I was introduced to clear gesso the other day. I have always used white gesso, added pigment, and applied it to form the foundation layer. If I did the same thing with the clear gesso, will the foundation be more translucent layer of pigment? Will it start streaking?

2 Answers 2


I've used the clear gesso with pigments to create underpainting. Clear gesso mixed with acrylics can achieve a faux watercolor paint effect. (I found an example YouTube video here.) I personally did this a little differently. I mixed the clear gesso with the paint in a little cup and added a few drops of water. I dipped my brush in the paint and painted over dry gesso. (It had a similar effect, but I had more control.)

To answer your question; It is definitely translucent upon drying and would make it more difficult (but not impossible) to achieve an even-toned background. If that is what you are going for, I would definitely stick to the white gesso. But, give the clear gesso a try. I highly suggest experimenting with it!


Clear gesso is useful on several ways. It can also be interchanged with other mediums for other applications. So for instance, you gesso your canvas as a binder, just the same as you prime walls when you are painting your home It seals your under surface and it creates a surface your paint can bond to. If you want a watercolor sort of background & have a white canvas, you can use it like a glaze for sure. You can also use a standard gesso, and once dry opt for a matte or shine medium, regular gel will give you the same luster as an acrylic paint. So you can then overcoat your white gesso with using a gel medium or some other extender. You can also use water if you make sure you use no more than 25%, anything more & you can impact the ability of the paint to bond.

That said, the other use, which is really what makes clear gesso great is in applications that are multimedia. So you can say, decoupage over a canvas, then coat it in clear gesso (it will end up totally clear) and now you have a surface that paints will bond well with and you can overpaint what is on there without risking bonding issues or smearing what you have below. You might get some smearing with the clear gesso, but typically less than you would on straight acrylics. I love the effect of doing a pencil sketch, basic or colored pencils, sealing with clear gesso & then using clear gesso to thin my paints to a glaze & overpainting.

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