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Winsor & Newton Artist's Acrylic Clear Gesso

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Winsor and Newton clear acrylic gesso

Winsor & Newton clear gesso is an artist's quality acrylic gesso that looks white in the container but is transparent when dry.

Photo ©2010 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

The Bottom Line

Putting the concepts "clear" and "gesso" together seemed a bit of a contradiction, so I painted some on the black cover of a sketchbook to see just how clear it did dry. I was surprised and impressed. I could see it only as texture where the light caught it (see photo). At some angles it was barely visible, at others like a layer of fine dark-grey sand. Definitely one of those cases where it does what it says on the label: matt and transparent and gesso.

Pros

  • Transparent when dry, not white like "normal" primers.
  • Mixable with acrylic paint to create a colored ground.
  • Suitable primer for acrylic, oils, and alkyd paints.
  • Use on paper to create tooth for pastels.
  • Fluid not stiff, no need to dilute before painting onto a canvas.

Cons

  • You need to remember where you've applied it or angle your canvas/paper to the light to see it.

Description

  • Artist's quality acrylic-based gesso that dries transparent rather than white, with a matt finish.
  • Manufactured by Winsor & Newton, in France.
  • Available in pots, in three sizes: 8oz, 16oz, and 32oz (237ml, 474ml, and 946ml).

Guide Review - Winsor & Newton Artist's Acrylic Clear Gesso

If you like painting on a white canvas, then you probably will never have a use for clear gesso. But if you like painting on a colored ground, then being able to create one by mixing a color into gesso without the color being whitened is very handy. (W&N recommends one part paint to four parts clear gesso, and using opaque colors.)

So how can a gesso, which seals raw canvas and gives it a gritty surface for paint (or pastel) to adhere to, be clear rather than white when it's dry. The answer is that it's made from a clear resin, without any pigment in it. I tried it on the black cover of a sketchbook, and was impressed by how clear it does dry. On black, you see it as texture in the light (see photo).

The tooth is very fine, like very fine sandpaper, not coarse. It's quite fluid (W&N rate it mid-way between fluid and thick on the label) so it won't need diluting to use. I found it holds brushmarks well, but also smooth if you blend out the brushmarks. It's not texture paste, it's a primer, so don't expect it to create masses of texture as the beginning of a painting.

Update January 2012: I used some of this on top of a painting over a painted area that looked odd because it lacked the texture of the rest of the composition. Where it was applied fairly thinly, it dried clear, but where it was in a peak a few millimeters thick, it was semi-opaque, obscuring the color beneath. But this isn't what it's designed for -- it's meant as an initial layer. I ended up glazing over the section.

• See Also: Review W&N White Acrylic Gesso

Disclosure: A review sample was provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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