I’ve forgotten where I learned this technique but I know atleast one of my professors from college used this for the first few layers when prepping his boards and canvases for painting.
And that is to use this:
(Imagine there is a picture of a small foam paint roller here, ama zon is being a dink and won't let me link it up.)
To roll on the first several layers of gesso.
I’m using a heavy foam roller, 4 inches wide by about 1 inch in diameter. It lays down a even coat of gesso, in the exact same texture as when applying wall paint, a pebbled texture that looks like an eggshell. The thicker the gesso the higher the peaks.
The one down side is that the roller holds a lot of gesso, so it’s best to plan ahead and cover a lot of paper or canvas when you are rolling gesso. It’s also effective to get a perfect smooth surface with much less work than using a brush. (Another downside is that if you are rolling the roller away from you it will kick up a lot of fine even splatters, it will coat a new black shirt in sand like dabs of paint. This may or maynot have occured in real life.)
I used the roller as if I were rolling ink onto a plate. Then rolled it onto the paper or board as if I was painting a wall. I allowed it to dry between coats and I did not sand at all, I enjoy the texture.