How To >> Browse Articles >> Painting


How to Prime a Support


Gesso Preparation

It is recommended to gesso unprimed canvas after it has been already mounted on the stretchers. Acrylic Gesso can be applied with a wide 3" Gesso brush. No preliminary sizing or sealing is technically necessary. The significant ingredient of Acrylic Gesso is the acrylic polymer emulsion. This contributes to the sealing of the canvas fibers (replacing the need for the traditional rabbit skin glue sizing), protecting it from any harmful absorption of oil from the oil paint layers. Artists find it is more efficient to prepare several canvases at one time.

First Priming:

First thin Acrylic Gesso with up to 1/3 water before the first priming so that the Gesso can flow more easily into the fibers of the canvas. This is important in order to have the priming permanently anchor itself into the linen and cotton fibers. Begin by moistening the brush with water. Work the brush back and forth in one direction and then in a cross direction with a little pressure so the Gesso can better penetrate the fibers of the canvas. Do one area at a time.

Priming the Sides:

Apply Acrylic Gesso on the sides of the canvas where it has been tacked or stapled onto the stretchers. This will eliminate any unraveling of the edges of the unprimed canvas. Also to protect the canvas from any accidental contact with oil paint.

Smoothing the First Priming:

After the first priming of Acrylic Gesso has dried, the canvas may have a little roughness, caused by the fuzz of the fabric. This can be easily eliminated by rubbing a very fine grain sandpaper very gently over the whole surface of the canvas. When sanding over the rim of the stretchers place your finger tips underneath and gently raise the canvas away from the rim. This is to avoid producing an impression of the stretcher rim on the surface of the canvas.

Second Gesso Priming:

The second priming of Acrylic Gesso does not need to be thinned with water. Apply it as the first. Do not sand the second priming in order to preserve its protection of the canvas fibers.

Tone Grounds:

Over the centuries, artists have painted on either a white or a tone ground. A tone ground can be made by tinting Utrecht Acrylic Gesso with any Utrecht Acrylic Color or Gesso Color. One can also apply the tinted Gesso to the sides of the stretched canvas. Note: Acrylic colors can be applied directly to unprimed canvas because of the high adhesive strength of the acrylic emulsion vehicle.

After you are finished clean your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.

Shop for Priming Products

Artist Painting Surfaces

Find the right campus or online art or design program for you!