Liquid White vs Gesso – Are they same?

Preparing a perfect surface is as important as having good skills. Whether you are going to oil painting or acrylic etc, surface preparation is so much important. Artists use gesso and liquid white before the paint to prepare the surface. They come in the same white color and most beginners get confused in differentiating between them. This blog post aims to provide helpful information on the difference between liquid white and gesso or liquid white vs gesso.

Table of Contents

Are liquid white and gesso used for the same purpose?

Well, both materials use for different purposes because we use gesso to prime our surface to get protection and enhancement. It is usually used to seal surfaces for painting. On the other hand, liquid white is a white, creamy, and spongy material that is used to create blending (a technique in which two colors are mixed to get shades) with colors.

Why do we use liquid white?

Bob Ross liquid white
Liquid white (Image Credit: Amazon)

Liquid white is a medium that allows to blend and mix colors naturally on the canvas. It also increases the drying time of oil paint which allows the artists to work on the wet-to-wet technique.

There are some painting methods in which artists have to apply changes from time to time. In these methods, liquid white is also a good choice. This material was actually introduced by Bob Ross to create a specific pattern with oil paints.

Wet on wet is a sub-technique of oil painting and you can’t just use it to create any kind of oil painting. You can use it to create only those paintings in which blending is a good option.

Important to know!

You can easily recognize liquid white by placing a small quantity over any surface. It will create soft rocky patterns like cream.

What are the advantages of liquid white?

Every beginner starts with easy techniques and then moves on to higher ones. Wet on wet is a professional technique that has been used by artists to create more natural and realistic art from oil paint. It also keeps the canvas surface wet for a long time because it is a slow dryer allowing artists to work even more on a single painting. This is usually done to create a professional level of painting.

It is also used to make natural-looking gradients on any painting surface. There is just a need to put the paint and apply it with the brush, it allows the creation of natural-looking textures.

Use liquid white also thin paints over the canvas. If you have applied a thick layer of paint then you can thin it with the help of liquid white.

What is gesso?

Gesso for oil painting
Gesso (Image Credit: Amazon)

Instead of liquid white, gesso is a combination of calcium and titanium white. It contains a small amount of glue which allows it to stick over the surface of the canvas.

Artists use gesso as a primer because it closes the pores of the surface allowing a good life for the paint. Gesso is somewhat used for the long life of painting. It is usually used in both oil and acrylic paintings but it is more famous for acrylic painting.

What is the best gesso for oil painting

There are so many gesso options in the market and this is really tough to find out the best gesso for oil painting. For ease, we have enlisted one of the most popular and suitable gesso for oil painting.

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Liquitex BASICS Gesso Surface Prep Medium is the best Gesso for oil & acrylics with a 4.7 Star Rating based on the average of 7581 ratings on Amazon. However, this calculation can go up or down based on the increasing number of ratings on this product.

Best Gesso For Oils & Acrylics

Liquitex BASICS Gesso Surface Prep Medium, 473ml (16-oz) Bottle, White - Best Gesso for Oil Painting & Acrylics

Liquitex BASICS Gesso Surface Prep Medium, 473ml (16-oz) Bottle, White

  • For Acrylic & Oils
  • Mixable with acrylic colors
  • Fast drier
  • Adds texture
  • Good coverage

About Liquitex Gesso

Liquitex Gesso is just a perfect option to prime canvases for both Acrylics & Oils. It is a popular choice among professional artists due to its quality and consistency. Although, it is a dominant and most used product for priming. Some beginners always get confused to relate it with gesso as it has a similar appearance to acrylic paints. Well, gesso can be an acrylic color so there is no need to be worried about it.

It is a suitable option for various surfaces such as canvas, paper, wood, etc. It is commonly used for both oil and acrylic paintings.


  • Reasonable Price
  • Both for Acrylics & Oils
  • Mixable with other acrylic paints
  • Safe for educational use
  • Improved flow
  • Addition of marble sand


  • Work less on paper crafts
  • Not 100% coverage

Advantages of using gesso in oil painting

Gesso is the same as a coating of white paint layer in rooms before the whole painting. It coats over the surface and sticks to it. Now, paint doesn’t have to struggle with the surface of the canvas to get adjust to it. It will just bind with gesso which will provide stability for a long time.

Canvas actually contains fibers over the surface which contain small pores. Without using gesso, paint can fill out these pores and may go to the back side of the surface.

As paintings are kept for centuries, that’s why this is important to maintain them for a long time. Using gesso at the beginning of the painting allows them to stand for years without restoration.

Difference between gesso and liquid white

Gesso and liquid white have the same appearance because they both are white in color. That’s why beginners always get confused with both of them and try to use them for the same purpose. You must know some visible differences first.

Gesso is very thin in appearance. It is similar to the white pigment of acrylic paint but it is a mixture of white pigment, chalk, and glue. This is easily recognizable. You can also recognize it by taking a small drop on your hand and pressing it with your finger. It will be slightly like glue.

On the other hand, liquid white is thicker than gesso. It is a creamy liquid, like a sponge but there is an addition of oil in it. It is actually a mixture of linseed oil and white pigment.

Both are used before applying oil paint over the surface of canvas but there are different purposes. One is used to achieve bright and natural colors and the other is used for the better sickness of these pigments over the surface of the canvas.

Final Words

There is a difference between liquid white and gesso because one is used for blending and the other is used for priming. Usually, their appearance is the same but most beginners get confused to differentiate them. Make sure to pronounce them for different meanings. Gesso is thinner as compared to liquid white because it has the same visibility as white acrylic paint but liquid white is thicker.


Is it necessary to use liquid white for oil painting?

This is not necessary to use for every technique in oil painting. It’s just used in wet-to-wet painting techniques in which an artist applies it over the surface to get good blending effects.

When do you need liquid white for oil painting?

You gonna need a liquid white when you are working on bigger artwork and you want to make changes over a period of time. In painting with simple oil paints, you cannot make changes after the drying of the oil paint but liquid white increases the drying time to do so.

When do you need a gesso for oil painting?

Basically, a primer works to make your surface ready to accept oil and paint. You need it in oil painting in which oil can harm the surface by getting absorbed into it.

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