Starting from the basics of what actually canvas is. It is a material made from cotton or linen although in the past it was made from a material called hemp. It has its own look and texture which is very different from other kinds of fabrics like cotton etc. Taking an example of denim and how the canvas is different from it: denim is plain weaved whereas canvas is made from twill weave. There are two types of canvas which include either plain canvas or duck canvas. The only difference amongst these two is in the way they are woven because duck canvas is more tightly and closely woven.
Ever looked at modern art paintings and wondered why a few of them stands out, although they are just painted on a piece of canvas? The main reason is priming. Priming of a piece of canvas is done by applying maybe one or two layers of gesso oil to the surface which helps to make the surface smooth and makes the colors look bold. Priming is very important because if, for example, you are using oil color and you do not prime the canvas it will sink into the surface leaving behind patches.
Things to Remember When you are Priming:
- A piece of canvas feels rough like a tooth. The primer is meant to provide a grip for the heavy colors which will be put on the canvas.
- Priming basically is done to limit the absorbing power of the canvas and make sure that the colours stay on the surface rather than sinking in
- How your colour looks, in reality, might not be how it looks when put on the canvas. The relationship between the colors you use and the colour of the primed surface is something very important to consider. Oil, with time, becomes transparent and hence an opaque white surface after some time will reflect the maximum possible light.
- Priming helps to add rigidity which ensures long-term
- How well a primer covers depends on the canvas and the quality of primer you are using. Generally, one or two coats are enough.
There are two types of primed canvas; oil primed or acrylic primed. Here are the pros and cons of each so that you can pick the best for you canvas painting venture.
Oil Primed Canvas:
- Since your surface is primed with oil paint hence making it compatible with whatever you are painting. Oil paints also combine well with chemicals
- Oil paints make the surface smoother which means it cannot be destructed by the strokes of the brushes unless they have a very rough surface
- This can be easily applied over an acrylic ground
- Usually takes weeks and can even take several months to dry and become useable properly
- Oil paints are very expensive, and finding canvas which isn’t already primed is very difficult.
- Thinning, cleaning and mixing oil requires turpentine rather than just water and soap
- You have to size the support earlier in the case of oil priming for paintings for sale. You can use acrylic grounds, but those need a number of coats, unlike oil painted ones.
Acrylic Primed Canvas:
- Usually cheaper and easier to clean
- Dries faster than oil primer however still needs at least a week before you can start painting on it
- Canvas which is acrylic pre-primed is usually easier to stretch
- Acrylic primers can be very rough on any brush you use
- Acrylic priming leaves areas which do not blend well with the paint leading to beading up of paint.
Are you all set to paint? Find a canvas, prime it for oil or acrylics and allow the inner artist in you explore its beauty and create the magic.