How to Make Black Gesso

Use white gesso to make your own gesso in any shade.
Use white gesso to make your own gesso in any shade. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

Gesso is used to prime a canvas, or other material, before painting over it with other art materials. Typically, gesso is white, but some artists prefer to begin their work on a black or tinted background. Designs with large areas of dark colors, or images requiring light-colored shapes and letters to pop out from the background, are often better suited for a painting surface primed in black gesso. Black gesso can easily be made at home from white gesso and acrylic paints.

Things You'll Need

  • White gesso
  • Empty paint container
  • Black acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush or mixing stick

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Pour enough of the white gesso to cover the material you wish to prime into the paint container. White gesso can be purchased at most art and craft supply stores.

Pour some black acrylic paint into the container with the white gesso. When mixing paint it takes a much smaller amount of a darker color to change a light color than it does a lighter color to change a dark one. Therefore, it is best to add the black acrylic paint to the white gesso rather than the white gesso to the black acrylic paint.

Mix the gesso and acrylic paint together thoroughly with your paintbrush or mixing stick. Continue adding black acrylic paint and mixing it thoroughly into the gesso until the desired black hue is reached.

Coat your canvas or painting surface with a thin layer of the black gesso. Allow the gesso to dry completely before applying additional paint and art materials to the canvas.


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