Whether you’re an avid crafter or have your inspired phases of crafting, you’ve definitely heard about both gesso and Mod Podge.
Some know these two products very well and may have used them in a number of projects but when it comes down to it, do we really know what makes these so different or maybe, so similar?
Priming and sealing are two parts of the crafting process that many seem to overlook, but in reality these two steps ensure that your finished project reaches the heights of perfection that you intend it to – for the long run.
Surfaces that are not uniform or not prepped can prove to be troublesome for some crafters, but priming as well as sealing can take care of these troubles easily. Basically you’re providing a layer of protection on either side of your masterpiece and it will serve you well in the long run.
So, what is the difference between Mod Podge and gesso? Both of these products are fundamentally different in what they are intended to be used for. Gesso is a primer for paintings and other crafts while Mod Podge is more of an adhesive and sealant in a wide variety of crafts.
In this article, we’ll break down what these products are at the core and what their basic uses are. We’ll also talk about what the differences are between each of these products and if there are any similarities. By the end of this article, you will never have to ask yourself this question ever again!
What is Gesso?
Gesso in its essential form is a primer that has historically been used to prime wood panels and canvas for oil paint to stick on.
Often this would involve multiple layers of gesso, a gesso grosso (“fat” or thicker, less fine gesso) and a gesso fino (the finer, more even gesso used as the top layer which is best for painting on).
By the way, there have been and still are other uses for gesso, but we’ll stick with painting for this article since that seems to be its most common use.
Nowadays, you can find a gesso for every kind of paint that you may want to use but most commonly, acrylic gesso works for almost everything.
It will prime your surface and make it smooth enough for your paint to adhere to and lay evenly on top of (unless you’re going for a textured look, of course).
Made from paint pigment (typically white), chalk or gypsum, and a binder, gesso is a lot like a paint that protects your canvas, gives a surface for your paint to adheres to and creates flexibility to ensure your canvas doesn’t warp over time.
There are also many gesso primers made for painting on surfaces such as wood, metal and stone that can help you bring out the vibrancy of the paints you’re using and provide stability to ensure longevity.
You’ll find white gesso primers in abundance in the market but in the past few years, clear and black are also becoming increasingly available.
While most people will use traditional gesso that is available in pots as a creamy paint-like substance, it is also available in spray paint form which can be used to prep surfaces that are too large to paint by hand.
How to Use Gesso
To use gesso, you need a wide, flat brush. Ideally, use a separate brush for your gesso – one that you do not use to paint. You do want a decent quality brush, however, to get even coverage.
Depending on the coverage you want, dip your brush in water before use. Brush across your canvas or surface in broad strokes as evenly as possible, in long stripes with a little overlap. Try not to make thick lines as you layer.
Make sure you go over the whole surface at least twice to make the gesso sink in and so you can apply it as smoothly as possible. You may wish to apply two or three coats, let it dry, and try the process again if you cannot get it thick enough.
What is Mod Podge?
Invented only a few decades ago, Mod Podge is a very important member of the crafting world, a be-all, end-all, holy-grail for many avid crafters thanks to its versatility.
Mod Podge which helps you glue, seal and finish nearly any craft project easily. It is a synthetic resin made from polymerized vinyl acetate (PVA) which is used mostly in paints and adhesives.
If that sounds confusing, you’re not alone. Let us break it down for you: Mod Podge is essentially an adhesive (or glue) that you can also use to seal and cure projects. You can use it to stick things to a variety of surfaces as well as finish apply it over a finished craft for protection.
Most commonly used for decoupage projects, Mod Podge can also be used to stick fabric and other materials to a lot of different surfaces and even create texture within your craft paintings. The texture of Mod Podge is creamy and has a viscosity that is makes it perfect as both an adhesive layer and a top layer.
There are several versions of the product designed for specific purposes, such as decorating glassware, but any product in the line is so versatile, it often doesn’t matter which one you use for smaller or more temporary crafts.
Mod Podge also dries to a clear finish and so, is loved by crafters all over the world for projects that require a lot of design elements and texture.
How to Use Mod Podge
The best way to use Mod Podge is with a foam brush. This ensures that you don’t saturate your surface too much.
If you don’t have a foam brush, a flat paintbrush can also do the job. Just be careful to apply even layers to minimize any brush strokes on your surface.
Mod Podge’s top layer will dry very quickly but it is recommended that you let it dry overnight for the best outcome.
For sealing and finishing, Mod Podge should be applied in even coats, waiting 1 hour between each of the coats.
Whether you are doing a decoupage project or upcycling furniture pieces or your shoes, Mod Podge is one of the best products to have in your craft arsenal.
Mod Podge Vs Gesso: Differences and Similarities
Now that we know a little more about each of these two products, we can talk about what the main differences are and if there are any similarities between them.
One of the main differences between gesso and Mod Podge is the fact that one is a primer intended to be used as a layer of smoothness and strength for a surface, while the other is an adhesive that also doubles as a sealer for your craft projects.
Gesso does not have the sealing properties or the adhesive properties of Mod Podge, while the latter does not possess the priming or smoothing abilities of gesso.
This difference is made even clearer if you use oil paints, as they will never stick to Mod Podge as well as they would on gesso.
If you have used Mod Podge on one of your projects, it would be a good decision to use gesso on the surface before painting. However, since Mod Podge is acrylic based, you can use acrylic paints on it and it can provide some adhesion.
Another big difference between the two products is the fact that Mod Podge dries clear while gesso is opaque (and usually white) when it dries. Though there are clear gesso primers available in the market, the most popular ones are usually white or black.
Using Mod Podge to prep a surface where you want the opacity of your colors to shine through will, obviously, not work as a clear surface cannot add to the vibrancy of colors. Gesso creates a surface on which your paints can lay and become more bright or subdued, depending on the color you use.
When buying Mod Podge you will only need one product to adhere and seal your project but with gesso, you will have to buy a sealant.
Both gesso and Mod Podge are very different products but one thing that does make them similar is the fact that both of these products should be in your crafting corner. One preps the surface while the other seals and that is something that, as craft lovers, all of us need.
What Can Be Substituted For Gesso?
Usually you can buy pre-primed canvases, but if you can’t find those and don’t have gesso available, you can often get away with white acrylic paint. You can also use latex paint if you want to use oil paints.
What Are Some Substitutes For Mod Podge?
It is always better to buy some Mod Podge, but in case you can’t find it, one of the best substitutes for Mod Podge is just regular old PVA glue. Use some water to thin it down to the consistency you want and use it as Mod Podge.
Can I Make Gesso at Home?
Making gesso at home is not always recommended for beginners as the one you buy from the market has ingredients, which make it the success that it is, that you won’t find in your house.
However, if you would like to try it, you need some glue, acrylic paint, corn-starch and baking soda. Mix them all together and you have a sort of homemade gesso.
How Can I Make My Surface Smooth With Mod Podge?
Once you have applied Mod Podge and allowed it to dry, you can take some sandpaper in varying degrees of hardness, depending on the smoothness you want and the surface you’re using, and sand in between each of the coats.
Once you have reached the desired level of smoothness, wipe away access and use a soft steel wool on the final coat to polish your surface. You should then add a protective layer of acrylic spray to avoid any tackiness.
Can I Create Texture With Gesso?
Start off by coating your surface in an even layer of gesso and let it dry. Once dry, you can add a second layer of gesso, this time a lot thicker than the first one and while it is still wet, use a paint brush, a pen or any number of tools to add texture. When the gesso is dry, you are ready to paint on your textured surface.
Both of these products are great products to have in your craft cupboard. Gesso can help you create a surface that is smooth and will produce a wonderful finish once painted, while Mod Podge lets you add texture to your crafts as well as transfer designs from paper to furniture or anything of your choosing.
Whether you’re an avid crafter or a new one, give these products a try and we promise, you won’t regret it!
Up Next: The Best Gesso Substitutes