Getting to Know Page Prep Options

Warning:  This could be the most boring post ever!  (This is basically a review of clear paint.)  But figuring out how to prep Bible pages seems to be a common challenge, so I thought I’d test out some different options.  Page prep is not needed for many art supplies, but it does greatly expand what supplies you can use, and it also helps many supplies work better.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve had my art supplies out on the kitchen counter.  I tried 10 different page prep products and tested my favorite art supplies out on them (mostly while waiting for the water to boil and the onions to sauté!).  My husband has been very patient and kind with me regarding the mess; it’s been a more fun project than I expected (and a complete abuse of the concept of multi-media!!!).


  • What it is:  Primer
  • Why it is great for Bible Journaling:  It prevents bleedthrough; it strengthens the page; it gives the surface of the page a little more texture (or tooth). It provides a good surface for most art supplies.
  • Recommended brands: Prima Art Basics Clear and Dina Wakely Clear Gesso

Artists use gesso on canvas or wood before painting with oil or acrylics.  Originally it came in only white, but now you can get it in clear or black.  For centuries, it was made from a mix of calcium and animal glue; Liquitex made the first acrylic gesso in 1955.

Gesso looks a lot like paint and can be applied to the page any way you would apply paint:  foam brush, regular brush, credit card, foam applicator, etc.  You can experiment and see what works for you.  I use a cheap foam brush and then smooth out any brush marks with my fingers.  Gesso dries pretty quickly—like acrylic paint.  I put down two coats, just to make sure I don’t miss a spot.  You can put gesso on the whole page or mask off the text and just paint the margins (as in the picture below).  The page will wrinkle at first, but it will flatten out once the Bible has been closed.  Note:  When buying gesso, if it does not say “clear gesso” then assume it is white!  Clear is best for most Bible journaling applications.


Gel Medium:

  • What it is:  A clear acrylic dispersion
  • Why it is great for Bible Journaling:  It prevents bleedthrough and provides a smooth surface for writing.
  • Recommended brand: Liquitex matte clear gel medium

Gel medium is often used by artists with acrylic paints to broaden the technical capabilities of the paint.  It extends the drying time of paint and it comes in a variety of thicknesses and properties.  It can also be used as glue for collage projects and even for a pretty cool image transfer technique (which I have not tried, but would like to!).  It can also be applied any way that you would apply paint.  It takes a little longer to dry than gesso.

Mod Podge:

  • What it is:  An all-in-one glue, sealer, finish.
  • Limitations: It prevents bleedthrough for many pens, but many art supplies do not seem work well on top of Mod Podge.

I just included Mod Podge in the mix because there have been questions on the Journaling Bible Community about how it would work, and I happened to find two small bottles in the Target dollar section and thought, why not?

Page Prep Products Reviewed

  1. Prima Art Basics Clear Gesso
  2. Dina Wakely Clear Gesso
  3. TriArt Clear Gesso
  4. Liquitex Clear Gesso
  5. Liquitex Matte Gel Medium
  6. Homemade Gesso
  7. Faber Castell Gesso
  8. Glossy Mod Podge
  9. Matte Mod Podge
  10. Faber Castell Gel Mediuim

Art Supplies Tested



  1. Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils
  2. Crayola Water Colors
  3. Artist Loft Water Colors
  4. Koi Water Colors
  5. Kuretake Water Colors
  6. NeoColor IIs
  7. Faber Castell Water Color Pencils
  8. Faber Castell Gelatos
  9. Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic Paint
  10. Tombow Dual Brush Markers
  11. Staz-On Ink
  12. A Black Sharpie
  13. A pencil
  14. Pigma Graphic 1 pen

Conclusion:  All the products successfully prevented bleedthrough.  None of the products were a disaster for me.  My favorite page prep product was Dina Wakely’s Clear Gesso.  All the art supplies worked well on the page prepped with this gesso, and I would give it a slight edge over Prima Art Basics Clear Gesso because it was so easy to erase pencil marks from the surface of the page.  Prima Art Basics Clear Gesso is a very close second.  The homemade gesso was my third favorite, believe it or not!  I’ve heard many complaints about Liquitex clear gesso because it is gritty and eats pens, but I found that I really loved using it together with Inktense pencils.  The Liquitex Matte Gel Medium provided the best surface for writing with microns and was especially good for stamping.  TriArt Clear gesso was not a favorite; it was hard on the Mircron pens and pencil marks did not erase.  The Faber Castell gesso is great in all ways, but it’s white.  Personally, I use it to cover up bleedthrough on the backside of pages.  It’s a fabulous concealer!  The ModPodge products and the FaberCastell Gel Medium were my least favorites.

The Liquitex, Faber Castell, and Mod Podge products are available at most craft stores.  (The Liquitex products are with the acrylic paint; the Mod Podge with the glue; and the Faber Castell with the paper crafts products/gelatos).  The PrimaArt Basic and Dina Wakely products can be ordered through Amazon or through any provider of art supplies.

I’ll share my test pages below.  For obvious reasons, I did not want to conduct this test in my Bible, so I used a dictionary instead.  I just looked up all the words in one of my favorite verses.  I hope this post encourages you to take your creativity to the Bible boldly!

First I tried the Prima Art Basics Clear Gesso.  I’ve been using this for a few months and have found that I really enjoy the product and being able to use nearly all basic art supplies with confidence.  The only thing that I find slightly annoying is that pencil marks do not easily erase once the surface has been prepared with gesso.



Up next, I tried the Dina Wakely Clear Gesso.  It has a texture more like clear lemon curd than paint, but I love it.  Everything worked great and pencil marks erased easily, which made me happy.



Next I tried TriArts Clear Gesso.  For the most part, it was ok.  The surface was fairly smooth.  After writing quite a bit with micron pen on the surface, my pen started to get a bit clogged and dried out.  This wouldn’t be my first choice.



I was expecting to really hate the Liquitex clear gesso because I’ve read so many complaints about it.  It is gritty and my micron pens really didn’t like the surface too much.  What surprised me was how much Inktense pens loved the slightly gritty texture.  It was a little addictive.  Seriously, I could have done the whole page in Inktense pencils, but I wanted to try some other art supplies, too.



I have heard many people say that their favorite page prep option is Liquitex Matte Gel Medium.  If you primarily like to write with pens and use stamped images, this would probably be the best choice.  I found that water colors wanted to float on the surface a bit, but they worked.



I tried a homemade gesso.  Here’s the very easy recipe:


  • 3 tablespoons Elmer’s glue (not school glue–just regular glue)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water.

I found the recipe here.  Honestly, I had no complaints about this.  The mixture was a little bit more wet than the professionally prepared products and took a little longer to dry.  It was super easy to make from readily available ingredients…



The Faber Castell gesso is white, which means it’s not the best product to use over a whole Bible page.  It would make the text hard to read.  It’s my favorite product to use on the backside of any page where I have bleedthrough!  It is somewhat transparent and it blends nicely with the slightly cream pages of my Journaling Bible.



I tried Glossy ModPodge.  I didn’t have any trouble with the page being tacky and sticking to the adjacent page.  I just painted the one page, however.  I was really surprised that so many art supplies look faded when used on top of the ModPodge.  The page had a very glossy, slick feel to it.  The Micron ink wanted to smudge and smear.026


The Mod Podge Matte finish was a better choice…



Finally, I tried the Faber Castell Gel Medium.  This product took a long time to dry and produced a very slick surface. Water color paint wanted to just float on the surface.


Finally for comparison purposes, I show you an unprepared page…


I didn’t show the back pages of the prepared pages because honestly there was not much to show.  They all did a great job of preventing bleedthrough.  The dictionary paper seemed slightly thicker, but the supplies that bledthrough the most were the same ones that tend to do so in my Bible (Crayola water colors, distress inks, Tombow Dual Brush Pens, and Sharpies, of course).  You can see how the Staz-on ink shadows a bit with the stamped circles.  What I discovered through my experiments is that many art supplies are just nicer to use on a primed page; it’s not just about preventing bleedthrough.


Let me know if there’s a page prep product that I should test!  Or if you have any questions.  I can always update this post!


9 thoughts on “Getting to Know Page Prep Options

  1. Sally, thank you for all your research & letting us know what works the best for certain applications. I had read that Golden satin glazing liquid was an option. I have been prepping some pages with it while I wait for my order of Dina Wakely clear gesso to come in. I have not tried my art supplies on any of those pages yet, though. The recommendation I saw was from back in 2014 and I haven’t seen any further notes or updates about it. Is this something you’ve tried or had any info about. Thanks again for all your help.

    • I haven’t tried glazing liquid. Any comments I could offer would be just a guess. I don’t think it would hurt the Bible pages and it would probably prevent bleedthrough.

  2. This is awesome!!! Thank you:). One question- do the preps make the pages pretty stiff, or are they still relatively soft? Like, so the art won’t crack as the Bible is used?

  3. Thank you so much for the review. You can also use clear gesso on coloring book pages to stop bleed through, if you want to watercolor. I also appreciate the link to the recipe, as I do have the ingredients to make my own. Again thanks for the time and effort, it wasn’t boring at all!

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