Greetings beloved Illustrated Faith Family!
One of the big questions among Bible Journalers is whether or not to prep your pages before journaling. It amazes me how passionate some of us are on this topic! Yikes! Everything from rolling eyes to shut down debate. Let’s all take a big breath and recognize Bible Journaling, just like walking with Christ, is a journey and each of us will approach it differently. That’s what makes us unique and free! Our creative techniques will change and grow with us dear Illustrated Faith family, and our Bible Journaling should reflect that journey.
Let me first say, NO…I don’t prep my pages very much anymore. But when I first started Bible Journaling and I was afraid of “wrecking” a page or even more afraid of the dreaded “bleed through,” I did research on prepping pages. Coming from a mixed media art background, I had many of the supplies already on hand so it was fairly easy for me to experiment. About half of the pages in my second journaling Bible are prepped so I have experimented with all different kinds of gesso and application methods.
To put this in perspective of where I am today as a Bible Journaler, I am on my third Bible; and I have maybe prepped ONE page this year. I bet you are wondering why? For me, it’s just an extra step that I don’t need with the supplies I choose to use. Basically, I am not as afraid anymore, if something bleeds through onto the other side of my page, I can cover it up or work with it in a creative way. But not everyone feels as free as I do about their pages and that’s OK. It’s your Bible and your journey.
So you may just stop here and say, “Ok Amy, I am ready. No prepping pages for me!” But what if you are where I was 2 years ago? What if you just want to be extra sure not to wreck the other side of your page? What if you just want an extra layer or you like painting on top of gesso? Well, read on. I am going to share what I know.
So what is “gesso” and how do you say the word anyway?
Gesso – pronounced “jesso” is a medium artists use to either prep their working surface or enable them to cover a layer so they can work on top without disturbing what is underneath. It basically seals the layer underneath, preventing absorption of anything applied on top of the gesso.
Gesso can also be used by many artists as a replacement for water with water soluble mediums.
Many artists claim priming with gesso gives a surface with more “tooth” (texture) for their paints and inks to adhere to.
Gesso comes in clear, white and all spectrums of colors; and it’s definitely a tool in every mixed media artist’s studio. Gesso leaves a chalky, textured surface on your pages. Pictured below are a few gessos I have in my mixed media arsenal.
Some gessos have lots of “tooth” like different grades of sandpaper and range from raised rough grit to a smooth sandpaper type surface. Most Bible Journalers who prep their pages prefer a smoother, finer surface. The two gessos I used most on my journaling pages were Dina Wakley Clear Gesso and Prima Art Basics Gesso.
White or colored gesso is probably not a good choice for Bible Journaling because it will cover everything underneath. I suppose you might have reason for this if you were covering something up or taking a more mixed media approach to your journaling. Again, everyone is different.
What about Mat Medium?
I have also seen questions about using mat medium to prep Bible pages. I can tell you I did try this; but would not recommend it for several reasons. Gesso leaves a fine sandpaper texture but mat medium will leave a smoother, slicker surface much like the more glossy acrylic paints and it can be sticky. If you have two pages next to each other with this slick surface, the likelihood of them sticking together is great. Another reason for not using mat medium is watercolors will generally not adhere to a smooth slick surface. I do see people using mat medium creatively with napkins and such but I would give mat medium a “no” as a prepping medium.
There are three methods I found to apply gesso to a Bible Page: sponge, paint card, and brush. I don’t recommend the brush application because Gesso can ruin your brushes and it is difficult to get an even coat so I am only going to to go over two methods: sponge application and paint card application.
I will be using Dina Wakely clear gesso which is the one I like best and it is the easiest to find.
I recommend sliding something behind your page to protect the rest of your Bible from the gesso. Gesso can be similar to glue when wet and can cause pages to stick together if it runs over. The Illustrated Faith Be Bold Bible Mat is perfect. I added a clip to keep everything in place.
Method #1 – Sponge Application
The first method utilizes a sponge type applicator. You can use stencil sponge applicators or the distress ink applicator shown here. The advantage of using this type of applicator is that you increase the texture of the gesso. Begin by squirting a bit of the clear gesso on the applicator.
And smooth it on the page. I would usually do two coats. One vertically applied and one horizontally applied.
Note: because the gesso is clear it is very easy to miss spots!
Method #2 – Paint Card Application
I ended up liking this method best. Even though the application is smooth, it provides better coverage. Squirt a bit of the gesso on the edge of your card.
Lay the card down on the page and gently smooth the gesso down. Again, two coats (one vertically applied and one horizontally applied) is recommended.
A quick dry with a craft heat tool.
THE DEMO – Watercolors
As you can see there is very little visible difference between the areas gesso is applied and the top half of the page where no prep has been completed.
Let’s put some art on top!
I mixed up some watercolors. To keep things even I only made one stroke across each surface.
The very bottom is the sponge applied gesso middle quarter is the card applied gesso.
You can see the watercolor resisted a bit which is interesting. Watercolor can be so unpredictable!!!! Love the bloom effect between the gesso applied with a sponge and the gesso applied with the card. Interesting!
Now let’s paint the top half of the page that has not been prepped.
Again, I am letting the watercolors do their thing. I suspect the two teal areas that have the most variation are more due to the actual paint than the surface as both seemed to sit differently on the page. Again, the joy of watercolors is you may not always know what they are going to do!
THE DEMO – Stamps and Inks
It’s super helpful to know what will bleed through your pages and what won’t.
Will bleed through:
- Ranger Archival Pigment Inks
- Dye Inks
- Distress Alcohol Inks
- Sharpie Pens
- India Inks
- Oil based paint pens
- Brea Reese Watercolor Ink Drops
Won’t bleed through:
- Chalk Inks
- Some Pigment Inks (like Illustrated Faith stamp pads)
- Illustrated Faith Pens
- Acrylic Paints
- Colored Pencils
- Neocolor III Crayons
- Watercolor Pencils
- Most Faber Castell, Tombow, and Koi markers
- Stazon Ink (when it’s not new!)
I grabbed a few ink pads and my favorite stamps to illustrate what happens on a prepped surface versus a non prepped surface.
I used the Ranger Archival Ink to stamp “All Thin” using the Illustrated Faith Homespun Alpha stamps.
I used Stazon Ink for “gs”.
I used the Illustrated Faith Black ink pad for the Illustrated Faith Fly Free butterfly stamp below.
I used Stazon for the Illustrated Faith Seeds of Faith butterfly stamp “set free” and my Illustrated Faith pad for the Illustrated Faith Fly Free butterfly stamp on the top of the page. I used the Illustrated Faith .25 pen to underline my focus scripture.
Looking at the other side of my journal page, you can see the Ranger Archival Ink only bled through on the non prepped areas. The Illustrated Faith pen and ink did not bleed through the prepped or non prepped areas.
I was surprised the Stazon Ink bled through on the “set free” butterfly! That is my “go to” stamp pad when I want something waterproof that won’t bleed. I asked my Illustrated Faith Creative Team to chime in with wisdom. Sure enough, Elaine Davis shared her experience — apparently, when a Stazon Ink pad is new and juicy, it bleeds through! I learn something new every day!
FINISHING THE PAGE
Now let’s have some fun finishing the page. Tab first. I cut the Lessons tab in half from the Illustrated Faith Basics Topics Tabbie collection and used a paper scrap from the Bella Blvd Make Your Mark collection to create the back of the tab.
Needs some hexies and enamel hearts!
The scripture reads:
Do All to the Glory of God
23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24
I think it’s a great bit of wisdom.
So whether you decide to prep or not to prep, it’s up to you! You are free to choose! I hope this little post has been a blessing!
The most important thing to remember is Bible Journaling is about spending time with God creatively. It’s more about the process and the relationship that you develop with Him during the process than the result of the page. You are free in Him, mistakes and messiness is allowed dear friends.
Hugs and blessings,