Gesso good for india ink?

Hi. This isn’t Blender related, but I thought with all the artist someone here has used gesso before. We have to do self portraits for my figure class each which and I want to use india ink. I’ve tried it once but my paper couldn’t handle it. The paper I use is a thicker paper too. So here are some questions I have.

  1. Is gesso good for india ink or just mainly for paints?
  2. With gesso can you still put thumb tacks through it or have to hang it differently?
  3. Do you get gesso at Michaels or hardware stores? Or mainly only at art supply stores?

Thanks for reading. I will post the results in the traditional subforum if anyone is interested.

I gesso…

i think i love you for that

If you are gesso-ing paper beware that it will warp the paper, I’ve had some success tacking up the paper, applying gesso, and retacking it so as to stretch the paper until it dries.
Regular gesso will take ink, ink will stain just about anything. How permanent it is is another question. It may rub or flake off in time. I’ve actually used ink as an underpainting for oil on gessoed canvas, that works ok. There is also gesso with absorbent grounds which may act more like paper. Also, you could try mounting the paper to masonite using gesso as a glue (very thin layer) and pressing it under something flat and heavy, like art history books :stuck_out_tongue:
Michaels has a pretty comprehensive line of gessos, their cheap gesso doesn’t store too well, so if you don’t use it often it will become like water.
In the end it is all by feel and what particular techniques you are using, so yeah some experimentation will do you good. I would also try some painting forums for more input.

I’ve tried it once but my paper couldn’t handle it.
… What do you mean by this ? I’ve used india ink on newsprint (with pen nibs and brush) without issues … india ink is best used on unprimed plain paper of all types . If you prime it with gesso you will loose the “bleeding in” quality that is intrinsic to the media …

  1. You can use india ink on gesso with the above proviso …
  2. Yes you can use thumb tacks
  3. Michaels carries the acrylic version of gesso . If you want to do this on the cheep you could go to a home center and go get an acrylic based primer (non acrylic primer is not good for paper for archival purposes) for wall painting … it will have a different feel then “real” acrylic gesso (it will be more absorbent) … but then again the acrylic version of gesso compared to “real” traditional gesso made with rabit skin glue actually has the “wrong” absorption qualities …

EDIT : If you use the primer from the hardware store you will not get the warping issue sausages is talking about , or not as much as long as you do tack up the paper before applying it … they tend to thinner then “gesso” from art stores …

i have never tried gesso on paper. i don’t understand really why would anyone do that…
it’s mainly used for canvas…
if you are making ink work, thick (300g) watercolours paper is best ofcourse… but, you can also use gesso on canvas. the surface will be more rough, but depends on what you want it might be good or bad.

if you don’t have gesso, and if you don’t necessarily need the white base, you can use also use glue… i myself love the canvas brownish/gray color so i just use water mixed glue that dryes transparent.

so it’s matter of taste. you can put anything on canvas. i have some works mixing acryllics, ink and coffee for example.


basse, I don’t know why anyone would prime paper either, but I had to do it in school, and it was a PITA.

I walked right into that one. Pretty clever.

 Thanks for all the replies.  The paper I am using is 30 X 22.5 lennox paper.  I get it at the school store.  I haven't seen watercolor paper that large.  I have been doing mine with just pencil so far and I start with a sketch in my sketchbook because it is easier to hold in front of a mirror.  I then scale it up to the larger paper.  

I am doing a style similar to giacometti and notice you have to abuse the paper more to get the same build up as the smaller scale. So I guess I was just looking for a way to make the paper a bit more sturdier. Maybe not gesso-ing the front, but backing it with gesso could help.

I guess I worded it wrong, the paper can handle it but has a certain breaking point.
I could use a fight for an analogy. I want a paper that will last 12 rounds and maybe throw a few punches back.

I just wanted to try push my drawings into more of an fine art realm. I will ask my teacher and experiment with different paper.

Not to derail the thread here… but how did you use coffee on canvas?

What kind of problem are you having? Is the ink bleeding? If so, the problem is probably that your ink is too wet. You may want to try a different kind of ink. I prefer to grind the ink myself with an ink stick instead of from the bottle, because it lets you control your ink/water ratio. If your ink is thick, it’s less likely to bleed. Ink also tends to bleed more if the paper itself is too moist. If possible try to keep it somewhere very dry. One of the best surfaces I’ve found for ink is Bristol board, although with consistency control I’ve used it on things like newsprint and butcher paper as well. (I’m a big fan of brown butcher paper, actually. It’s good stuff.)

Not to derail the thread here… but how did you use coffee on canvas?

I am actually interested in that as well.

I am using the stuff from the bottle. The ink stick sounds interesting because it would be easier to start with a lighter tone and then build up. I will try some of that out.

If you get an ink stick, here is how to use it: You’ll need something hard to rub it on, I have an “ink stone” designed for the purpose, but probably a ceramic plate would work as well. Take an eyedropper and place maybe three drops of water on the stone. Hold the ink stick and rub it forcefully against the plate, circular motions work well. Once the resulting pool looks a bit dark, test it on white paper with a brush. Keep grinding the stick until the ink is as dark as you want.

I’ve been looking at ink sticks and it seems interesting I am looking at them at this site:

How long does your ink stick generally last? Should I buy multiple, or will one be good enough to experiment that I won’t have to order more the next week?

One stick should last you a very long time. Years, possibly, depending on how often you use it. You definitely don’t need more than one.

well, i use it quite like ink. it’s more watery, so you get lot of “bleeding” but thats part of the joy.
if i don’t want that, i just don’t use easel… so the canvas is on the floor.


I prefer hot pressed paper for inks, but for the technique are trying to get watercolor paper with a coat or two of workable fixative might do.