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Applying an Acrylic Ground to Canvas


Before applying paint to your stretched canvas, you must apply a ground consisting of sizing (glue which protects the cloth fibers from the degenerative effects of oil paint) and primer (a base coat which allows paint to stick well and provides a consistent, all-over color). Utrecht Acrylic Gesso is both sizing and priming in one, and prepares any appropriate support to receive oil, alkyd or acrylic paint.


Although technically not a critical step, some artists choose to apply an acrylic or PVA sizing underneath gesso to seal the nap of the cloth and preserve a tight stretch. Utrecht Acrylic Canvas Sizing is ready to use for this purpose.

Priming with Acrylic Gesso:

Step 1: The first coat of Gesso applied to the canvas should be thinned to the consistency of thick cream so that it can penetrate the weave of the canvas.

Step 2: Apply the first coat using a stiff brush. Utrecht’s Bristle Gesso Brush leaves a subtle surface, but may shed a minimal number of bristles during the first use; Utrecht’s Nylon Gesso Brush will shed no hairs, but will leave a more textured surface. Use strokes parallel with the long dimension of the canvas. When the entire canvas is covered, allow to dry to the touch.

Step 3: A second coat should be painted on top, again in the same direction. This second coat, when dry, should be lightly sanded.

Step 4: Apply a final coat of Utrecht Gesso. The last coat should not be sanded, as some texture should remain to allow good paint adhesion.

Step 5: Finally, all four sides of the canvas should be coated with gesso, covering staples or tacks. When completely dry, the canvas is ready to accept oil, acrylic or alkyd paints.

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