Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Question About Gesso

I have a question to others who use Acrylic Gesso prime their supports.

I buy quarts of Gesso and prime several supports (mainly Masonite panels) at a time. After a while LUMPS of semi-dry gesso develop and as I apply the gesso, I need to pick these lumps out of the still wet gesso on the panel. After I've picked off the lumps I need to "fix" the places where the lumps were. Aaaarrrghhhhhh!!!!!

I think it happens after I've lowered the level in the gesso container and the top of the gesso begins to set up and form a "skin".

Does anybody have a solution to this problem? Maybe storing in progressively smaller containers? Or is this something I need to accept as one of life's burdens?

Sept 9, 2009 - See Gesso Question Part 2


  1. I've run into the same problem, and it is the dried clumps from the top areas of the container.
    I now decant some gesso into a smaller plastic tub (Like a large yogurt container) with a tight lid. I thin the first gesso layers with a little water. I then add to the mix w/more pure gesso for subsequent layers. Wipe the lip and edges of the container with paper towel frequently. I keep the lid on the container between applications, and try to dip from the bottom, and not wipe the brush on the edges.
    Would be interested to hear how others solve the issue, too.

  2. Hi Liz. I've been searching for answers using Google and haven't found much! I did find some forum threads in The bottom line there is this:
    #1 - decant into progressively smaller containers.
    #2 - store the gesso container upside down. (?!)

    It seems to me that the "gunk" forms on the sides of the container - not the surface. I don't know how inverting the container eliminates that.

    I'm going to try storing my gesso in "soft side" plastic bottles. I'll then squeeze the air out and tighten the lid when I store the gesso. I'm thinking a 2 liter Pepsi/Coke/soda/pop/soda pop bottle (or whatever a carbonated soft drink is called in your neck of the woods).

    I always called all carbonated soft drinks Coke. Then I'd specify that I wanted Coca Cola, Pepsi, 7UP or whatever. I think I've strayed - as usual.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :-)
    Ken B.

  3. Hi Ken,

    Keeping a tight seal on the lid is the best bet to avoiding the 'gunk'. Another thing you could try is straining the gunky paint through a nylon stocking into a fresh container before applying (you may want to thin with water a bit first).

    I think the reason there's a tip to store the gesso upside-down is two-fold:
    1. It forms an additional seal against outside air; contact with air is a major cause of gunk.
    2.Gesso separates, so by turning right side up when about to use, it starts the remixing process.

    I'd be curious to hear how the soft side bottles work. They might work pretty good, as I use to store acrylic paints in the old style plastic film cans with success (oddly, oil based paints dry right up in plastic, though)

    If you have room, storing in a fridge might also slow the gunking up process.

    Hope this helps!

  4. Hi there, "R". Thanks for your thoughts on this. The upside down "trick" seems to put the air on the "bottom" of the jar but still has the air.

    I'm going to try the upside down method, AND the soft-side plastic bottles. I usually buy only quarts because of this lumping/clumping dilemma. I think that larger volumes cost less.

    Anything for science and art!!!! :-)
    Ken B.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.