Preparation of a canvas begins by stretching it onto a stretcher or frame. To stretch an art canvas, you will need a furniture stapler and tongs or pliers. Although, with sufficient skill, a canvas can be pulled with your hands, fixing with a hammer and nails.
For prep, a raw canvas is smoothed with an iron, a piece is cut from it according to the dimensions of the stretcher, with a margin of 5-6 cm for bending. The fabric is then carefully stretched and fixed to the stretcher. Stretch the canvas very carefully so as not to damage the fabric. The corners are neatly folded and fixed onto a stretcher.
The canvas is stretched so that its surface makes a dull sound (like a drum) when you tap it with your fingers. When stretching large artist canvases, you need to use the correct stretching scheme: from the center to the edges.
How to Prepare a Canvas Before Priming
The second stage of preparing a canvas is gluing before priming. For gluing, PVA glue, acrylic resin, liquid gelatin of 5% concentration is used. The best option is considered to be acrylic resin, used by manufacturers in Europe. To protect the fiber texture from oil penetration and to coat the gaps between the fibers, glue or resin should only be applied to the front side. You can’t glue one place for a long time; otherwise, the canvas will sag and may soak through. The sides of the canvas also need to be glued. Better to do 2-3 glues, it is important that the glue does not seep through.
For work, it is better to use a knife or palette knife. The second layer is applied not earlier than the complete drying of the previous layer (6-8 hours) with a knife or a flute brush. Between the layers, the canvas is sanded with sandpaper.
If desired, you can apply another coat before priming. The number of layers depends on the thickness and density of the canvas and the quality of the adhesive used. At the end of the work, as a result, the linen holes should not show through when you look at the canvas through the light.
How to Prime Canvas for Oil Painting:
- decide on the type of primer
- buy or mix a primer yourself
- apply the primer to the canvas
- let the canvas dry
The final stage is the priming itself, this is the process of covering the canvas with materials that prevent the penetration of oil paints into the texture of the canvas and prevent the paint from tarnishing.
For the primer, you can use ready-made primer compositions or make one yourself from the materials at hand using the tutorial. There are two main types of primer: acrylic and oil. Acrylic primer allows the paint to dry faster and makes the canvas porous. Oil primer leaves the canvas non-porous, but such primer and paints will take longer to dry.
To prime a canvas, apply the primer with a wide brush, evenly distributing it over the entire area to get an even surface. After priming, let the canvas rest for at least a few days and you can implement your oil painting techniques.
Useful Hints for Priming а Canvas:
- oil primer allows the paint to stay wet, so you have more time to finish the masterpiece
- oil primer gives the painting extra shine
- try different types of primer to find out which one is the right for you
- remember to let the canvas dry before applying the next coat of primer
Frequently Asked Questions:
Is there an option not to prime a canvas personally? (“What If I Don’t Want to Prep the Canvas?”)
If you don’t want to waste time and effort priming a canvas, get a ready-made one. Many stores offer primed or pre-primed with acrylic gesso canvas in the desired size and color.
Is it possible to paint on an unprimed canvas? (Can I apply oil paint to unprimed canvas)
It is not recommended to paint on an unprimed canvas with oil. The canvas will absorb the paint by using its excess instead of a primer. Thus, the paint will turn into a primer, which over time, unlike a primer, will crack and the color will fade.
As an exception, to experiment using the texture of the canvas as a composition in your painting, you can try this, but keep in mind that the painting will lose quality and color, and over time it will crack.