A place for Drachenwald's scribes to hang out, learn, discuss and critique each others work.

Monday, January 05, 2009


Hi kids!!

Okay so once again the questions about gesso came up at an event and here is the recipe I use for the easy gesso.

1 part gum arabic powder
4 parts distilled water
1 part raw or unrefined brown sugar ( I tried white sugar and it was a disaster)
gouache paint or colour....

add water and gum stirring slowly allow mixture to sit until all the
powder is disolved. Add the sugar stirring slowly, avoids bubbles... I
have to then sieve this mixture through a stocking to get all the lumps
out. add pigment and voila.

apply to area to be guilded a couple of coats you can actually make this
guide raised if the mix is just right allow 24 hrs to dry depending on
humidity lvl in room.

Some things to note. If you get a crackline texture with the gesso then you might have either too much sugar or too little Gummi arrabicum adjust the levels a bit.

If the stuff stays gooey you probably have too much sugar.

make SMALL amounts, a little goes a long way and because there is sugar in it it can get moldy. I sometimes drop a teeny smidgen of oil of clove in to keep the mold at bay but too much makes the gesso oily and your gold wont stick.

*edit* I use tablespoons so 1 to 4 to 1 tablespoon and it's A LOT.

It can dry in up to 2 hours or take as long as a day depending on the humidity in your home, if you can't get the gold to stick then it's too dry and you may need to reapply more gesso if the gold soaks into the gesso you havn't let it dry long enough. If your gold flakes off the gesso wasn't not sticky enough reactivate it by blowing on it with a straw and try again. Wose case reapply more gesso or wet it lightly with a brush.

you can keep your leftovers in a jar but be warned sometimes the stuff gets moldy and it settles so when you go to use it again you will have to remix it. ( the gum arabic separates from the rest as well sa the pigment.)

I find I get a fantastic burnish with this stuff, using a proper burnishing tool and patience. I also get raised gilding using this gesso, it requires you layer the gesso down and make sure that the previous layer is dry before setting down the next.

small air bubbles can be broken with a pin or needle and if you dab the point with a bit of ear wax it's easier to attack the bubble ( not kidding ear wax = great bubble busting stuff) if you're squeemish about that then try a tiny amount of some sort of oil but be warned oil can make your gold NOT stick.

The consistency should be that of warm honey, a liquid but not watery and not thick either. You aught to be able to push the stuff around a bit with your brush.

this recipe comes from the The Guilded Page by Kathleen P. Whitley ( you can get the book via amazon on the ling at the side bar.)

here is the site address to obtain a nice period easy to use gesso powder

This stuff is also VERY nice and easy to use. I have been very happy with the results.


Melisende Fitzwalter said...

Thank you, I have to learn how to make this properly! I have some rabbit hide glue - do you think I could substitute the gum arabic for that?

Merlyn Gabriel said...

I have no idea. The gum is used as the binder so if the rabbit glue is used the for the same reason then you could always try it and see what happens.


Trinite Ducalon said...

Woot! Thank you! I look forward to giving this a try!