How to Stretch, Prepare and Prime A Fine Art Canvas for Oil or Acrylic Painting

preparing the surface is very important for any artist your painting will have a different work depending on how you prepare your own canvas the canvas that I'm going to prepare for it is how I want this particular piece to be done but everything can be modified to get your canvas having a different effect the two major things are how rough or smooth do you want the canvas and how absorbent or not on something you want that surface personally I like to prepare my own canvas to stop the absorbency of the Jessel by adding a little bit of oil-based primer but I'll talk about that a bit later okay you may well have used before a factory based or factory stretched canvasses which are very easy take them out the cellophane start working on but what I would recommend with any anything like this is also preparing your own surface for them thus offers that will come with it will be a very basic sort of thin cord gesso on it but what you may want to do is maybe smooth that off by adding a few course of your own jace or sanding down between course and possibly adding an oil primer on the top the difference between your Kjetil based primer and your oil primer is that oil primer just dries a little bit less absorbent and the absorbency of your primer is important what I like to do is finish off my ground with an oil primer because the oil primer being less absorbent than gesso primer you get less of a thing or sinking in and oil painting when your colors are talked about it as sinking in they tend to mean that it dulls it dulls the color what the gesso is doing is absorbing some of that color instead of this the color setting on the surface of the the canvas these canvas is great but I've yet to come across pre-stretched canvas that has the qualities that is able to be achieved if you stretch your own so this is what we're going to do to the administration campus and meter square counters here to stretch and I've also got some materials that I'll show you that you would one staple gun pair of pliers for taking the staples off should you need to run Stanley blade to cut the canvas or a pair of scissors winter okay I've got the leather here some materials I use an online shop a great arms of kuda UK have a look at see one go and these types of brushes great to keep for framing your canvas but also at the end varnishing your canvas as well you want nice cheap brushes so that the varnish and sometimes it gesso can completely ruin these brushes lots of DIY brushes things like that this is Jess on the condom gesso that heat is just–dress on primer and this is acrylic based and I've got acrylic binder oil painting brainer primer okay it's tracing the canvas and got my material my canvas which is a just big enough to go across my stretchers which are one meter square anything from about 80 centimeters is going to need a crossbar and the crossbar is just really to give support so that this doesn't bowl and the tension of the canvas pulls that down it's not going to bore this stretcher and on the other side so I've got two crossbars because two of my sales exceed the sort of 80 centimeter canvas is then cut – sighs which one alone fold over the bag to be just well wider than the width of the stretcher and also you need to make sure that which is the first time you're stretched down it or not that the the lip is on the canvas side so the canvas will pass through that lip and this little lip is going to separate the canvas from this edge here if you stretch it with your counters on this side quite obviously you're going to get the imprint of the back of this stretcher there okay so it's important that we stretch the canvas on this side we're going to make my first first Depot right in the center and the way that we're going to do this is we're going to staple the center of this side then the center the other and then the centers on the other two sides so we start at the middle and then work our way to the side adding one each side here what do you say there why don't you say it there and we work open the middle and swap the sides every time and that is just to make sure that the tension goes out from the middle of the canvas okay now at the stage where I've got three staples on each side what we do is just make sure that we're pulling it out from the middle and down and then hold and staple okay they may have it pretty much done hey I'm just going to show you the corners here I've got one more corner to do and I'm gonna do that along with you so I'll just show you one of the corners fold over one side like that and then this is stapled and then this piece gets folded and I like to have it so that one fold appears I've got my acrylic binder that I'm going to start with okay that stops dries clear it's a bit like PVA it seals the surface and you know you'll be fine to start off with the gesso grind and but I like working this way just so that the gesso moves better onto the surface you tend to use less off the Jessel if you've got a less absorbent surface to work on okay that's a banger layer done and it's completed right to the edges before I also wanted to show you while I had the binder the binder o is the quite often in the sketchbook I work with oil pastels which can and print a lot on the other side of the page this medium is quite good for doing glazes and acrylic there's an oil painting sketch that I've done here and you can see to the touch so it's kind of it just comes off so what we can do is apply a cool binder and this is going to dry clear and it will also dry slightly glossy and it will protect it okay with the vapor dry knives it's neither pound that was a bit of the tension in the canvas so at this stage to prevent the gesso going on and actually touching the crossbar alright I'm just going to knock in the wedges so now it's time for my acrylic Kjetil hey I'm going to apply it with the same large brush in the same fashion by pouring it straight onto the canvas and then manipulating with the brush rather than try to scoop it over a small container with a large brush okay I'm going to take you down to the year as a shallow level so you can see just what's happening in the surface of this painting what I want to happen is a lot of the brush strokes of the Jets are going onto the canvas to remain and then once it's dry I'm going to count them down with a little bit of sanding and what this sounding also does is you'll be able to see some well direct effects of the gesso sometimes when your gesso sets the yellow hardened best that just raised up from the surface and sanding will get rid of that on top of this will be another coat of acrylic gesso and that's going to be mixed a little bit with water just so that it's not as textured as the underneath the surface then I'm going to apply some of my oil painting primer if you want to work on an absorbent surface you wouldn't bother applying the oil painting primer you just paint straight onto the Jessica your oil primer will dry really smooth if you add a little bit of turpentine to it as opposed to what a base gesso primer one oil primer is going to do is going to dry by oxidation that means that there won't be it won't dry like water-based paint and water-based paints which dry by evaporation the liquid leaves the pink what happens here is that the liquid doesn't leave the paint necessarily and what it does is it just hardens and that makes it a shell like a hardened shell that makes a little bit more glossy and I the less absorbent and that's what's happening with this

29 Replies to “How to Stretch, Prepare and Prime A Fine Art Canvas for Oil or Acrylic Painting”

  1. The commercial canvases you buy have a thin sprayed- on layer of water based gesso. It is advisable but not mandatory that you apply some additional gesso.
    Water based aka acrylic gesso tends to be absorbent. That is, some of the oil in some oil paint gets absorbed leaving a dull, less shiny surface appearance.
    You can prevent this by applying a last layer of oil based gesso.
    Again, this is not mandatory.

    It would have been easier to do and to demonstrate if he had used a smaller sized stretcher and done all of the work on a horizontal table top.

  2. If you prime the canvas would it be too stiff to roll up or not? if so, is there anything else you can use to prime linen?

  3. For a large acrylic poured painting on canvas, would you consider priming with acrylic primer layers, followed by 2 gesso layers, sanded, followed by an acrylic gloss medium layer, to smooth the surface even further?

  4. Great video, but you left out the one thing I really need help with…applying the oil primer. Do you apply is just like gesso?

  5. Really useful Scott, thanks. One question if I may, what ratio of gesso to water would you use for that second layer of gesso? I guess it needs to be a fairly small amount of water. Say 1 part water to 5 parts gesso. Is that about right? Another question, if I may, if using MDF instead of canvas, would you still use the binder or would you go straight in with gesso?

  6. mmm… I was avoiding this video as I knew it would cost me money… yup. Now want to try the oil primer of course. But I was wondering if I could use the oil primer over the acrylic one without the binder? Is that going to work?

  7. I think I want a less absorbent canvas, but when do you need a less absorbent canvas and when do you need a more absorbent canvas? is it for style or something? thanks so much for the vid!

  8. Hello Scott , In the past I've  sometimes wished the canvas I was painting on was smoother now I know how I can achieve this  ,cheers for making the video ..learnt some without having to listen to product promotions lol

  9. Thanks…you saved me from doing the trouble of having to make one of these videos…I can just show my students yours…well done.

  10. Yes oil primer is just for oils. Acrylic primed is also called 'universally primed' which is suitable for oil and acrylic painting.

  11. Hi, I'm not Scott, but if it helps, the general rule is an Oil base paint when painting with Oil Paint, An Acrylic Base when Painting with Acrylics. Good luck.

  12. Hi Scott, great video. Just one question though. If I'm painting with acrylics rather than oils, do I need an oil based primer or is that just for oils?

  13. very informative and thank you for posting your vid! 🙂 I'm soooo excited to stretch my own canvas…

  14. Hello, I have just come into a lot of stretch boards and come acrylic gesso, do you have a video on how to put the stretch boards together? do you just rubber mallet them together at the corners? I believe they are not larger than 35 x 35.

  15. Thanks for the video it was very informative. Not to mention it was easy looking at a handsome guy do it lol

  16. Just currious about stretching, I am thinking about how to get large canvases I was thinking about ordering but you just show me there alternative. Oh by the way I am James I used to be in Ian class and last year their was talk about you or enesto taking over brain job wish aleast you did a class with us because I thought would been good to see demonstration but sadly never happened oh something else I remember having you in Graphic Design years ago, one more thing keep up the good work

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