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Priming a canvas for acrylics or oils

Priming Canvas, Once you have finished stretching your canvas, the step that follows is of priming the canvas. After priming you can start painting. A primer basically seals and protects the support, making the canvas less absorbent. It also helps the colors to stand out and provide a smoother surface with enough tooth for the paint to bind onto. It further proves that it provides an excellent surface for both acrylics and oil paints. Priming is made very easy with a ready made gesso which is suitable for both acrylics and oil paints.

Materials Needed

  • You will require a gesso that is suitable for either oil or acrylic; depending on what you plan on using. However, Golden Acrylic Gesso can be used for both oil and acrylic.
  • A stretched canvas
  • Large house painting brushes that are 3 inches wide, a foam brush or a paint roller which will ensure an even coat of paint when applies. For smaller canvases make sure you use smaller versions of the above brushes.
  • A fine sandpaper if you plan on sanding the layers of gesso for a smooth surface to paint on.
  • A container of water
  • A few rags or paper towels
  • A drop cloth or used newspapers on which you can lay your canvas on.
  • Pushpins

Steps for Priming Canvas

  1. Be sure that you purchase a bottle of gesso that is suitable for both acrylic and oil painting. It dries very fast and is painted directly onto the stretched canvas.
  2. Make sure you stir the container as thoroughly as possible. Do not skip this step!
  3. Decide if you’re going to apply one or a few coats of gesso. If you decide on one remember it gives a rougher finish. Hence, two coats are recommended for a good overall finish. If you do decide to apply one coat, use the gesso as it comes out of the bottle for added thickness and fully surface coverage.
  4. If you decide to apply several coats, dilute the gesso of the first coat with a little bit of water to a thickness of heavy whipping cream. Remember different brands of gesso have different viscosities. You may find that you may need to add more or less water depending on the brand of gesso you are planning on using. You can also add a little bit of acrylic gloss medium with the water to prevent the gesso from cracking.
  5. Use a clean, wide brush or a roller brush to apply the gesso directly to your stretchy canvas in even strokes. Make sure to work top to bottom on the canvas making parallel strokes from one edge to the other.
  6. Keep in mind that you’re supposed to pain the edges of the canvas too with eack new layer of gesso.
  7. Let the first layer dry for a few hours before continuing.
  8. You may want to move your painting to a safer area so that it doesn’t stick to any newspaper that is beneath it.
  9. In the meantime, wash your brush thoroughly with soap and water. Once the gesso has dried on the brush it will not come off so do not miss this step.
  10. When the first layer of gesso has dried you can start sanding it if you opt for a smoother surface.
  11. If you’re applying two coats apply the second coat in the direction that is perpendicular to the first coat.
  12. Let the coat dry and sand again if you want a super smooth surface.
  13. Time to clean your brushes again.
  14. You can also add another layer of gesso at this time if you want. The choice is all yours. You can also add a little bit of acrylic paint to your gesso if you want to add a hint of color to create a colored ground on which to start your painting.

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