Preparing the Surface

Hi everybody,

In the previous posting we briefly discussed the tools that I use. I had some questions in relation to how I prepare my surfaces so I will discuss the process.

When you buy ready-made canvases they are mostly primed with acrylic gesso.  There are different type of gesso and usually the ones used in ready-made canvases are not very good. One of the issues of using oils over acrylic gesso is that the oils will sink due to the absorbency characteristics of the gesso.

Consequently I always prime the surface with an oil primer in order to minimize the sinking. If you want to completely avoid sinking it is best that you buy oil primed ready-made surfaces (double primed at least).

Note: I don’t have any affiliation with any of the products mentioned below nor do get any sponsorship for mentioning the products.

See you soon


The first thing I do with read-made canvas is to cover the sides with strong masking tape.  This will stop any paint dripping to the sides so when finished the sides will look clean.


I do not paint the sides of my canvases.


The ready-made canvas comes primed with acrylic gesso so I am using an oil based primer to over the surface.

The oil primer is quite thick so I will mix a bit of OMS thinner (single cream consistency) and use a plastic trowel to spread the primer on the surface.


Ensure that there are no puddles on the surface. You need to let the surface dry completely before putting oils on it (usually 3-4 days).

When preparing a raw material such as raw linen the process is slightly different.

Firstly, the material must be sized either by using PVA or rabbit skin glue. This stops the oils from damaging the fibers. I prefer PVA.

There are ready made PVA products for sizing linen/canvas or you can buy PVA glue and dilute it.

The material needs to be stretched or pinned down.

Do not stretch it on the stretch bars prior to sizing the material as it will sag and you will have to re-stretch it.

I staple the material on a piece of ply wood and apply a couple coats of size. Make sure that the whole surface is covered.

Once the size is dry, about a day, I apply a couple coats of oil primer as I do in the ready-made canvases.

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