How to Prime Canvas to Paint It

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Priming canvas for painting requires painting on acrylic gesso with a foam brush in at least three thin coats, sanding each coat smooth with 400-grit sand paper. Create a perfectly smooth surface ready for painting with a demonstration from an experienced artist and art supply store employee in this free video on drawing and painting.

Part of the Video Series: Drawing & Painting Tips
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Video Transcript

Hi, my name is David Lamplugh, and I work for Asel Art Supplies, in Austin, Texas. I'm here today to talk a little bit, and demonstrate how to prime a canvas and prepare it for painting. I'm going to use the most common method used nowadays, which is using acrylic gesso. Now, I have here a canvas that I stretched on a cotton duck canvas and fairly thick stretcher bars, and you will need to do the same, or buy stretcher strips and canvas at your local art store. I also have a source of water. This is always good for any painting; especially water based painting to clean your brushes in, or solvent, and the same in oil painting. I also have a foam brush. So ok, so I'm going to start today with a acrylic gesso by Golden, which I find a a good brand as any. It has a component of titanium dioxide like the paint, but it also has calcium carbonate for absorbency and acrylic gel medium. It's more opaque than regular acrylic paint, so it makes it easier to prime things with it to even out stuff on the canvas. Now, I'm going to use a little bit of water on the first coat just so it goes on there easily. It's best to use at least three coats of gesso when you prime a canvas. I'm getting, I'm getting a good coat on here, but it doesn't need to be the thickest one, cause' remember, we're making three coats on here. Now, I don't even need to use this handle on this painting brush. Now, white is not the only option for gesso. You can use the commercially available; there's black gesso, and here's a kind of a sand colored one, and there's a particularly useful neutral gray one. Now, once you get this coat on, and I'm almost there, you're going to wait about fifteen minutes for it to dry. Whoops, got some on my perfectly spotless pants. You're going to wait about fifteen minutes for it to dry. So, you wait about fifteen minutes, and then you're going to get a a thing of sand paper. I'm going to use 400 grit. So, you get some 400 grit and you start, and you just make little circles. Don't stay on one area for over a long time. Remember, you're going to be doing this three times. You'll get everything, okay. Now, you want to go and repeat those steps three or four times; remembering to sand in between each part, and then you should have a canvas that's pretty ready for painting. And how do you know at the end of it if it is? Well, you just feel. If it's smooth and, you know, your hand runs over it easily then a brush will as well, and you'll make good lines on it. If it's rough and you're kind of movin' like that then maybe it's time to go back and do another coat, and sand, and do it over again, but stick with it. You'll get one at the end. So, that's how you prepare a canvas for painting.

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