The Trouble with Oil – Preparing a Canvas for Oil Painting

by Will Kemp

in oil painting

Oil paint can be an amazing substance to work with, from creating quick sketches outside to photo realistic portraits. Because oil paints take a long time to dry, they give you the flexibility to be able to tweak, alter, soften and blend resulting in lovely muted, smokey subtle paintings.

If you decide that you’d like to give oils a go, then my recommendation would be to start with a pre-sized, pre-primed ready-made canvas to paint on.

Why?

Well the “oil”  in the paint can create a few issues over time you should be aware of.

We’ve all heard of “fat over lean” and paintings cracking , but don’t be scared…

It’s really very simple, below gives you a quick overview of the best preparation needed for a canvas, when working with oils.

Oil can eat your Painting

The oil will corrode and rot the fibres of a canvas if it isn’t prepared correctly, so raw canvas needs a coat of “size” applied, before anything else can happen. This acts as a seal between the oil in the paint and the canvas.

oil painting preperation layersSo what are the options?

Ready-Made Canvas from the Art Store

Just to clarify, a pre-sized and pre-primed ready-made canvas means you’re good to go, you don’t need to do any more to the surface, you can just get painting.

However, you can now buy various stages of preparation of a ready-made canvas:

1. A canvas that has been pre-sized but not primed – With this you can either paint straight on top of it, or my recommendation would be to apply a couple of coats of gesso to give a better painting surface. This option is probably for the more experienced painter as it allows you to bespoke your primer (Gesso) application.

2. A canvas that has been pre-sized and pre-primed with an Oil paint primer, also known as a traditional Oil Gesso – This is how a traditional canvas would have been prepared and the Oil primer allows an oil ground and oil paint on top of it. You cannot apply an acrylic ground to this surface.

3. A canvas that has been pre-sized and pre-primed with an Acrylic paint primer, also known as an Acrylic Gesso – This is a modern alternative and allows you to paint an acrylic coloured ground and a thin acrylic under-painting before moving onto an oil paint layer. Why would you want to do this? Speed and convenience as acrylics dry so much faster, some painters like blocking the bones of the painting with acrylics first.

N.B. You can paint thin applications of acrylics under oil but you cannot paint acrylics on top of oil paint.

Raw Canvas bought in a Roll (normally then stretched onto stretcher bars to create a taut painting surface)

You can of course buy raw canvas and prepare it yourself. This is more cost effective but time consuming.

The Size Layer

  • PVA Glue – As a student with no money I used to use PVA craft glue for tester pieces. It is cheap, forms a barrier and is great to practice with kids. Cheaper PVA is not the ideal choice as it can become very brittle and unstable over time but you can now get PVA that has been specifically designed for artists.
  • Acrylic Size – To replicate traditional Rabbit Skin Glue, you can use a combination of an acrylic polymer called GAC400 and GAC 100. GAC400 must be applied to raw canvas and will stiffen the fibres first, before then applying GAC100 which is a Multi-Purpose Acrylic Polymer sealer. Applying two coats of GAC 100 before the primer/Gesso layer, will reduce linseed oil penetrating into the canvas fibers.
  • Rabbit Skin Glue – Yes you read that correctly, it’s one of the most traditional ways of sizing a canvas and is made by mixing dry glue with water and gently mixing together. It’s one of the worst smells I’ve ever experienced. It’s a laborious and smelly process as you have to apply when warm but for creating a drum tight canvas, it’s great.
    However, it is hygroscopic, meaning it will always be water soluble and can absorb water over time. High humidity will re-introduce water into the rabbit skin glue, causing it to soften or swell up. If the painting is in a environment with changing humidity this constant swelling and drying of the film and can become brittle and cause cracking of the final paint layer.

Pro Tip: Cotton canvas does not absorb the size as well as linen and will need a stiffer brush and more working into the surface.

The Primer Layer

  • Oil Gesso – This is a traditional primer and allows an oil ground and oil paint on top of it. You cannot apply an acrylic ground to this surface.
  • Acrylic Gesso – This is a modern alternative primer and allows you to paint an acrylic ground and a thin acrylic under-painting before moving onto an oil paint layer.

You can read more about how to apply an Acrylic Gesso here

To begin painting with oils black and white is often a good place to start, here is part 1 in a 5 part series of my approach to painting a classical oil portrait in black & white

You might also like:
1. 8 tips to help you make a killer Bespoke Canvas
2. Getting Started: How a prepared Canvas can drastically improve your painting – An Old Master technique to rapidly improve your paintings

 

 

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison Stafford September 16, 2011

Hi Will,
Can you email me the list of definitive palettes that you were talking about in our lesson the other day.
You gave me the two palettes for portrait painting….are there any others? Off to buy some paint
:)
Ali

Reply

Will Kemp September 16, 2011

The basic palette was: yellow ochre, light red, english red, raw umber and ivory black. It is based on the primary colours just with everything a bit muted. A more extended palette would include burnt umber, red umber & green umber, possibly Persian red. But as with most things in painting less is often more. Nineteenth-century painter Thomas Couture only used Naples yellow, vermillion, flake white and black.

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Bronwen November 6, 2011

Will, In my world (english trained) light red and english red are the same colour. Could your english red be my indian red?

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Will Kemp November 6, 2011

Hi Bronwen,
It can be confusing with the paint names, and some brands do cross over but the above colours are from Old Holland paints and their light red, english red and indian red are all different colours.
What brand are you using? Sometimes English red can be the same as Venetian red, but wouldn’t be same as Light red or Indian red.
Basically you need one warm red, say light red or English red as these colours are very similar and have a warm undertone.
And one cool red say, Indian red as this has a purple bias when mixed with white. Hope this helps.
Will

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dee February 12, 2012

Is it possible to finish an acrylic portrait with a layer of oil paint? i think it should be as I often put a layer of acrylic under an oil painting for a different colour base. Wouldn’t it be the same principle?

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Will Kemp February 13, 2012

Hi Dee,
Yes, you can block in a portrait (or landscape) with acrylics and work with oils on top for a finish. This can be especially useful if you are working on a black background because black oil paint is a slow dryer so having a base with the acrylic would work well. Just be aware not to have the acrylic too thick or the oil won’t have anything to “grab” to. Ideally the acrylic would have been diluted with water so there isn’t as much of a plastic film.

Will

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martin July 3, 2012

Flippet. Im 45 and decided tonight that I want to start painting. Im very creative and can do anything when someone asks me to make something of wood and combining it with paint and still decorate it with stone or whatever.

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Will Kemp July 4, 2012

Go for it Martin!

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Martin July 25, 2012

I am constantly considering changing ‘up’ to oil from acrylic. Using the same ‘skills’ I employ, do you believe my paintings, of which I am reasonably/very happy with, will show an improvement? I read that blending is so much more responsive with oil and I do like the transition of colour/tone I see with oil but not sure if I have to learn new technics all over again if I want to change.
Martin

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Will Kemp July 25, 2012

Hi Martin,

Thanks for the comment, depending on the way you currently paint the change to oils can be subtle or huge! The process that I teach with acrylics is designed so that when you try oils the same painting principles apply and the change will be minimal. The ability to acheive subtle blends will be very easy with oils, however, if you are used to working very thickly you will notice a massive difference in drying times.

It all depends what your end aim is. What style of painting do you currently do?

Will

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Tia December 3, 2012

Hallo Will,
I’ve decided to take the plunge into painting! Your site is certainly very helpful as I decide which medium is best; however, I have a question. What do you think about water soluble oil paint? I like the idea of oil paints, but I would like to stay away from the use of solvents. Have you tried this type of paint before? If so, what do you think of it?

Thank you! :-)

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Will Kemp December 7, 2012

Hi Tia,

Glad the website has been helpful.

I personally have always used traditional oil paints so I can’t give a full rounded view of water soluble oils. I have tried them and the biggest bonus is for painters who have allergies to solvents etc.. They feel similar to standard oils however haven’t got the pigment strength of artist quality oils. Holbein’s Duo Aqua Oils are really nice and get good reviews, they are definitely worth a try to see how you get on with them.

Hope this helps,

Will

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Molly Mc. July 7, 2014

What a great site!
Tia brings up a point that has kept me in acrylics and held me back from oils for a long time…the issue of solvents. I enjoy figure and portrait drawing and have finally decided to try painting, but blending like I would need to with acrylics is useless. Have you or your colleagues tried any of the new non-toxic brush cleaners like Flush Brush? I’m wondering if this could be the tipping point into oils for me. Thanks. I enjoy the palette tips as well!

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Will Kemp July 8, 2014

Hi Molly, I’m working on an article on ‘How to paint a non-toxic oil painting’ that will go into more details on the variety of options available, should be on the site soon,

Cheers,
Will

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Laquita February 1, 2013

I’m a self taught amateur artist, have been for years. Recently I painted a 3’x4′ portrait with a background of cobalt blue and ivory black. (I rarely use black.) I was horrified when it dried to find what your glossary termed “sinking in”. In various different light, it seemed to appear very dull in areas, and very glossy in others. Not knowing why, I tried to correct it, but nothing I did worked. I’m hoping you can give me a workable solution, and at the same time perhaps it will help others as well. Thanks! Your website is a God-send!

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Will Kemp February 1, 2013

Hi Laquita, sinking in can cause the exact symptoms you’re describing. The remedy is to ‘oil out’ there is a description of the process on the glossary, albeit brief. You can watch a video demo of the process here you’ll have your painting glossy as new in no time!

Cheers,
Will

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Laquita February 2, 2013

Hi Will…Your advise is much appreciated. I’m looking forward to my first experience with “oiling out”! Hopefully now I’ll be able to sell this piece. It’s on display as an NFS, and has garnered interest, but I wasn’t willing to risk selling it for the sake of my reputation in it’s present condition. I’ll let you know how it all turns out…you’ll probably remember who I am when you see my name! :-) The link you shared w/me gave me an even more wealth of information. Thanks again so much! Cheerio, Laquita

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Will Kemp February 2, 2013

You’re welcome, Cheerio Laquita!

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Laquita February 2, 2013

Hello again Will…I meant to ask you another question concerning glazing. Could you give me a basic list of transparent colors I might need for glazing, or point me to another link? I believe I heard someone say there’s an indicator on the paint tubes, but many of mine are old and unreadable.

Also, my question led me to do an inventory of the colors I do have. Years ago when I was first beginning, I bought a tube of Veridian Emeraude. I can’t figure out for the life of me, why?!! (besides not knowing any better!) Other than using it for practicing monochromatic and mixing exercises, what might I use it for? Would mixing it with a bit of Mars Black make it suitable for painting fir trees? I’m currently working on a 36″x36″ back yard/wooded scene. Any suggestions? Thanks again, Laquita

Reply

Will Kemp February 3, 2013

Hi Laquita, on most artist quality paint tubes there is an actual swatch of paint, this is often painted over a series of black lines so you can judge the transparency. Mixing in the colour with black is a good choice for creating some lovely muted greens.

Cheers,
Will

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John Cunningham April 8, 2013

Hi Will.
I hit a bad patch with my portraits turning chalky, I use a limited palette of Ivory Black, Yellow Ocher, Vermillion, Cobalt Blue, and Titanium White.
What do you think went wrong?

John

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Will Kemp April 8, 2013

Hi John,

Are some areas chalky and others glossy?

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Juanie May 17, 2013

Hi Will,

I’ve been painting with oils for a couple of years now, and recently discovered that the canvasses that I used to love working on (which I bought from a private “canvas maker”) started cracking after a couple of years. Now I’ve resorted to buying artshop canvasses, but find that they seem to “dry out” the oils and blending becomes quite challenging (even Winsor & Newton canvasses). Am I supposed to size and prime these already prepared canvasses? Or do I perhaps just cover it with a layer of gesso?

Thanks so much,
Juanie

Reply

Will Kemp May 23, 2013

Hi Juanie,
Yes you can apply an extra coat of Gesso to the already primed surface, this will help to reduce the absorbancy of the canvas.
Another option is to apply a coat or two of an acrylic medium first like Golden GAC100, which will reduce linseed oil penetration into the canvas fibres to make the surface more non-absorbant. Then maybe apply one very thin coat of gesso on top for tooth. That should reduce absorbancy to a minimum.

Cheers,
Will

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mercy June 25, 2013

Hi will,
I used oil paints to paint over an old painting – I could not remember if I used oil or acrylics for the original – now the oil paint is peeling – is it because the original was acrylic?
How do you tell if a painting was done using oil or acrylic paint (years later)?

Thank you,
Mercy

Reply

Will Kemp June 26, 2013

Hi Mercy,
You can paint oils on top of acrylics, but not acrylics on top of oils.

The problems will occur if the existing painting is quite a thick application of paint and a smooth shiny surface, the remaining layers won’t have anything to ‘grab’ onto and gives a lack of adhesion. One simple way to test if the painting is oil or acrylic is to smell it!

Cheers,
Will

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Angela June 29, 2013

I painted wayyy back in the mid 60s while in high school. I would like to try my hand again just for fun. I used oil then, but the effect I ended up with was extremely smooth that it actually looked like chalk. I brushed it out a lot. My question is, should I try using acrylics this time around?

Reply

Will Kemp June 30, 2013

Hi Angela, you might be interested in this article that looks at the pros and cons between the two mediums.
Cheers,
Will

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Rhea July 31, 2013

Hi. I just painted a gorgeous sunset using oil paints on a cheaper pre-made hard canvas. I did not prep the board before painting, but would like to know how to seal my canvas on a budget. I’ve had teachers tell me a mix of glue and water will suffice. True? Thanks!
Does this really work??

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Will Kemp July 31, 2013

Hi Rhea, I wouldn’t reccomemd a glue and water mix as it will prevent the oxidation drying process of the oil paint.

Cheers,
Will

Reply

Larry October 3, 2013

Hi Will,
This is a great site. I painted regularly up until about 15 years ago. At the time I was working with gouache and acrylics. I’d like to start again, and I’ve been interested in doing some encaustic painting. It seems like for encaustics, along with gentle, subtle blends of color that oil might be the medium of choice. A few friends have recommended playing with acrylic modeling paste and gel media to sort of “imitate” the effects of working with wax and oil. What do you think?

Reply

Will Kemp October 3, 2013

Hi Larry, pleased you’re enjoying the site, you can use modelling paste and gels for creating textural effects and building up the surface of a painting, and can use acrylic mediums for transfer techniques to mimic some of the effects available with encaustics. It depends on the techniques and visual effects you’re trying to achieve.

Cheers,
Will

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Barbie. December 4, 2013

Hi Will! just found your site today! Love-it…Learning to paint portraits, wanted to try one in black and white. Watched your 5 part video, can’t wait to get started! great advice. Thanks Will, I am a new fan!!…Barbie

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Will Kemp December 4, 2013

Great to hear it Barbie, so pleased you’ve been finding the lessons helpful in your portraiture.
Cheers,
Will

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Amy May 28, 2014

Hi Will

I’ve been following along with your acrylic painting courses and have had a heap of fun. I want to try my hand at oils now, and have bought a basic set and when I asked for Odourless Mineral Spirits I got home to find they gave me Chroma ‘Incredible Brush Cleaner’, which describes itself as a soap to remove paint. So now I am confused – I thought you used OMS instead of water (i.e. with acrylics you swish your brush in water to clean it before getting the next colour )- do I use this stuff like water for oils, or is it just for when you wash the brushes at the end of the painting? And … I’m too scared to squeeze the paint out onto the palette because now I don’t know what to mix it with to start painting! I don’t want to put soap on my canvas, do I? Please help! So bamboozled. Thanks so much,
Amy

Reply

Will Kemp May 29, 2014

Hi Amy, yes, you can use odourless mineral spirits to clean your brushes aswell as a medium for your oil paints, whereas the Chroma incredible brush cleaner is just designed for cleaning your brushes.

So you’d need to get some odourless mineral spirits to cut through the oil paint if you want to have a lean layer. Have a read through this oil portrait series which goes into detail about a classical oil painting process.

Hope it helps,
Will

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Amy May 29, 2014

Thanks Will.
Yes, I didn’t think the incredible brush cleaner was the same as oms. I went back to the shop and bought some liquin by Windsor and Newton to use as a medium, as they didn’t know what I meant by oms. Anyway, thanks for confirming my suspicious, now to open my lovely new paints and get going :-) Cheers for your help Will, you’re the man!

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Will Kemp May 30, 2014

Good one Amy, Liquin is a great medium (it will speed up the drying of the oils) and can be very handy for glazes.

Cheers,
Will

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vishnu August 8, 2014

Hi will.
I like to paint abstract floral painting like Susanna shap
(https://www.etsy.com/in-en/shop/ModernHouseArt). It is more heavy impasto style used with palette knife. i tried once paint directly from tube with palette knife. however i could not get much embossed from canvas as susanna paintings. i read about liquin impasto medium to create impasto. but, as im from india, it is not available here. getting it through online too is of no use (shipping restrictions). i also read about adding saw dust to oil paint to create embossing. is it correct? Pls clear me.

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Will Kemp August 8, 2014

Hi Vishnu, it is easiest to create heavy texture techniques using acrylics mixed with gels due to the quick drying nature of acrylics.
Cheers,
Will

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Carmen September 3, 2014

Hi Will,
Thank-you for all your very useful information. I just have a technical question when using oils- I paint in thin layers and use just a small amount of painting medium at a time, I wait until a layer is touch dry before putting another layer down(about three days), but I sometimes find that it can fairly easily scratch off. Is this a problem? When the painting continues to dry will these layers harden up? and if so should I wait till each layer is very hard before painting another one? (I worry this may take a very long time)..
Thank-you!
Carmen

Reply

Will Kemp September 3, 2014

Hi Carmen, yes depending on the thickness of the paint layers the oil paint can take many months to fully dry and harden completely. You don’t need to wait until each layer is very hard, you just need to wait for the paint layers to fully cure if you intend on varnishing your oil painting.
Hope this helps,
Will

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gerald October 27, 2014

Since when I was young enough I have been using watercolours which I mastered very well.After sometimes i decided to switch to oil paints which i find more attractive because they are shiny ..,but have been facing some hardships as I am still a beginner.The oil paints get sticky as I am painting over the canvas this makes me unable to get an even tone of painting on my canvas .Please help me out sir

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Will Kemp October 31, 2014

Hi Gerald, you should be able to get an even tone with your oil paints, try diluting with mineral spirits and applying your first layers.
Hope this helps,

Cheers,
Will

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gerald October 31, 2014

Oh..thanks but i really put my trust on acrylic as i have seen in some of your videos already , they are very friendly when using them and will help you do painting easier than oils, as long as you know painting already.So i am gonna try using acrylics also to get their real taste and difference but I hope they won’t disappoint me like oil paints.I am looking forward to hear your helpful suggestions also

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Will Kemp October 31, 2014

Good one Gerald, hope you find the videos helpful in developing your acrylic skills!
Cheers,
Will

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gerald November 6, 2014

Sorry I texted wrongly up there so I come once again. I am thankful Will, I have now ordered some acrylic paints to begin my talent once again after a long postpone .as I read in one of your posts that “your talent is your pure energy” so this time am really passioned and determined to spend at least an hour or two in front of my canvas..just not to become a seasoned pro or amateur anymore .I will be always in touch with your video tutorials Will …nd I know you are always here to help

Reply

Will Kemp November 6, 2014

Good one Gerald, pleased you’re feeling inspired!

Cheers,
Will

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gerald November 10, 2014

Hello will, I got my acrylic delivery today and am eagerly waiting to start following keenly every advice you gave on your previous posts ……

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Will Kemp November 10, 2014

Very exciting Gerald! hope you enjoy experimenting with your new paints.
Cheers,
Will

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gerald November 12, 2014

Hellow Will ,I wish I would upload what I did with acrylics ,it’s marvelous I can’t explain everyone around the pic. is like OMG., 2 to 3 instructions of yours like how to mix acrylics with water …..and a video tutorial pushed me forward to do all these.Thanks to you Will keep it up …and keep guiding us well .

menchie January 17, 2015

Hi will, I would like to start painting in oil, what colors should I purchase would it be the same as the acrylic palette? Thanks! Menchie

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Will Kemp January 17, 2015

Hi Menchie, yes, the acrylic palette also works great with oils.
Cheers,
Will

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Sue February 18, 2015

Hello Will
Loving your website. I need to ask what you think of using greyboard for portrait painting. My question is with or without gesso?
Thank you
Sue

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Will Kemp February 19, 2015

Hi Sue, is the greyboard similar to thick card mountboard?

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Kishori Taylor March 30, 2015

I so very realistic work with lots of detail so I am trying to get the smoothest surface possible. I used to work in pencils and am only just converting to oils, so I don’t know much about oil painting. Based on some research though, I used half and half liquitex modeling paste and liquitex gesso and I did around 10 very thin layers, dried and sanded in between each one before I got an ultra smooth egg shell finish. I also used up to 600 grit sand paper for the final sanding. However, when I applied my oil paint it didn’t seem to adhere very well. The brushstrokes were very visible and very shiny as the oil didn’t seemed to get absorbed. When I painted on a normal canvas paper with some ‘tooth’ and ‘texture’ the oil paint flowed on very nicely and was absorbed by the paper and actually seemed more smooth because the brushstrokes sort of ‘melted’ into the paper. I am wondering if I made it ‘too’ smooth? Should there be some sort of ‘tooth’ for the oil paint to catch on to? What do you suggest I should do? Someone suggested maybe it’s the modeling paste, and I am wondering if I just use gesso maybe it would be better?

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Will Kemp March 30, 2015

Hi Kishori, If the surface is shiny the oil will be more likely to sit onto the surface. If you imagine a drop of oil on a sheet of plastic and a drop of oil on a piece of paper towel.

You then just need to match the level of absorption of your ground to the handling properties you like when painting.

The modeling paste is usually used to add texture so if you wanted a smooth surface you could just use gesso.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,
Will

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Lachlan April 17, 2015

Hello Will,
Is the acrylic size you mention the same thing as acrylic gesso, e.g. Winsor & Newton Artists’ Acrylic White Gesso, and could I use this gesso and nothing else to prepare watercolour paper for impasto style acrylic painting? How about oil painting?

Reply

Will Kemp April 17, 2015

Hi Lachlan, no, the acrylic size is a modern replacement for rabbit skin glue, such as GAC 100 from Golden paints.
For oils on raw canvas you would paint a layer of size first, then a coat or two of gesso. You could use the acrylic gesso on watercolour paper for acrylics without a layer of size, but would have to size the surface for oils.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,
Will

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Louise Berry July 31, 2015

Hi l! I have just started painting again and in oil. I have just bought canvas but feel that stretching my own canvas would be best. As I am still new to this, can you recommend materials to buy to get a lasting canvas. Also what is the process? Thanks :)

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Will Kemp August 1, 2015

Hi Louise, you will need stretcher bars, a roll of canvas, stretcher pliers, a staple gun and strong fingers! You might find this lesson of interest on the basics of stretching an artist canvas
Cheers,
Will

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Malcolm Pounder November 11, 2015

Hello Will
Stumbled across your website earlier this year , found it so interesting decided to have a go at a portrait in oil following your 5 step tutorial – amazed at the results ! I`ve now done several portraits , some better than others but all better than I ever imagined I was capable of.My question is , I`m thinking of glazing over the greyscale portrait but how do I mix a skin colour for a glaze , I read that white is opaque so presumably best avoided ? Any advice.
Thanks for your website that has sparked a new hobby for me.

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Will Kemp November 12, 2015

Hi Malcolm, nice to hear from you and really pleased you’ve been finding the portrait tutorial helpful in your portraits. You can still mix in white with the colours for glazing, and often you need to paint on thicker than you think. I’m planning a new coloured glazing course for oils that should be out in the new year. Starting with a yellow ochre and a cadmium red will give you a good base colour for the skin tones.

Cheers,
Will

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Angela January 23, 2016

Hi Will,

Good morning.
Signed up to your website just yesterday. Thanks.

I want to start to paint in oils, but has no experience ( except from high school 30 yrs ago :-)) or knowledge on the subject. I went on a two-afternoons Plein-Air class a couple of weeks ago and would like to continue this adventure.
My first questions are: what should be my basic color palette (Old Holland), which brushes do I need, how do I mix colors? As I noticed from that class, of course is, the lack of knowledge about how to get the color I needed. Does your acrylic paint color mixing guide also go for oils? Is Richeson oil paint a good alternative for the Old Holland?

Thank you and have a wonderful weekend.

Angela

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Will Kemp January 24, 2016

Hi Angela, if you have a look through the website tabs at the top there are a number of getting started articles about brushes, colour mixing and choosing a colour palette. Yes, the same principles from the simple colour mixing course can be applied to oils, some of the techniques would have to be slightly tweaked due to the different drying rates of the paints, but the colour mixing theory remains the same.
Cheers,
Will

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Angela February 13, 2016

Dear Will, I will look into the tabs. Thanks again. Great. Regards, Angela

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Marie March 1, 2016

Help!!!
Hi Will,
I was wondering if you could offer any advice regarding a canvas i lovingly streched then naively primed with acrylic gesso WITHOUT sizing first. Should i size the back of the canvas? I intend on working in oils.
Can you offer any advice please?
So much to learn! Thank you for your generousity.
Cheers,
Marie

Reply

Will Kemp March 3, 2016

Hi Marie, the sizing layer is more to protect the canvas from the paint above it, so although it would help a little it wouldn’t give you a complete seal applying to the back, so I wouldn’t add it to the back. Personally, I would use that canvas for an acrylic painting and start afresh with a new canvas for your oils. It might not be what you want to hear, but what if this painting is your Mona Lisa, you’d then kick yourself.

Cheers,
Will

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Laura October 31, 2016

Hi Will,

Maybe I missed it, but can you give an idea of which of these steps would be protocol for a wood panel? I prefer painting on panel, and have bought some unfinished ones. Thanks. -Laura

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Will Kemp November 1, 2016

Hi Laura, the steps would essential be the same, but depending on the wooden panel you’re using you could apply a coat of GAC100 (from Golden paints) to the board first to seal the wood. Sometimes moisture can pull any impurities out of the wood into the gesso layer. A coat of GAC100 seals the wood and creates a barrier between the wood and the painting.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,
Will

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Judy Mather November 19, 2016

Hi Will, thanks for all your guidance. I am changing from acrylics to oil and know only the simple basics. My question…I have watched some oil painter abstract videos, (I paint in abstract) and it looks like a couple are using paint store oil out of large cans. Is that ok to use. I think I wiould like the paint can consistency so much better then the tube heavy looks and I wouldn’t have to thin. Thanks, Judy

Reply

Will Kemp November 28, 2016

Hi Judy, are they oil based wall paints? they won’t be as pigmented as artist quality oils and will have a greater colour shift from wet to dry.
Will

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Will Kemp November 12, 2014

Pleased to hear you’re getting great results Gerald.
Cheers,
Will

Reply

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