels smudge better
  • Water color crayons work better

Store Bought-the bad
  • More expensive
  • On a more porous surface it seems to "suck" it up more so you have to use more of it
  • Isn't always as transparent as I would like
  • Charcoal doesn't grab onto as well
  • MORE EXPENSIVE (I know it was at the top of the list but it is the ONE thing that deserves to be doubled up!)
Both had almost the identical work-ability with regular acrylic paint and when covering bright colors like this...

It was very similar.  I applied with a paint brush. on both sides.

So, I have come to the conclusion that the homemade gesso definetly is worth the small effort of making.  I will use it on larger applications and on porous surfaces.  I still will have to buy gesso though.  It adheres to smoother and gloss better, which is one of my altered book journals surfaces.  I think with the addition of the homemade version that I will be able to save quite a bit of money in the long run.  It cost  $.34 for the glue, $1.00 for the powder, and a trivial amount of white paint that I already had.  Compare that to the price of bought gesso....I think it is a good way to use my money to the fullest extent.  I will have to try recipe number 1 when I get a chance to get drywall compound.  It may have that thicker quality that the store bought has that I miss with the current recipe.  We shall see!!!

Now, onto spreading link love.  Tammy over at Daisy Yellow has a mission, and as I said before, if Queen Tammy needs a little help count me in!  So here are the fab 5 blogs of my week.

Roxeanne Padgett is an amazing artist, she gave me a great idea on a new way of using hole re-enforcers! It goes along perfectly with my budget  mentioned above...

Kelly Kilmer left me in tears on her post about her dad.  I am a serious daddy's girl, so it was very touching!

The Graphics Fairy has a continuous supply of copyright free images. I can spend HOURS looking at them all!  

Seth Apter *sigh*!  Go there RIGHT NOW...I am not kidding....between Tammy's and his blog I could be lost for days in arty goodness.  Why are you still reading this??? GO!!!

Last but not least by any means is Anna Sender I love her style, her drawings just everything about her work!  Inspiring to me!

Thanks for dropping by!  Now spread a little love to each to each other!


  1. Fabulous links!! Omg, I just added them all to my blog roll!! Sadly, I didn't get a chance to do my link love this week :( Wonder if it's too late?

    1. It isn't too late! I added mine last week late!
      Thanks for stopping!!!

    2. If you are still active, could you look at my question at the bottom of the comments regarding pouring acrylics on the homemade gesso. Thanks!

  2. Oh I hear you! I use gesso more than any other supply other than paint I think! I start to panic if I notice I am running out.

    I have played with making my own but I am still buying the bought stuff. I generally use cheap stuff but I did buy some golden gesso and the difference was marked, but I am not spending that price to buy it every day. I played with the gesso recipe I had and still didn't love it. I tried making it with plaster of paris as well instead of the powder. I haven't given up but still haven't nailed the recipe!

    Love your links, I am linking to Kelly Kilmer next week. Intending to any way! So much inspiration out there. :)

    Love this post about something close to my heart...hahaha. PS: your comment on facebook that I have lost...Mindy Gledhill, how divine is she?! I love sharing the love.

    1. I *heart* Mindy! Thanks for putting me on to her! There is so much!! I have a hard time picking!!! It is hard to find the appropriate amount of time to give this mission the proper attention it needs! I start and then all of a sudden and hour has flown by....and I have only looked at a couple of blogs! I do LOVE spreading this blog love though! It is nice to pay it forward! and I agree to all of your comments about the homemade gesso. I will NOT give up either!!! Love ya Natasha!!!

  3. LOVE that tutorial using the hole re-enforcers. I will definitely be using that.

    Thanks for all the sharing!

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  5. You can also sand down homemade gesso to get an even Surface. Like creating your own gesso boards. This will open the surface pours evenly and give a nice watercolor platform. I also use them for airbrushing and large murals.

  6. I have never made my own gesso, but like you said it can be quite pricey (...I'm on a strict budget like you...) Btw THANK YOU so much for sharing the gesso recipes - I think I'm def going to try out the second recipe.
    PS: If you don't like the smell of baby powder, maybe you could try corn flour instead?

  7. Better than baby powder, cornstarch! Doesn't give you that nasty baby powder smell and smooths nicely into the glue and water and has a lovely white white finish.

  8. How fo you store the home made gesso? I have just made it and wanted to use it later.
    Thx, Darci

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  10. Have you tried calcium carbonate? Home Depot should stock it. Much cheaper than baby powder without the smell. It's pure white and did I mention cheaper?

    1. Thats what i use however calcium carbonate itself is an off white color but as long as you dont care that it will be a cream or off white color thats fine but if you want white gesso, use marble dust... all it is, is calcium carbonate thats been whitened so they call it marble dust. You can get it online, not sure if you can purchase that in home depot but ill look next time im there.

  11. I use marble dust (its tecnical name is calcium carbonate which is basically crushed up tums, and its used to make chalk AND its whats in real gesso to give it tooth) Its Inexpensive for a large bag. Go a google search for "Marble dust"
    You can get a 5-7lb bag for under 20 bucks and you dont need much. :)

  12. PVAand Elmers are not the same at all. PVA.Is an acrylic compound and Elmer's is a casine compound (milk product)

  13. When you say "parts" in the recipe how much is that?

    1. A "part" can be any measure. 3 parts Drywall Compound to 1 part Glue could be 3 cups to 1 cup or 3 tablespoons to 1 tablespoon or 3 gallons to 1 gallon, depending on how much you want to make.

  14. When you say "parts" in the recipe how much is that?

  15. I know this was written some time ago, but I was posting about Gesso on my own blog and linked back to yours. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Hi all, I know this is an older post but just wanted to share what I've found after much research. If you try the drywall compound/glue recipe, avoid using DAP brand compound! Jonni Good at experimented with this recipe, and mentions that the DAP brand will "rubberize" into balls, rather than creating that smooth flow. She does say that any other brand should work just fine. Figured I'd give the heads-up, since those of us on a budget don't want to spend our dollars, just to find out we've made a cheap (but useless) mess! :)

  17. "Do not like how fluid acrylics work on this surface."

    Could you give more detail what you mean by this?

    I like to do use acrylics in pouring mediums to flow paint on the canvas. Would there be problems if I do this on a homemade gesso?

  18. Omg you sound like me down to the exact T! I know what you mean by a $20.00 budget only sometimes mine is half that SO I too am very reluctant to let .50 go. I never ever pay full price and btw...i too want to live at Hobby Lobby. Its right down the street from me too so it's very hard not to be in there every single week but I have made myself go to the dollar tree they just put in right beside it! Anyhow, I have also found that if I make my own supplies, I will not spend nearly as much cash....thank God because like you, I love to create and like you I drool over the paints and mediums that I most certainly cannot afford. Ever find a bunch of paints in someones trash pile before? I did and youd have thought I won the lottery and I am NOT exaggerating. Anyhow, incase you didnt know this and you use alot of it as well...modge podge has it's own little diy recipe. It's 3 parts water and 1 part glue-all. That is so much cheaper and let me tell you...i use it as a pouring medium for acrylic fluid painting so I do use lots and it is WONDERFUL. The alternative is very very expensive...liquitex for an 8 ounce bottle is right at $15-$16 and that doesnt get you far at all! It's also the only brand that I have seen in Hobby Lobby AND the only size bottle as well. Anyhow, good luck and thanks for your story. I enjoyed it so much because I thought I was the only person that had a tiny tiny budget and it is a bummer for me. I'm not happy that you have to suffer like a kid in a candy store with only a nickel in your pocket and everything right there in front of you but just out of your reach but it WAS nice to finally know for sure that I am not alone. Email me anytime. My name is Dianna Have a great day.

  19. P.S. You do know about the 40%off coupon for Hobby Lobby, right? It's only online but it is weekly in their ad so screenshot it and it sure will help you out!