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Do I have to do anything to my canvas when I’m ready to paint?

If the canvas is primed with gesso to accept acrylic paints or oil paints, if you are painting with acrylics or oils, the answer is no. However, if you lightly sand the primed canvas with a fine grit sand paper, it will smooth the canvas by removing any bumps left behind when it is commercially primed. This rough texture will not harm the painting at all. However, removing those bumps will help reduce the wear and tear on your brushes. Each time you use a brush it slowly starts to fray. This is normal wear and tear, but the bumps from our canvases can speed up that process. If you lightly sand the canvas (usually two or three swipes with the sand paper), it will give you a smoother painting surface and reduce the amount of wear and tear to your brushes. For me, the smoother surface also helps the paint move more freely across the canvas.

Canvas with Sandpaper

The other thing I recommend that you do is an underpainting on the canvas. This is applying a coat of acrylic paint on the canvas before you begin painting. This will help your paint adhere to the canvas. Acrylic paint binds best to acrylic paint. Not every artist does this but it is a good habit to develop. This is where student grade acrylic paints are good. You can use this inexpensive paint as a base; saving you money. Or you can use your left over paint from your palette. I use the left over paint from my palette to prime a canvas.

Leftover Paint on Palette

What is an underpainting? An underpainting is a color that will enhance your painting. Some artists use a single color on every canvas they paint as an underpainting like gold or red. Your underpainting color can change how the paint looks in a painting. Generally you chose a color that is close to the most predominant color in your background. If my painting background is dark, then, I chose a color that will enhance the darkness like a brown, navy blue, or black (if the background is black). If the color is light, I choose a light color like a light grey, blue, yellow. There is also gold gesso, which is metallic and can enhance a painting, especially if you are looking to create a undertone of metallic; it can be a great undercoat for a snowy winter scene. For the seascape that I am working on, I used a bright blue.

I like to use Matisse Background Colors Acrylic Paints for my underpaintings. This comes in a jar and is actually a colored gesso. These come in several colors. I have a few and find I use the Haystack, Pale Grey, Brown, and Capitol Blue the most. You paint over the entire canvas, it dries quickly and you are ready to begin. It provides a great surface to start your painting and the heavy body acrylics glide across it beautifully.

You can purchase Matisse Background Colors from Blick Art Materials. Click this link to go to their main page.

Try a light sanding with a fine grit sandpaper and an underpainting for your next painting.

Until next time, happy painting.


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