Can You Thicken Acrylic Paint With Gesso? (Here Is How)

Yes, you can make the acrylic paint thicker with gesso. While you may add gesso to the paint, it doesn’t make the solution thicker. In reality, gesso boasts the consistency of liquid acrylics. Therefore, when you mix it with heavy acrylics, it tends to thin them out.

However, there is an exception to this.

You might often hear artists complain about runny acrylic paint. These kinds of paint vary from one brand to another. And, sometimes you may find them too thin compared to the other. However, the question is how to make the paint a bit thicker. And, can you thicken it with gesso?

Yes, you can thicken acrylic paint with gesso. If you have just started on acrylics, you should be wondering what gesso is. While you might be tempted to add some household mixture to make the acrylic thicker, you should consider a few things. This article tells you about the glories of gesso.

What Is Gesso?

It is an integral part of your art supply for your canvas to get ready for painting. Gesso is available at your nearby art supply store. Gesso and white acrylic paint are quite similar. But the former one is a bit thinner. It makes the surface stiffer because it dries faster. 

Gesso prepares the surface well for painting. It makes the surface textured so that it can accept acrylic paint. The paint soaks into the canvas’s weave if you don’t apply gesso to the surface. What makes gesso stand out from other alternatives is that you can apply it to almost any kind of surface.

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And, you can work on the surface with acrylics. For instance, you can apply a couple of layers of gesso to cigar boxes, rubber duckies, or vinyl records. And, paint on the objects with acrylic paint. So much fun, isn’t it? The possibilities of exploring with gesso are endless.

Uses of gesso:

You can use gesso for many things. Here are some of them.

  • To cover up an acrylic painting
  • Act as a primer for a raw substrate such as wood, MDF, or canvas
  • Titanium White replacement 
  • Behaves as a transparent layer to dim something bright
  • To accept and repel paint with stencils 

Are There Issues With Paint Hacks?

When it comes to painting, artists tend to come up with cheaper solutions. Sometimes, they turn out to ordinary household products for thickening things. Flour or corn starch are the most common ingredients. While they might appear incredible hacks, you have to consider long-term consequences. 

The main concern here is about the longevity of the painting. The hacks are temporary, but you may want your paintings to last for a prolonged time.

When you add an unknown element, it compromises the archival qualities of the painting. In short, you have to choose the right gesso to have a professional impact.

You should use proper gesso when you are making art to give away as gift items to your near and dear ones or charity. Or, sell it for professional purposes. Keep in mind that nothing ruins your credibility for being an artist other than a cracked or chipped painting because of the wrong materials. 

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How To Thicken Acrylic Paint With Gesso?

The gesso should be extra thick. Some popular brands provide super heavy gesso that you can use to thicken the paint. It is not commonly found in art or craft supply stores. So, you have to make an online purchase. 

Keep in your mind that gesso dries and gives a matte finish. That way, it can make the paint a little more matte. Another big issue with gesso is that it has an opaque white color. So, when you add it to the acrylic paints, they lighten the colors.

Do You Need Gesso If The Canvas Is Pre-primed?

You can find most canvases pre-primed these days. It means you can start painting them with acrylics after taking them out from the packaging. But sometimes you may feel that the canvas lacks absorbency. Hence, it is recommended to give the canvas a couple of coats with gesso. 

So, how can you tell whether the canvas lacks absorbency? Paint onto the canvas and observe a few things. Look out if the paint sinks to the canvas weave or mottles on the surface. If any of them happens, it’s a good idea to give the canvas a couple of gesso or so.

Whether or not to gesso your canvas is up to your choice. There is no correct way to determine this. It depends on how you can make the paint look beautiful. Many contemporary painting styles might benefit from directly painting onto the canvas without using gesso.

How To Prime Canvas With Gesso

Priming a canvas with gesso is pretty easy. Use a flat, wide brush to apply gesso on the canvas. A bigger surface needs a bigger brush. Dip the brush into the gesso and paint it onto the canvas. Try to cover the whole surface of the canvas. This is how you can prime the canvas.

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There is no right or wrong way of priming a canvas. And, it depends on what type of painting you are creating. The consistency of gesso helps in determining the depth of the solution. If needed, you may apply little water. When you thin gesso with water, it makes the layer smoother.

If you want a smooth, nice coat, make sure to go over the surface many times with the brush. As such, the canvas soaks the gesso evenly. Sometimes, lumps of gesso gather on the canvas because of the brushstroke. Use another dry brush to go over the lumps to smoothen them out.

To make the surface extra smooth, you can use sandpaper. Use it to gently sand between each layer. However, ensure the surface is dry enough before attempting the feat. As said, it depends on personal preferences on how many coats of gesso you want on the canvas. 


Quite similar to white acrylic paint, gesso is much thinner. It dries hard and makes the surface stiffer. It prepares the surface perfect for painting. Gesso makes the surface super smooth and ready for acrylic paint. 

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