DIY - How To Gesso Canvas or Board

Learn how to prime your canvas with Gesso and what Gesso is used for. Gessoing a canvas or priming a board is an easy task to do yourself. Find out what supplies you need to gesso and prime your more


How to prime your own canvas and board for painting!


Have you ever found the perfect painting surface -- be it canvas, paper, panel, board, or even a wall-- but it is bare and unprimed? Never fear! Gessoing a canvas or priming a board is an easy task to do yourself, and you wind up with your ideal painting surface with just a minimum of effort!


Supplies Needed:

  • Raw canvas, wood panel, heavyweight paper... whatever you'd like to paint on!
  • Primer suited to your chosen painting medium: gesso for acrylics or oils, oil primer for oils or alkyds, pastel primer, absorbent gesso for watercolors... take your pick!
  • A wide, soft-bristle primer brush
  • A very small amount of patience!

How To Prime a Canvas Instructions:

  • Step 1: First, ensure your surface is clean and free from dirt or oils. A quick wipe with a paper towel or some rubbing alcohol should be more than enough.
  • Step 2: Take the primer brush and dip it into the gesso -- most primers are ready to use right out of the tub, and so long as you don't drop stuff in it, you can use it straight from the packaging.
  • Step 3: Apply the gesso in a thin, even coat to the surface, working all in one direction (say, all horizontal strokes, or all vertical ones).
  • Step 4: Allow the first coat to dry. (This is where the patience comes in! If your gesso is acrylic, you can speed the drying time with a hair dryer.)
  • Step 5: Lightly sand the dried gesso with regular sandpaper. This both smooths any ridges left by the brush, and allows for a slight "tooth" for good adhesion of following layers.
  • Step 6: Apply a second layer of gesso, working the brush in the opposite direction from the first layer.
  • Step 7: Allow to dry again, sand again, and repeat steps 3 through 5 as many times as you like!

Ta-da! Once your final layer of gesso is dry and lightly sanded, you are ready to paint! Many artists like to go through and prime a large number of canvases or boards at one time, to ensure there's always the perfect surface ready whenever inspiration strikes.

Gessoing your own canvas

For a handy reminder sheet on DIY canvas gessoing, feel free to print out this PDF and keep it in your studio!

Jerry's Best Selling Acrylic Gesso

Jerry's Best Selling Gesso

World's Greatest Acrylic Gesso Primer


Interested in reading more? Check out this post provided by Ampersand artist panels, on how to prime boards for painting.

Artist Joe diGiulio explains how to use some of our favorite primers: Matisse Acrylic Gesso and Grounds. Check out his advice in the video below!

What about you? Do you prime your own panels or canvas for painting? What's your favorite gesso, medium, and priming method?

Tell us about it in the comments below!


Celebrity Art Investors - A New Kind of Patronage

Celebrities and famous people that buy and collect art. From Eric Clapton to Leonardo DiCaprio, celebrities decide to spend millions of dollars on collecting art. What are they collecting? Read more...

Celebrities from Eric Clapton to Steve Martin, David Bowie to Brangelina, Leonardo DiCaprio are all investing in and collecting art!

Celebrity and famous art collectors

Over the centuries, artists have relied on patrons — wealthy people with good taste — to support their lives and art. Without patronage of the arts, the world may never have heard of the likes of Michelangelo or William Shakespeare. Yes — it's been that important! But then, art became a commodity.

Paintings and fine sculptures were once displayed in places for all to see. For example, the art was on the ceiling of a cathedral, perhaps, or in the midst of an ancient plaza. At some point, someone said, "Oh, no, no. That can't be left there. I'll be needing that for display in my study."

Art is so precious because it is so rare. In fact, with the exception of Warholian methods of mass production, no two pieces of art — even by the same hand — can ever be made exactly alike. As art became a privatized collection, it has only increased in value exponentially. Investing in art has become increasingly fashionable, particularly over the last decade. Art is a luxury asset, and a tangible one at that. Perhaps we can even infer that considering the recent downturn that intangible assets such as stocks and bonds have taken, it only makes sense that investors would be seeking an object they can actually hold onto.

Financiers, celebrities, and royalty are becoming more and more ubiquitous in the salesrooms of the auction houses in London and New York. But the difference between this new kind of investment and the patronage of days gone by is that the art these high-profile people are collecting are pricy pieces from already-made names. Here's a brief list of celebrities and the artists whose works they have purchased, just to illustrate this point:

  • Steve Martin: Picasso, Georgia O'Keefe, Roy Lichtenstein
  • Steven Spielberg: Norman Rockwell
  • Elton John: Damien Hirst, Picasso, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Matisse
  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie: Banksy
  • Oprah Winfrey: Faith Ringgold
  • Madonna: Frida Kahlo, Damien Hirst, Picasso
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber: Pre-Raphaelites
  • Elizabeth Taylor: Van Gogh
  • Cheech Marin: Patssi Valdez
  • Gianni Versace: Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat
  • David Bowie: Balthus, Rubens, Tintoretto

Leonardo DiCaprio has decided to invest his millions into the art industry, he has been spotted at a various amount of Galleries, and Art auction houses. Leonardo was spotted viewing Andy Warhol’s ‘Flowers’ at the Eykyn Maclean gallery and later attended the Contemporary Art Auction at Christie’s Auction House.

This is just a very small sample, but the point is that the works celebrities have purchased are iconic. And the fact that a celebrity has purchased these famous pieces increases the value of not only the art, but the artist as well. Values on these artists — Picasso and Hirst seem particularly popular — have really skyrocketed in the years following this trend.

But of all the celebrity purchases, none has been more newsworthy than Eric Clapton's investment which recently made headlines. Clapton was worth around $200 million before he unloaded several paintings from his personal art collection at an auction. He walked away $30 million richer. Most notably, a piece by German painter Gerhard Richter sold for more than twice the listed price -- the highest sum ever paid for a piece by a living artist!

Interestingly, this may not have been the result of sheer luck or fortunate circumstance on Clapton's part. The great guitar player studied at the Kingston College of Art in the early 1960s. Until recently, his investments were something of a side hobby when he had extra cash. For Clapton, his background knowledge earned him a 965% return on investment in just 10 years. Who says studying liberal arts doesn't pay off?


Check out some more celebrity art lovers here. What do you think? Is modern-day patronage of the arts a boon or a bane to professional artists?

Tell us about it in the comments below!

Know any other celebrities, famous art collectors and investors? Have more to add to the list? Please add them to the comments below.


Professional Artist Andy Russell - Artist Spotlight

Dreamscape painter Andy Russell loves Matisse acrylics!


Artist Andy Russell is widely recognized as a master in acrylic painting. He embarked on his artistic journey over 35 years ago, when he began having recurring dreams of vibrant and ethereal landscapes, which he then started translating into acrylic paintings of immense detail and glowing tones. He describes his painting style as "extended realism" — peaceful, utopian dreamscapes with impossible foliage and amazing architecture. Russell’s unique style is accomplished through multiple glazes and layers of acrylic paint, and he finds the Matisse line to be perfectly suited to his painting technique!


Watch the video below to hear about Andy's background, inspiration and technique in his own words, and get a glimpse into his perfect worlds!

Andy Russell on Matisse Acrylic Paints...

"Matisse Acrylic Paints have proven to be a pleasure to work with in so many ways. They are of the highest quality, richly pigmented and creamy smooth and perfect for the professional artist.

"I use Matisse Structure Acrylics for a thick textured, bold impasto look and Matisse Flow Acrylics for the smooth, highly detailed results. They are also excellent for covering large areas.

"I love colors and they come in a full range, which makes me feel like a kid in a candy store. I almost think of them as flavors. I really like their unique colors such a Cadmium Orange Deep, Australian Red Violet and Australian Blue Gum, Australian Salmon Gum and Australian Sienna. After years of painting in acrylics, it is exciting and refreshing to use these new colors. Discovering them was like getting a 'booster shot' of creativity for my work.

"Matisse has everything I need from mixing mediums to varnishes, from Background Colors to Mix-In Dry Mediums. I have found that using Matisse Background Colors are great for covering large areas. I use a lot of Phthalo Blue in my skies, which is very transparent and requires at least six coats for my purposes. I have discovered I can use one coat of Midnight Blue Background Color and only two coats of Phthalo over that and get the same results. This not only saves money but also leaves me more time for the more creative parts of the work.

"I plan on trying almost everything they offer as I go and can hardly wait to experiment in opening new avenues for creativity.

"I have realized that mixing their Magenta Light and Cadmium Yellow Medium with varying amounts of Titanium White gives me a glowing, brilliant color for sunset and sunrise skies.

"Spreader Medium is perfect for the glazing technique. It gives a smooth, even coat of transparent color for brilliant results.

"I am completely sold on Matisse Acrylic Paints. I highly encourage every artist, professional or pleasure painter, to experience these paints for themselves."

Andy Russell

Learn more about painter Andy Russell and Matisse Acrylics, and visit his official website at

What do you think of Andy's beautifully surreal paintings?  What have your experiences with Matisse Acrylic Paints been? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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