March 11, 2013
How to prepare your canvas or wood panel.
Last week I talked about the importance of the proper preparation of painting surfaces and I promised to talk about the actual preparation of surfaces and the products I use in this weeks post. Again I would like to state upfront that I am not an expert on this subject, I am not a classically trained painter, but I would still like to share what knowledge I have because I think this is an important subject that adds to the value of your artwork.
I work mostly with acrylic paints on wood panels but the surface preparation I use can also be applied to canvas and oil paints. There are other methods and materials out there but this is what I do.
Preparing a painting surface (a canvas or wood panel) is usually done in two stages. The first step is to apply “sizing”, which seals your surface to make it less absorbent so your colours will be more vibrant. It also prevents support-induced discolouration, which can happen over time when the oils in the wood come through your paints.
Traditionally “sizing” is done with rabbit-skin glue but there are other products out there that serve the same purpose. I use GAC100, an acrylic polymer made by Golden which seals the surface and is more flexible then rabbit-skin glue so there is less chance of cracking paint in the future. When I prepare my wood panels I always lightly sand the edges and surface and clean the entire panel with a damp cloth to remove any dust before applying my “sizing”. I apply two layers of GAC100, letting each layer dry before.
When I apply multiple layers I will always apply them at right angles so I end up with a nice even surface.
The second stage of preparing your painting surface is to apply Gesso. Gesso provides a great surface for both oils and acrylics and is available in white, black and transparent, though the last one might be a bit more difficult to find. For my work I use either white or transparent Gesso. The transparent gesso I use right out of the bottle but the white Gesso is a bit thicker so I mix it with some water until it is about the consistency of yoghurt. When preparing my panels I use at least 3 layers of Gesso, again making sure a layer is completely dry before applying the next one. If you like you panel to be whiter you can always add more layers until you are satisfied. Gesso is meant to serve as a ground so it will never be as white as your paints. If you want to have a nice white background in your painting you’ll have to add paints to brighten it.
I am aware that there are multiple ways of preparing a painting surface, this is just the way I approach it. I hope this has been helpful. I plan to talk a bit more in detail about some of the other techniques I use in future blog posts. Next week I will give you an update on my ‘Boroughs Project’ which is getting closer to finishing each week.