Tuesday, March 17, 2015

How to Prepare Quality Homemade Primer and Canvas

There is no hard and fast rule actually concerning what to use as support or surface for your oil painting. By this I mean you could paint on any surface that has been well treated for the purpose of painting on, and these supports may range from very cheap paper to wood, and to expensive canvas. The bottom line is that the surface must be well treated or prepared before you set out to paint. 

Quality Control

The point in all of these is that you make sure the oil from your oil paint is not sucked up by the surface; you do not want to see the oil from your pigment sinking to the back of your support and leaving the pigment flaking off or looking like chalk afterwards.

'Mobile' (oil/canvas) by Morgan Nwanguma

Another important thing you must guard against is that if your painting surface is not well primed or prepared, you are likely to end up having your painting cracking in no distant time. You must make sure to avoid this because it could lead to a very big embarrassment and also able to badly soil your reputation as an artist. How will you feel if perhaps you have just produced what you term as a masterpiece and before long you or even worse still, your patron reports that he has observed crackles in your painting which he just bought the previous year?

Every practicing artist I dare say, will be damned to see this happen to him or her; it will be most unethical and unacceptable for a professional. To avoid this sort of embarrassment I will now take you through a simple process of priming or preparing your canvas that you could undertake at home, in your studio by yourself. But if you can afford to buy the ready primed canvas from your art store, good for you, yet this is a skill every (professional) artist ought to know right from art school.

Preparing your homemade canvas

  1. Select a good cotton or linen material, one that is tightly knit and not too light; certain materials are specifically designed for this or related purpose. The material can be smooth or coarse if you like - depending on the effect you want to achieve at the end of the day. 
  2. Stretch your canvas on your stretcher tightly until you arrive at a taut, almost drum-like firmness.
  3. Apply your primer to your stretched surface - which for this purpose could just compose only of slightly diluted white glue. Allow to dry and repeat the application once or twice just ensuring that the pores of the fabric material are well covered and lets in no light when you hold it up against the light. Just remember you are only able to assess this when the material is dried out.
  4. Depending on the nature of your fabric and how you want your support to look like; if it appears very rough after the application of diluted white glue, you could use a smooth sandpaper to reduce the coarse appearance of your canvas before applying the last layer (which should be of diluted white enamel paint).
  5. Then prepare also a diluted small quantity of enamel white or quality (white) gloss paint, and lightly apply to your already dried out surface. Leave to dry for at least about twelve hours, and there you have your support.
By the time you are able to master the basic rules and quality control, you could then begin to exploit your artistic license to experiment with effects, inculcating additives into the preparation of your primer and supports, and express yourself the way you feel.

By Morgan Nwanguma


  1. Are you mad? Gloss paint as primer? Cheap, maybe but a terrible solution that will give your paintings a self destruct over time

  2. Are you mad? Gloss paint as primer? Cheap, maybe but a terrible solution that will give your paintings a self destruct over time


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