Art is all about mastering little details and expressing your creativity through them. To be a great artist, it is paramount to have right materials, sublime techniques and creative ideas. Canvas is one of the most preferred painting surfaces and an important material to have as an artist. They are specially designed to retain paints well. Artists throughout the history have used canvas to create permanent artwork. However switching from other painting surfaces to canvas may present its own challenges. Learning to paint on canvas can take time but you can start by learning how to prepare canvas for painting. 

Preparing a canvas properly is one of the key details that can really improve your paintings. It is often overlooked, as artists usually focus on other details before working on fundamentals. Having great art supplies and exquisite techniques cannot compensate for a poorly prepared canvas. Learning how to set up a canvas before you paint can help you get the best version of your painting. 

Getting to know about canvas

Some of you might be new to painting on canvas, so it’s important to know a few details about canvas. Canvas is a piece of strong woven cloth, mostly cotton or linen and it is used as a supporting surface for painting. Canvas comes in multiple sizes and you can choose them depending upon your need. They are stretched over a wooden frame which firmly holds canvas. They usually come pre-stretched but if you enjoy the process of stretching canvas, then you can build the frame and stretch canvas over it. It’s preferable to buy stretched canvas as it can save you time and the effort. Canvas holds acrylic and oil paints well, making it suitable for acrylic and oil painting. Artists who want to create permanent artwork prefer using canvas over other supporting materials. 

Priming canvas before painting

how to prepare canvas

Priming is a process of applying a primer to the painting surface before painting. It’s similar to applying a coat of primer on walls before you paint them. Raw fabric is not smooth and has fabric textures which obstruct free movement of paint brush. Primer allows a smoother surface to paint. It’s easier to control the brush on a primed surface.  It makes canvas receptive to paints and colors stand out more prominently. Without primers, colors usually don’t take their true form. They wont be as brighter and vibrant as you would expect them to be. 

Canvases are usually primed when you buy them. However, it is advisable to check the surface to see how well the primer is applied because it is poorly applied sometimes. Depending on your satisfaction, you can choose to work directly on it or apply primer by yourself. 

Which primer to use?

There are different painting mediums artists use. You might work with acrylic paints or you might use oil paints. It’s important to know there are different primers for acrylics and oil painting. Acrylic gesso is primer for acrylics. It absorbs the paint, allowing the paint to dry quickly. You have less time to work on paint as it dries quickly and forms a chalk-like texture. Whereas an oil primer doesn’t absorb paint and it dries through evaporation only. It helps you to work on paint for a longer period of time as paint remains wet.

How to prime your canvas?

Now that you have learned about priming, it’s time to get to work! You can follow these 8 simple steps to finely apply primer on your canvas:

  1. Pour out a suitable amount of primer in a cup or a palette, add about 10-20% water and stir it to form a smooth liquid.

  2. Place your canvas on a flat surface and use a wet sponge to slightly wet the canvas surface. 

  3. Use a 1” or 2” brush, dip it slightly into the primer and start applying the primer on canvas.

  4. Evenly apply primer by gently stroking it from left to right and right to left until the whole canvas is covered with primer.

  5. Look for any missing spots and coat them accordingly.

  6. Once the primer is evenly applied, let the canvas rest till the primer dries.

  7. When the primer dries, rotate your canvas by 90 degrees and apply another coat of primer in the same manner and let it dry.

  8. Repeat the procedure until a smooth layer is formed on the surface of the canvas.

We hope this guide will help you to prepare your canvas properly. If you follow our guide carefully, you would notice quality of your artwork improve significantly. 

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