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The Golden Age of Russian Impressionism

How To Prime A Canvas


Art Tips | How To Prime A Canvas



fine sand paper (optional)
brush for gesso
Plastic cup (to mix gesso w/ water)
mixing tool (plastic or metal butter knife works well)



1. Sand the canvas: If you would like a smoother canvas, you can use sandpaper to smooth the surface before you apply your gesso.  Or if you like the rough feel and look of canvas, skip this step. Sand lightly.


2. Mix the gesso:  Mix a small amount of water with your gesso into the cup. Use your mixing tool to stir thoroughly. You do not need very much water. The mixture should be slightly thinner than the gesso on its own.  Read the directions on your gesso container.  Clean your mixing tool promptly after use.


3. Apply the first coat: Run your brush under water first; then squeeze it dry so it is just a little moist.  This is so the gesso doesn’t stick to the dry hairs. Dip your brush in the gesso and begin covering the entire canvas with wide brush strokes moving in either vertical or horizontal parallel lines.  For the first coat, don’t brush in both directions.  Make sure you get the gesso into all the crevices of the canvas.  At the same time, move quickly because gesso dries fast. Clean your brush thoroughly immediately after you finish the first coat. Cover the cup of gesso with plastic wrap and leave your canvas to dry.


4. Sand again: After the gesso dries, is a good time to sand the surface smooth again.  Sand lightly. This is optional and based on your preference, of course.


5. Second coat: Wait about an hour for the first coat to dry.  Paint the second coat on perpendicular to the first coat. (i.e. if the first coat was painted on horizontally, paint the second coat on vertically)


6. Sand again: Feel free to sand the surface after it dries.  Sand lightly.


7. Clean up: Wash your brush thoroughly. Do not put left over gesso down the drain.  Instead, throw it out with your trash.  Let your canvas dry completely. Some artists even let it dry over night.




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