How to Gesso Your Own Painting Surface

After taking a brief, two-week class at Otis College of Art and Design, I learned a bit about priming a Masonite board with gesso. Gesso is thinner than acrylic paint, and helps prepare the surface by making it more textured. Although gessoing your own painting surfaces may sound inconvenient, it costs less than pre-gessoed boards and it is actually quite fun! So, in case you aren’t familiar with the process, I thought I’d share what I learned with you.


  • Masonite board/paper
  • Gesso
  • Wide brush
  • Roller (optional)
  • Coarse sandpaper
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Atomizer/spray bottle
  • Hairdryer (optional)
  • Paper towels


  1. Put a small amount of gesso into a cup (approximately 4 tbsp. for a 1′ by 2′ surface) and add water if necessary. You can also use an atomizer/spray bottle to mist the gesso.
  2. If you’re using a Masonite board, sand the edges and the surface of the board with the coarse sandpaper to make sure it’s smooth.
  3. Mist the surface of the board/paper with water and wipe off the dust from sanding with paper towels (otherwise, your gesso might have a brownish tint).
  4. Mist the surface again to make it easier to apply the gesso.
  5. Use a wide brush (or a roller) to paint on your first coat of gesso. Make large strokes horizontally and vertically. Don’t make the gesso too thick; you’ll do 3 coats in total! If gesso gets on the sides of the board, you can knock it off with the brush.
  6. Wait for the gesso to dry (or use a hairdryer to speed up the process).
  7. Sand the newly gessoed surface with fine sandpaper.
  8. Repeat steps 4-7 two more times. However, after your final coat of gesso, you don’t need to sand the surface.

Now that you’ve gessoed your surface, it’s time to start painting. Good luck!

Photo credit: Tookapic on Pexels.


7 thoughts on “How to Gesso Your Own Painting Surface

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