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Bible Journaling: Let’s Talk About Gesso


It doesn’t matter if you are new to Bible Journaling or have been doing it for awhile now, everyone always wants to know about gesso.

I always get questions about clear gesso like:

1. What is it?

2. What does it do?

3. Is it really necessary?

4. What are the best brands to use in my Bible?

Let’s see if I can answer these and other questions you might have about this interesting craft product.

1. What is it? What does it do?

Google says:

“Gesso is very similar to white acrylic paint, only thinner. It dries hard, making the surface stiffer. Gesso prepares (or “primes”) the surface for painting, making the surface slightly textured and ready to accept acrylic paint. Without gesso, the paint would soak into the weave of the canvas or paper.”

I use clear gesso so that my paint and inks don’t go through to the other side of my pages. So if I want to work on the backside I can do it using a (mostly) blank canvas.

2. Is it really necessary?

I know a lot of Bible journalers do not use it. They don’t mind the paint and ink on the other side of the page. For me, I find it a necessity.

3. How do I use it?

First I put a Non-Stick Craft Mat Sheet under the page I am going to work on. Then I shake up my jar of clear gesso and I use an old gift card or one of these Illustrated Faith Paint It Paint Cards or a palette knife to smear on a very thin layer of gesso on my page. Then I dry it using my Ranger Heat It Craft Tool. (Don’t use a hairdryer, they could burn your page.) I apply a second layer of gesso the same way and dry it as well.

Sometimes my pages curl after they dry. Just gently fix the page so it is laying flat and close your Bible for a few minutes. It will then straighten out once more.

4. What are the best brands to use in my Bible?

Here are the two brands I have had great success with:


Prima Marketing Art Basics Clear Gesso, 8.5-Ounce

Purchased from Amazon


Prima marketing-art basics gesso: clear. Clear matte ground acrylic. Works well as a primer and sealer on most surfaces including canvas wood paper metal chipboard fabric plastic and more! works well for a variety of color products providing a non-yellowing clear background. Gesso is water-based but permanent and flexible after drying. Will mix with pigments or acrylic paints to create a range of customized colored grounds. This package contains one 8.5oz Jar of clear gesso. Non-Toxic. Conforms to ASTM d4236. Imported.

The picture above shows you what my page looked like after I applied two coats of the gesso.


Here is the page after I use gelatos and gel pens on it.

Below is that back of that page. Nothing leaked though except on the edges where I wasn’t careful and the paint got on the craft mat and smeared it a bit.

So that was my fault!  lol…


Both gesso’s that I am showing here do make your page a little (and I mean little) sandy feeling to the touch. You actually want that! If it wasn’t like that the paints could not get a good hold of your paper and would try to run off.

Now there is another brand I tried ( Liquitex Professional Clear Gesso Surface Prep Medium) that was way too grainy and tore my page when I was painting. It is cheaper but it is not worth the price when you are using it in your Bible.


Dina Wakley Media Clear Gesso 4oz Jar

Purchased from Amazon


Perfect for applying to surfaces where you want the background to show through Media Clear Gesso provides tooth for the paint to grab but allows any underlays to show. Great for sealing layers Clear Gesso is ideal for making slippery surfaces more workable. This package one 4 oz. jar. Conforms to ASTM D 4236. Non-toxic. Acid-free.

Above picture shows what I did to this page after I applied two layers. Sorry – I forgot to take a picture of the page with just the gesso on it but it looked just the same as the Prima gesso page.


Now for some reason, I did not gesso the entire page. I honestly wasn’t planning on putting the Tim Holtz Distress Inks all over the page. Here on the back, you can see where I had stopped the gesso because the inks start showing up.

Here is one more question I always hear:

5. Is Mod Podge ok to use?

The simple answer – NO!

The longer answer –  Mod Podge is a glue/ sealer. It is not made to use on Bible pages in place of gesso. Now I understand it is easier to find and cheaper but in the long run, it will damage your Bible. I know I don’t want to spend years on my Bibles only to lose them all to Mod Podge. I have heard and seen what damage it can do and it is not pretty. For instance – if you live in a humid area Mod Podge (even after it is properly dried) will glue the pages of your Bible together. You will lose all your artwork and notes you have written. For me, it is just not worth it!

I hope that helps answer some of the questions you might have about clear gesso. If I missed anything please feel free to ask!

Products I used in this review:

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