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Acrylic gesso not only protects raw canvas from the deteriorating effects of oil paints but also creates a smooth and resilient surface that allows oils and acrylics to perform at their very best. Most acrylic gesso is similar to white acrylic paint, but there is a wide variety of consistencies and opacities. Whether a thick, heavily pigmented gesso or a thinner, buildable one is best for you will depend on your medium and your style. Find excellent, reliable options that satisfy a range of preferences below.
Utrecht Professional Acrylic Gesso
Utrecht was one of the first companies to develop a single-step acrylic gesso for use with oil paints. Its archival gesso is thick, with a consistency close to that of Greek yogurt, and can be used straight from the jar for a stiff application that shows brushstrokes. When diluted, the gesso becomes smooth and self-leveling and dries to a rich, opaque white. Because it is made with high-quality titanium dioxide, Utrecht’s gesso provides strong coverage after just one coat.
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Golden Artist Colors Acrylic Gesso
Golden’s gesso is good for artists who prefer a fluid gesso. It applies easily straight from the bottle and self-levels. Despite the thinner consistency, the gesso provides good semi-absorbent coverage. One key aspect of Golden’s product is that it dries quickly and smoothly, minimizing the need to sand the surface and making it an excellent mid-grade choice, especially for those who hate waiting around for their surfaces to be prepared. If you use a lot of gesso, this gallon can is an economical choice.
Liquitex Basics Acrylic Gesso
To get the bad news out of the way first, this gesso has a strong odor. If you’re still reading, congratulations: This lightfast and archival white gesso is an easy-to-use choice at a great price. Not only does it apply smoothly to canvas, but it can prepare paper for acrylic and oil paints as well as charcoal and pastels. The thinner consistency allows artists to build up the exact amount of coverage they want. Also, the gallon size is perfect for classrooms, and unlike similarly priced options, it won’t dry out for quite some time.
ANOTHER GOOD CHOICE
Daniel Smith Acrylic Gesso
Daniel Smith’s high-quality gesso is thick but pourable, making for a smooth and even application. The richly pigmented material is both sturdy and flexible, and it dries quickly to a deep, opaque white. It is also lightfast, archival, and acid-free. Besides the bright Titanium White, Daniel Smith uses largely the same formula to make a luminous Iridescent Gold gesso, which adds a warm shine that is never garish.
Purchase: Daniel Smith Acrylic Gesso, $16.47—$26.77 on Dick Blick
Winsor & Newton Professional Clear Acrylic Gesso
Clear gesso has a number of advantages over white: For one thing, if you have sketched out your painting on your canvas, you can use clear gesso over the top without losing visibility. For another, it allows the natural tone of raw canvas to show through. Windsor & Newton’s gesso is made with a clear resin that has balanced absorbency. Note that it also has a strong tooth, which makes it a favorite for pastel artists, though it can be sanded to create a smoother surface. The relatively small (7.6-fluid-ounce) jars of this gesso are costly, but the quality is worth the price.