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Priming Canvas with Oil or Alkyd


An excellent ground for oil painting can be achieved using Utrecht Oil Priming White or titanium white alkyd paint. A sizing must be first applied to the stretched canvas to protect the cloth from the paint. (Linoleic acid, the component of linseed oil which causes drying, will burn cotton or linen fibers.)

The most traditional glue size for canvas is Rabbit Skin Glue. Hide glue must be prepared according to package directions. Brush glue on, making sure to drive it into the weave of the cloth, and cover the sides as well to avoid damage from oil. The result should be a glue layer that is uniform and covers all fibers, but without thick lumps that obscure the texture of the cloth. Rabbit Skin Glue should be applied as a liquid, warm or hot. The surface should be free of pinholes (the result of air bubbles). If these are detected, a second coat is necessary. The canvas should be allowed to dry completely before applying a priming layer.

A modern, synthetic alternative to rabbit skin glue is available in the form of Utrecht Acrylic Canvas Size. This product is ready to apply with no advance preparation; use according to package directions. Allow to dry completely before priming with oil or alkyd.

Utrecht Oil Priming White can be thinned to a thick cream consistency with pure gum spirits of turpentine, taking care not to over-thin, and applied with a brush or knife, following the long dimension of the canvas. When the first coat is dry to the touch, a second coat may be applied. The surface should be completely covered with primer, but not so thickly as to obscure the texture of the canvas. The canvas is ready to accept paint in 10-14 days. If painting cannot begin within 3 weeks, the canvas should cure for 6 additional months to ensure a stable paint film.

Titanium white alkyd paint is an excellent priming which has much the same feel of an oil ground, but is ready to accept oil paint the next day. Follow the exact same steps as for Oil Priming White, except the ground can be used as soon as its dry, and may be used at any time.

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