What Is Acrylic Primer Gesso? (Types, Advantages and Uses)

Acrylic primer is a compound composed of two chemicals, resin and pigment, mixed in an appropriate ratio. It covers and prepares a surface to make it receive a paint coating.

The surface may feel rough without a primer, and the paint may seep through the entire surface, spoiling your art.

I personally prime surfaces even if the manufacturers claim the surface is already primed like those level-three canvases.

In the blog article, I’ll go through “What is acrylic primer?” and how to prime different surfaces. Moreover, types of primers will be discussed too. So keep reading for thorough information.

Why We Need Primer? Know The Importance

There are multiple reasons why we need primer and why we must apply it over a surface before painting. If you ask me, I’ll never allow any of the junior artists to start drawing on canvas or other such tops without priming the surface or otherwise; they will end up with zero achievements.

  • Acts as a size: Primers can be used to size the paint, especially acrylic ones. What do we mean by that? The sizing means to give thickness to the paint so that the paint can be used over surfaces where thick layers are needed. It works as a basic paint color as it is primarily white, black, or transparent.
  • Sealing the fibres: Most surfaces have micro holes or rifts but can’t be seen through the naked eye like those fibers in your sketchbook, paper, canvas, and other such surfaces. You’ll need to seal these surfaces first to get the best output. Applying the paint without priming or sealing results in yellowing and seeping through the colour, which can spoil your sketchbook and entire art.
  • Making the surface absorbent: Another benefit of using a primer is making the surface absorbent. Acrylic paint is water-based, and they dry fast. Hence, they need an absorbent surface that can extract the water content from them, and primer is the best option to provide such an absorbent floor.
  • Textured ground: A textured ground is crucial for some arts. No matter whether you’re using water-based or oil-based paint, a textured ground on a specific surface helps the paint stick and remain intact. So primer is vital in providing a textured bottom.

Types of Primer Based On Colour

You must be thinking of what colour primer possesses. Some people are worried that the primer can blend with other colours while painting. No, it’s not like that, primers are available in three forms, and you can choose the one that suits your painting.

  • White Colour: Primers are available in white colour to be applied over the canvas, sketchbook and other such backgrounds. You can choose a white primer if you’re looking for creamy or milky surroundings.
  • Transparent: Primers come in transparent forms too. They are designed to be applied over glass, wood, plastic, or coloured surfaces.
  • Tinted: Tinted primer is another option if you’re looking for a dark background. They can be applied to a wide range of surfaces, depending on your choice of painting and backdrop view.

Types of Primers Based On Solvent

We have two main kinds of paints available and widely used worldwide. Oil-based paints and water-based paints. Both should be used with a compatible primer, or otherwise desirable results will not be gained.

1. Water Based Primer

Water-based primers are generally used for sealing and priming porous and uneven surfaces, including wood, rocks, thick paper, fabric materials, etc.

They are mostly available in white color and are compatible with acrylic paints. Once applied, they stick to the surface and dry fast, providing a smooth, sealed, and white surface. However, clear water-based primers are also available if you’re unwilling to change the background colour.

2. Oil Based Primer

Oil-based primers are compatible with oil-based paints and provide a well-prepared surface to receive the paint. They are mainly applied to non-porous tops like glass, metal, and plastic materials. They are sometimes used on walls to make them accept the paint well.

Oil-based primers are pigmented with specific colours to be applied along with similar coloured paint. Meaning that, If you’re using green oil-based paint on a surface, the primer available for that paint will have a green tone.

The downside to using oil-based primers is they are not environment friendly and cause pollution due to a high amount of volatile organic compounds in their composition.

What Is Acrylic Paint Primer?

Now let’s talk about acrylic primer. You must be questioning yourself what the difference between acrylic primer and simple primer is. There’s not much difference; these are just categories of primers which I will discuss below.

Acrylic primers are specifically designed for acrylic paints and help the paint adhere and last longer. After applying the acrylic primer as a base coating, acrylic paint can be used over it without being worried about flaking and peeling.

An alternative name for acrylic primer is Acrylic Gesso, which is prepared using gypsum compound and resin. Gypsum is white in colour, giving an overall white appearance to the primer, while the resin is sticky in nature, helping gesso stick to a specific surface.

Advantages of Acrylic Primer

Acrylic primer has a vast number of uses, and your painting is incomplete without using it. Some of the potential benefits of acrylic primer are given below:

  • Acrylic paint is water-based and needs an absorbent surface to dry faster. The primer helps in this regard providing a base layer having the ability to extract water from the paint and allow it to dry quickly.
  • A porous surface can’t retain the acrylic paint consistently, and the paint may bleed through the entire surface. To tackle the problem, a base layer of acrylic primer is required to seal the surface.
  • Another important use of acrylic primers is they help the paint last longer. They provide stability, durability and strong adherence. Moreover, it prevents the painting from fading and yellowing.

How to Apply Acrylic Primer?

Acrylic primer is easy to use and apply over a surface. You can apply primer using a paintbrush or a roller. In addition, a primer spray can be used as well. No matter what you use, the point is you should be well familiar with the correct application.

  • Using A Paintbrush: Open the lid of the primer’s container. Take a fine-haired paintbrush and dip it into the container. Begin applying the primer over the surface using even strokes, and try to start from the middle and go your way to the edges. Overlap the layers to cover every single spot.
  • Using A Roller: If you’re convenient with using a roller for applying paints and primers, go for it. Open the tube or container of the primer. Pour a small amount in the middle of the surface. With the help of a roller, spread the primer equally on the surface.
  • Using Primer Spray: If you want an advanced way to prime the surface and want to save time, the sprayer is a good option. Just hold it at an appropriate distance from the surface and begin spraying. Make sure to apply 2-3 layers of the primer to cover the surface entirely.

How to Prime Canvas?

Priming canvas before painting is a crucial step towards a successful and durable artwork. Canvas is claimed to be pre-primed by the manufacturers, but it’s not done in the way we want it to be. The priming process is done by automatic brush rounds over the surface instead of hand priming. So, I always recommend my junior artists and fellows to prime canvas themselves.

Supplies Required:

  • Primer (Gesso)
  • Mixing Stick
  • Sandpaper
  • Mask
  • Paintbrush
  • Canvas
  • Newspaper or piece of cloth


  • Open the container and stir the primer with a mixing stick to make it even and consistent.
  • Take a newspaper or piece of cloth and put it under the canvas to protect the floor or to surround it from stains and spills.
  • Dip the paintbrush in the primer and tap off the excess primer.
  • Start applying the primer from the middle and go your way to the edges. Overlap the layers to cover the entire surface.
  • Use even strokes and move the brush vertically and horizontally over the surface for thorough overlap and coverage.
  • You can begin applying from the edges too. But make sure you use 2-3 layers of the primer so that no spot remains unprimed.
  • Finally, leave the surface to get dry completely. It can take up to 1-2 hours, or you can speed up the drying process with a hair dryer or fan or place it near an airy window.
  • Don’t forget to lightly sand the primed surface after it dries for better painting. Sanding acrylic paint primer needs some guidance.

Acrylic Primer For Walls

Walls are not always the same. Some may have a rough texture, while others are smooth. But a primer is always needed if you want to use acrylic paint on walls successfully. It will help the paint adhere smoothly and evenly.

For walls, I recommend INSL-X SXA11009A-04 Stix Acrylic Waterborne Bonding Primer. It has good compatibility with wall material and helps seal even minor pores.

Acrylic Primer For Wood

Wood is a porous surface, and if you got a project to paint wood with acrylic paint, you’d need to prime the surface with an acrylic primer that is exclusively designed for wood material.

Zinsser 02004 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 All Surface Primer is an excellent option to use with wood as it seals the fibers and prepares the even surface for a thinner layer of paint.

Acrylic Primer For Plastic

Plastic can be primed using regular acrylic primers. But choose the one that sticks to the surface firmly and helps your paint stay long and durable.

A transparent acrylic primer is a good choice if you want some coloured designs on the plastic material, while a white primer should be preferred if the background needs to be light.

Some primers can also be used to seal acrylic paint on plastic.

What is Gesso?

Gesso is an acrylic primer. It is synthesized using gypsum material or chalk mixed in a fixed ratio with a resin for binding. It can work as a sealer and helps to smoothen the surface in order to accept paint.

I’ve been referring to gesso in my articles and priming my surface whenever I create a painting, and before I do my finished pieces, I always begin with a prep step of priming my surface. This way, I have a nice base layer.

It acts as a primer, just so it is similar to acrylic paint, but it’s much thinner. It usually comes in white. It is an acrylic base, and it’s used to fill surfaces for paintings. If we look at the back of the bottle, we see some instructions, the consistency, and what it can be used for.

Features of Gesso

  • Traditionally, it is made with glue derived from animals like rabbit skins and mixed with white pigment along with chalk or gypsum.
  • It has excellent sealing ability and is used to fill rigid surfaces like wood material, cardboard, sketchbooks, canvas, etc.
  • It has excellent absorbency making it work with all types of paints, including oil-based, water-based, and tempera paint.
  • The white colour in Gesso can be replaced with other colours by adding some additional compounds like carbon black.
  • Some preservatives are added to Gesso, making it produce an odour. The preservatives may be ammonia derivatives or formaldehyde.

How To Choose The Best Acrylic Primer?

Choosing the best acrylic primer is a pretty tricky task. Some manufacturers use low-grade resins that have inferior quality and sell them at lower prices in the market. So always try to purchase from genuine and reputed brands.

The best acrylic primer is the one that adheres to your desired surface well and is compatible with the paint you use. Moreover, the primer should dry faster and give a smooth base layer.

One of the best acrylic primers is Liquitex. It is highly pigmented and has high viscosity making it an ideal choice if you want some texture and a satin finish. Moreover, it is lightfast and gives a permanent colour.


What is exterior acrylic primer?

Exterior acrylic primer is a type of primer used on exterior surfaces and has to expose to sunlight and other external conditions. The primer has extraordinary features, including light fastness, permanence, durability, etc. It can be applied to wood, metals, polymers, and several other tops.

Do I need a primer for acrylic paint?

Yes, you need a primer as a base layer before applying acrylic paint. It ensures the paint stick to the surface firmly and prevents it from peeling. Moreover, primer seals the surface and protects the colour from bleeding through the sketchbook, paper, cardboard, or any other porous surface.

What is the difference between acrylic paint and acrylic primer?

The main difference between acrylic primer and acrylic paint is they both have different compositions and are used for specified purposes. Acrylic primer is used as a base layer to seal the surface and comes in white, transparent, and tinted colours. On the other hand, acrylic paint is used to paint your artwork and comes in a variety of colours.


So, what is acrylic primer? I tried to give all the relevant information related to the topic and hope you have learned from the post. Let me summarise the topic precisely.

Acrylic primer is the basis of painting and artwork. They can be used according to your requirement and are available in various forms. Priming canvas, metal, plastic, wood, and any surface will definitely enhance the stability of the paint you apply and make it stay longer.

Thank you for reading!

Jose Scott

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