Using Clear Gesso on Coloring Pages

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Why Use Gesso on your coloring pages?

Gesso is an art material that is commonly used by painters to prepare the work surface before applying acrylic paints. It is available in numerous formats (coarse, medium and fine textured) as well as different colors including black and white and clear. As well as being used on canvas, gesso can also be applied to paper to prepare it for other materials and give the paper a tooth.

Have you ever come across a coloring book that doesn’t like your favorite medium or was not designed for it?

Paper Variations

I’m sure most of us have in our collection a variety of coloring books. Some have thick paper, some thin and some medium. The problem is all of our coloring books have different types of paper. Even if it is the same book some books are printed in different countries or even different print centre regions, so there is no uniformity of coloring book paper across the board.

Although Create Space paper cops a lot of flak I have experienced problems with paper in a lot of my high end coloring books.

Create Space Paper

Many colorists dislike Create Space paper in their coloring books. Even Create Space uses different papers. First there is colored tradestock for example you may have seen that in Colorist’s Special Effects and white tradestock (most often used) as well as cream tradestock. The tradestock paper used varies depending on the print center that prints out the book (they are not centrally printed) and the country that is printing the book, just to make things more confusing! Add to this there have been times that Create Space have changed the paper weight (probably an experiment) and then changed it back again. This can be even more confusing for a colorist because you may buy two copies of the book. One book may have been pre printed and sent out to Amazon in anticipation of sales (example Christmas rush) while the other may be printed on demand. So, it’s possible you could end up with two books, by the same artist, with different paper quality in them.

Gesso to the rescue

A lot of my favorite artists use Create Space to print their books which usually represent great value for a colorist and are usually printed on single pages.

Gesso solves a lot of the problems that colorists can experience.    As it primes the paper it makes it possible to use mediums like watercolors, inktense and markers on your coloring pages where you may not have previously been able to.  In Create Space books it creates a sturdier page to work with.

Using Pencils

You can also use pencils on the pages that have applied a clear gesso  to.   Although it seems obvious that you can use coloring pencils on coloring pages sometimes the paper in the book does not react well with our pencil of choice.    There are so many brands and grades of pencils that it would be extremely difficult to find one brand of pencil that works well with every coloring page produced.

Pencils vary in the way that they are created (wax/oil/combination) and the amount of pigment in the pencil and binder material that holds the pencil core together.    Add to that,  everyone has a different way of using a pencil and the way your style is may not work well with the paper in the book.

This means that  coloring your page may be more challenging and a lot less fun while you struggle to blend on the page.    If you have a large amount of brands of pencils in your stash, then you may find another pencil to color with that is not as fussy.   If you do not though, then you may want to try using gesso on the page to see if that improves your experience of using pencils on the page.

Always test on a page that you do not like or an ancillary page (title, copyright) in your coloring book.

Using Wet Media

One of the main reasons to use Gesso though is to use wet media on paper that was never designed to hold it.      This means being able to use your watercolors, inktense, markers and paints on paper that may have been too light to hold these layers without absorbing into it.

You can see my experiments with various mediums in the video above.

Experiments with Gesso

To ensure that your coloring page is clear,  I used a clear gesso.    There are many brands of  gesso on the market, some of which are colored and some have more texture to hold different mediums.    As we are using this on a light weight material we want a fine gesso that doesn’t leave a textural finish on the page so we can apply our favorite mediums.

To prepare your coloring book ensure that you have covered the pages behind in clear plastic.  I used clear plastic folders that slotted over the page easily.  You could also tape your page down with low tack masking tape to ensure that it doesn’t buckle when the medium is applied.    My experiments with this last year were a massive fail as the tape that I used was far too tacky.   What I do now is just pop the plastic folder around the pages underneath and when the gesso has dried,  I place books on top to straighten any page curling.

Applying the gesso is easy,  you only need a small amount of product and you can pop it direct on the page or scoop it on with your tool of choice.   You could use a big brush, foam brush or a sturdy plastic card.   I like the card as it is easier to clean off afterwards and easy to scrape off excess gesso.    I applied one coat of gesso first.  After that was dry, I applied another coat.   Two coats ensures that all areas are adequately coated.

In the video above, I experimented with clear gesso on a coloring book that had medium quality paper and a Create Space coloring Book.      The mediums used were gel pencils, prismacolors, polychromos, watercolors, inktense, markers, acrylic paints and black gesso.

As this is a long video you can skip ahead to the mediums that interest you by following the links below:

Gel Pens

Prismacolor pencils

Polychromo pencils

Tombow markers

Neocolor II


Ergosoft watercolor

Prismacolor watercolor

Bic markers

Copic markers

Spectrum Noir Markers

Acrylic Paint

Posca pen

Chalk pen

Black gesso

DIY Gesso

Of course,  you do not have to purchase store bought gesso but can make your own.     Most items you might have in the  home the principal agreement of marble dust can be purchased from art stores and sometimes hardware stores.    There are many tutorials for DIY gesso on You Tube.   If you are choosing one remember to select a clear gesso.

This DIY clear gesso by  is the one that I may follow when I make my own (who knows when that will be lol).

Have fun experimenting with gesso in your coloring books but remember to test on pages that you are not in love first.   We all have different styles, different paper and sometimes gesso.   To  avoid tears and buyer’s remorse make sure to test on a page you hate or an ancillary page before diving in.

Happy coloring x


About the author


I'm Lea and I love everything to do with coloring! If it is a coloring book, a poster or even a bookmark that you can color in, I'm all over it. Of course, a girl has to have some pencils, markers, gelly rolls, pastels and what not to make those pictures pretty and I love those as well.

Whilst my coloring style lacks skill, I am enthusiastic and focused on enjoying the moment and having fun.

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