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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gesso Stenciling: 2 Ways To Create Texture


Most of you are probably familiar with Gesso. For those who are not, it is a primer for paper and canvas. It provides stiffness and “tooth,” so paints adhere better.

In some instances Gesso also provides a barrier for the paint or ink and stops it from being “sucked” right up by the paper or canvas.

Gesso is most commonly white, even though it is also available in transparent, black and a whole array of colors now.


I often use Gesso in my Art Journaling as well as in my mixed media canvases. Not only for all the above reasons, but also because it can be a great medium to cover up things I want covered, or, applied a little thinner, cover things just enough to give it a great workable surface, but the print or image underneath is still visible!

Lately however, I have been getting into using Gesso for texture! Gesso always provides a little texture, even if just applied in it’s primer function, but it’s mostly just a slight roughening of the surface it’s applied to. I’m talking about real texture!



So, today I will share with you two ways to use Gesso for texture and embellishment on your art journaling pages or mixed media canvases.


You will need:



1.) Place the stencil where you want your texture to be on the page/canvas, scoop a little of the gesso onto your card and then scrape the gesso across the stencil. Random strokes works best, as it creates a less defined edge. Make sure you hold the stencil down well, so it doesn’t move and smudge your stenciled image.



Carefully lift off the stencil.



Let it dry and you have a nice little texture on your page.




See how it’s raised as high as the stencil was thick. Once it’s dry, you can paint over it for subtle texture, or make a feature of it by highlighting it with inks, paint, shimmers or by running your stamp pads randomly and lightly over it. This will highlight the edges as well as random raised parts in the texture which makes for a great background. As it is gesso it will also still take stamps, pens, inks, etc.



2.) Or, you could do this:




Yes, that is the Gesso too, not puffy paint!

How do we do that? Simple!

You do everything as above, only once you pulled the stencil off, instead of letting the gesso just dry, you use a heat gun. You can get in pretty close and within split seconds, you will see the gesso stencil image puff up like this:


I just love how perfectly round they puff up!

And you can control where you want your puffiness by where you point your heat gun, so you can puff up some areas but not others if you so choose!



Once all the areas are puffed up, just let your image cool down and the puffed gesso will dry in place. The great thing about it is, that it is pretty sturdy. It will actually hold that shape, even when you paint over it , but it still has a flexible feel to it, so if you wanted to push the pattern down randomly, it won’t crack or crumble!



In this example, I pushed the dots back down a little, so the ink and shimmer could pool inside the dots too!


In this next example, I left most of it raised!



There are just so many possibilities to work with this stuff and get cool effects! Try coloring your gesso and then scraping it into a stencil! It makes for some awesome images and texture!


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  1. I am just getting into art journaling and am so greatful for tutorials such as this. Thanks, and great job.

  2. Thank you ...can't wait to try these out!

  3. I love gesso! Never thought of using it for texture...love molding paste so I will definitely have to try the gesso.
    Thanks for the idea!

  4. Just found you via Pinterest (so whats new he, he) great tutorial and I love your effects! Thanks for the inspiration, great start to my day!!

  5. I'm so happy you find it useful and so grateful for all the cool people pinterest brings to my blog :)

  6. Found you via Pinterest and am loving all your wonderful hints and info. Thanks so much

  7. Fabulous card and wonderful info here, Birgit!

  8. Loveley colors, Birgit,
    Simple instructions! Thank you for sharing. It was so very helpful.

    Blessings to you,

  9. Wonderful tutorial!

    I am wondering if a water based pigment ink (like from ColorBox) stamped on top of gesso will dry?

    I will of course test it, but wondering if you have already done it.


  10. Great tutorial, thank you!

    I am wondering if a water based pigment ink (like from ColorBox) will dry when stamped on top of a thin layer of gesso on watercolor paper?

    I will test it out, but wondering if you have tried it and had success.


  11. Hi Jeffrey,
    yes it will dry just fine! Be aware however that every consequent layer of color will mix with the one below as any kind of liquid will dissolve the water color again. HTH!

  12. Oh wow, who knew that gesso puffed up. A revealation.... Thanks for the link from lifebook! xx

  13. That is such a neat tip. Who knew Gesso could puff. Thank you

  14. Just bought some gesso and I am looking forward to using it on my projects. Thanks for the tips!

  15. Hi, great info, nice work. Can someome tell me can you use this produ t on wood? Ty (: ...Joy

  16. Thank you for sharing..I am just being introduced to Gesso and other mediums.


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Birgit Kerr