Can You Gesso Over Oil Paint?

Can You Gesso Over Oil PaintWhen you are playing around with your paints, it’s only natural to experiment. If you have some Gesso handy and you wanna paint over something, then you might be wondering the following: Can you Gesso over oil paint?

Sadly, you cannot Gesso over oil paint. The reason for this boils down to the basic rule of ‘oil over acrylics, but never acrylics over oils’. Oil paints take longer to dry and once dried, they don’t produce a proper surface for the acrylic Gesso to stick to. This means that in relatively short time, your Gesso will begin to crack and flake away.

In today’s article I’ll talk about this as well as the different types of Gesso and I’ll even tell you how to paint over an existing oil painting. Now strap yourself in and let’s get this article started!

What happens if you put Gesso over oil paint?What happens if you put Gesso over oil paint

When you paint Gesso on top of oil paints then the Gesso will look okay for a short period of time, provided that it sticks in the first place. After a week or two at most, however, it’s going to start showing signs of cracking and if you touch it, it’s likely to flake off of your painting!

While you could conceivably create a barrier between the oil and your Gesso by priming it first, it’s not something that I’ve tried and it’s probably going to be more trouble than it’s worth. The biggest problem that you get is that your oils need to breathe. While they dry to the touch, your oil paints undergo a slow chemical process as they are curing, and sealing them off with a plasticine Gesso is going to choke them off from oxygen and interfere with that process.

More likely than not, your oils will draw moisture from the Gesso and crack it up a bit but even if that’s not the case, the oil paints simply don’t provide an adequate surface for the Gesso to stick and hold.

Sadly, these two are not compatible unless it’s the other way around. You can put oil paint on top of Gesso all you like, just never the opposite!

Is acrylic gesso the same as oil gesso?

Is acrylic gesso the same as oil gessoNo, they are not the same. You cannot use acrylic paints over an oil Gesso, although you can use oil paints over an acrylic Gesso. It’s all about the drying times. Since the oil dries more slowly and undergoes chemical changes, it’s got to be on top, because if it’s a lower layer it’s going to pull from any acrylic on top of it and crack that paint posthaste.

Companies like Liquitex offer Gesso for both oil and acrylic paintings and it’s best and easiest to simply use the variety that is designed specifically for the type of paint that you are using. If you happen to be out of Oil Gesso, you can use the Acrylic Gesso to paint a base layer if you like, just be sure to let it dry before you apply any oils (you cannot do wet on wet painting with acrylic Gesso, just to be clear!).

Otherwise, keep them separated and use them only as intended for the best results with your work.

How do you paint over an existing oil painting?How do you paint over an existing oil painting

If you want to save on canvas and paint over an existing oil painting, then you’ve got 2 options. The first option is going to be to simply paint over the whole thing first with a latex paint primer. If you go this route, then you’ll want to make sure that the surface is dry, dust free, and not greasy first so that the latex can go on cleanly. After that, you can paint on it when the latex primer dries but keep in mind that there is a caveat with this method.

There is always a chance that it might eventually crack.

Oil paint cures slowly over time, so unless the painting that you are going over is at least a year old, then there is a possibility that the curing process is going to inflict a little chaos on the work that you’ve painted over it.

This brings us to our second method. Get an onion from the fridge or the grocery store, chop it in half, and rub that onion on the oil paint. The acid from the onion is going to break down your paints a little and soften them enough that you take a rag, soaked in linseed oil, and weaken it even further with a good coat. Rub off the oils with some handy paper towels and you should able to break down the surface enough to prime it and paint with confidence (and possibly onion-inspired tears in your eyes. Don’t worry, artists are supposed to look all sensitive!).

In Conclusion

Well, there you have it. Can you Gesso over oil paint? No, no you can’t. The acrylic Gesso creates a bit of a seal that is going to end up cracking on you and standard oil gesso isn’t going to find a proper surface on the painted and dried oils. You’ll want to clean the oil off or coat the canvas with a latex paint, provided that it’s old enough.

Before I exit from this article, here is a 3rd party link that tells you how to apply latex paint over oil paint and minimize the chances of it cracking on you. Just a little extra insurance if you feel like saving some canvas. Good luck!