Gesso vs Acrylic Medium ( Key Differences)

Are you ready to create a beautiful canvas masterpiece? Have you heard of Gesso and Acrylic medium paints but are not sure of the difference between them? Whether you’re an aspiring artist or a professional painter, Gesso and Acrylic medium paints are key components for creating amazing works of art.

Gesso is a special type of paint that prepares your canvas so it’s ready for your masterpiece. It’s an essential part of any successful artwork, especially if you’re using acrylic paints. While both are popular materials used in art making, some key differences between them can make a big impact on your artwork.

Gesso vs Acrylic Medium
Gesso vs Acrylic Medium

Let’s look at the difference between these two versatile materials.

Differences Between Gesso vs Acrylic Medium

Gesso and acrylic mediums are two types of painting mediums that have distinct characteristics and use. Gesso is a white, opaque primer composed of gypsum dust, chalk, and titanium dioxide, while the acrylic medium is a liquid paint made from acrylic resin and pigment.

Here are some key differences between them:


Gesso is a primer made up of calcium carbonate, acrylic polymer, and water. It provides a smooth, consistent surface that can absorb paint better. Acrylic medium paint is composed of acrylic polymer, pigment, and water.

These components create a thicker paint that can be applied directly to the surface without needing additional preparation.


Gesso is used as a base layer for paintings as it ensures the best quality painting experience by providing a strong foundation for the colors to adhere to. Acrylic medium paint is designed for creating paint that can be used to decorate and embellish any surface in an artsy manner.


Gesso is usually applied with a brush or roller in thin layers before painting begins. This method allows the painter to sand down the surface if necessary before applying additional layers or colors.

Gesso vs Acrylic Medium artwork
Gesso vs colored Acrylic Medium arts

Depending on the desired effect, acrylic medium paint can be applied with a brush, palette knife, or any other tool. The type of application also determines how thickly it can be spread over the canvas before drying.


Gesso is more absorbent than acrylic medium paint due to its ability to soak up more pigment, meaning it sinks into the surface. Meanwhile, acrylic medium paint tends to remain on top of the surface rather than being absorbed into it.

This means that when using either gesso or acrylic medium to create a painting, one will experience a different effect depending on which material was used as a base layer.


The texture created by gesso is slightly grainy and matte in nature, while the texture resulting from using acrylic medium paints can vary depending on the additives used.

Generally speaking, acrylic mediums are much smoother than gesso and may also allow for different textures, including bumps and ridges if desired.


Gesso is usually white or off-white in color and not transparent at all, whereas acrylic medium paints may be transparent, semi-transparent, or opaque, depending upon the pigment used. This factor should be considered when deciding which material to use for a particular project.

Drying Time

Gesso dries relatively quickly and often within 30 minutes of being applied; however, the drying time for acrylic medium paints may vary based on how thickly it was applied and environmental factors such as humidity levels and temperature.

Therefore, one should consider these variables before beginning any project involving either material to avoid potential delays or complications due to drying times.


Gesso is highly durable and made from a mixture of plaster and chalk. When applied to a surface, gesso creates a hard, durable base that can last for many years and is resistant to moisture, heat, and other elements.

On the other hand, acrylic medium paint has a shorter lifespan than gesso due to its water-based nature. Acrylic medium paint also tends to crack or flake off after long exposure to sunlight or extreme temperatures.


Gesso is more versatile than acrylic medium paint because it can be used on almost any surface, including wood, metal, and canvas. Also, gesso can be mixed with pigment to create different textures and effects.

Using gesso on art book
Applying gesso on art book

In contrast, acrylic medium paints have specific surfaces they work best with, such as wood or canvas, so they are not quite as versatile as gesso.


Gesso provides excellent adhesion between the surface and the paint due to its strong binding components. Gesso can also act as a primer on certain surfaces before applying additional layers of paint for better results.

On the contrary, acrylic medium paints often require additional preparation before being applied onto surfaces for strong adhesion. This could include sanding or using an abrasive scrubber on some surfaces.


Gesso can act as a sealant and primer when applied onto surfaces since it is made up of plaster and chalk, forming a hard layer that protects against environmental factors such as moisture or heat damage.

In comparison, acrylic medium paints often require an additional sealant in order to achieve optimal protection from environmental factors such as sunlight or extreme temperatures over time.


Gesso typically does not get mixed with paint since it already contains its own binding components, which hold the pigment together when dried, thus negating any need for additional mixing of colorants into the primer itself.

On the flip side, acrylic medium paints require mixing with pigment to produce different colors and effects on various materials like wood or canvas when dried correctly.


Gesso is typically cheaper than acrylic medium paint due to its cost-effectiveness in larger quantities and its longevity over time. Conversely, acrylic medium paints usually cost more due to their water-based nature, which requires frequent purchases of new paint for best results.

Unleash Your Inner Artist with Gesso and Acrylic Medium

To sum up, it’s important to know the differences between Gesso and Acrylic medium paint when creating works of art. Gesso provides a barrier between the canvas and the paint, allowing acrylic paints to be applied easier and with better texture.

So make sure you have some Gesso in your arsenal before tackling any creative project. With Gesso at your side, there is no limit to what you can make or imagine.

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