How To Make A Simple Gesso
What is gesso? In our context it is a base upon which
to lay imitation gold leaf or gold leaf.
Why use it? Mainly because it opens up a whole new world of
creative possibilities for those working with a surface that
can accept it. And of course if you are thinking of repairing a
damaged picture frame which has an original
You can purchase a ready
made gesso made from acrylics, but you
cannot burnish it, I never use it
myself, the main reason being I have got used to making my
When it comes to making your own gesso there are very many
recipes to choose from, each one depends on what the basic
ingredients consist of as to how it turns out. I have
tried many recipes and most work ok.
I use a simple recipe we developed from trying many others,
it consists of gilders whiting (finely ground chalk) animal
glue and water, it is simple to make and gives very good
How to use
The thickness of the gesso you need will depend on the item
to be gilded, if you are wanting to gild something with fine
detail you will need a thinner coating than if you want to
obtain a rough distressed finish. The thinner type should
be built up in coats, whereas the thicker variety only
needs one coat.
The only equipment you need is a water jacketed glue boiler,
however these are expensive so I make do with a tin can placed
inside a saucepan, the can needs to be placed on spacers to
keep the bottom of the can away from the heat.
The glue should never exceed about 135 degrees Fahrenheit or
Exceeding this temperature will dramatically weaken the
glues ability to adhere.
In practice this means keeping the saucepan on a low
Put the glue and water into the can and leave overnight or
until all the glue has dissolved in the water, I normally heat
the water first, this speeds up the melting of the glue. Then
gently sift the chalk or whiting into the water and stir gently
taking care that air bubbles do not form. I keep the flame
under the saucepan turned down very low so that the water is
only on a gentle heat.
Then it is simply a question of brushing on the gesso in
whatever way you desire, if you are gessoing a complex picture
frame you will want to keep the coating thin in order to
maintain the contours of the frame. If however your main
interest is in making the surface look irregular and
"interesting" you can manipulate the thicker gesso into
When you have finished laying the gesso you can then apply
the red ground mentioned on the "grounds" page, when dry the
leaf can then be applied...and remember all these processes are
covered in the manuals available from the download page. There
is a project kit available which includes
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