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  1. #1
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    Gessoing pre-made, "ready to go" canvases

    Sorry if this is in the wrong section and double sorry if this post is stupid.

    I've painted on a few pre-stretched, pre primed canvases and I hate the rough surface of them.

    The ones I'm talking about are like the ones in THIS LINK

    First off, are these canvases even gessoed? Am I getting the terms "primed" and gessoed confused? Or are they interchangeable?

    Second of all, would it be ok to go ahead and apply a few extra coats of gesso on canvases like these so that I could achieve the smoother surface that I want for painting on?

    Thanks!
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  3. #2
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    Pre-primed canvases like the ones in the link are usually coated with 1 or 2 coats of acrylic gesso, unless it states that it is triple primed. More often than not, it isn't enough and some will add more coats of acrylic gesso onto it, lightly sanding between coats to get a nice smooth surface.


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  4. #3
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    There are a couple of ways that you could prepare these ... already prepared canvases. If it's double primed you could just sand it ( I personally prefer wet sanding, less dust in the air, and I seem to get smoother results) or you could apply more gesso like Lee W said. If you're going to be using oils, you could prime the canvas with an oil primer ( I use winsor and newton's) which is usually naturally smoother than acrylic in the first place, and you can sand that as well. If you're looking for a very cheap surface to paint on for studies, you can use high quality tracing paper, or Mylar drafting film; recommended by William Whitaker here( I also enjoy painting on Mylar)
    "A drawing is not necessarily academic because it is thorough, but only because it is dead. Neither is a drawing necessarily academic because it is done in what is called a conventional style, any more than it is good because it is done in an unconventional style. The test is whether it has life and conveys genuine feeling."- Harold Speed
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    I'm assuming you're using oils? I think you might be confusing gesso and primer - they're almost interchangeable with today's materials so don't sweat it. There are a lot of different approaches to setting up your "ground" (the surface you'll paint on). Here's the terminology for all this stuff:

    1 - Support: the "sub-surface" that supports the painting - it can be birch plywood, masonite, stretched canvas, linen, stiff cardboard, foamcore, gatorboard, etc. I prefer painting on linen that is laminated onto birch plywood. I usually prime it again with Fredrix oil primer.
    2 - Ground: the ground is the actual surface you apply the paint to - the ground should always be primed to allow the paint to better adhere to the surface and also to prevent the oil paint from coming into direct contact with the support (canvas, linen, etc.). Oils will eventually cause the canvas/linen to deteriorate if you don't apply a primer.
    3 - Gesso: acrylic gesso is basically calcium carbonate mixed into white latex paint. The calcium carbonate provides "tooth" to the finished surface.
    4 - Primer: You can use either acrylic or oil primer to prime the surface. If you use oils though you should use oil primer for obvious reasons. Oil paint can't bond well with acrylic either physically of chemically so if you're concerned about archival materials and approach (which you should be) stick with oil primers.

    You can always sand the surface with a very fine (300-600) sandpaper if you want it to be smoother.

    I hope that helps a little. There are a lot of brands, surfaces, and weaves out there and they all behave differently. It takes some experimentation and when you find a combination that you like - stick with it!

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paulie View Post
    Sorry if this is in the wrong section and double sorry if this post is stupid.

    I've painted on a few pre-stretched, pre primed canvases and I hate the rough surface of them.
    They are also hell on your brushes.

    The ones I'm talking about are like the ones in THIS LINK

    First off, are these canvases even gessoed? Am I getting the terms "primed" and gessoed confused? Or are they interchangeable?
    Those are coated with an acrylic "gesso" primer - that is, an acrylic primer containing marble-dust or similar to give it "tooth". Acrylic "gesso" is suitable for use on stretched canvas - real gesso (i.e. hide-glue, marble dust and white pigment) needs a rigid surface such as panel.

    Second of all, would it be ok to go ahead and apply a few extra coats of gesso on canvases like these so that I could achieve the smoother surface that I want for painting on?

    Thanks!
    Yes, it is. Not guaranteeing that they will last hundreds of years, but its good enough, if you are not in a position to be painting ultra-archival work (why everybody who picks up an oil-painting brush thinks that every work they do, right from the outset, deserves to be visited upon their children's children, yea even unto the seventh generation, I do not know. If you're having to ask about it here, its unlikely your current work will be of a level deserving preservation for half a millenium).

    If you are interested in a smoother surface, one effective way to do this is to apply the paint as several layers with a palette knife or the edge of an old credit-card or similar. You don't need to sand between layers, and can keep applying paint until you completely fill the canvas grain, if you wish. Allow the acrylic to cure properly by leaving it for several days, then sand it very lightly with a fine-grit (400 grit) wet-and-dry paper, then wipe down with a damp cloth, and let dry overnight.

    If you like to work on a less absorbant surface, apply a lean layer of oil-primer or oil-paint. I use a 50/50 mix of titanium white and lead white in linseed oil, toned with a little raw umber, and just slackened to a cream consistency with solvent, applied with a cheap household brush. Let cure well for several weeks. This will give a surface very nice for detail work, and very kind to your brushes.

    Dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Pariano View Post
    There are a couple of ways that you could prepare these ... already prepared canvases. If it's double primed you could just sand it ( I personally prefer wet sanding, less dust in the air, and I seem to get smoother results) or you could apply more gesso like Lee W said. If you're going to be using oils, you could prime the canvas with an oil primer ( I use winsor and newton's) which is usually naturally smoother than acrylic in the first place, and you can sand that as well. If you're looking for a very cheap surface to paint on for studies, you can use high quality tracing paper, or Mylar drafting film; recommended by William Whitaker here( I also enjoy painting on Mylar)
    Don't want to hijack your thread, but I have a quick question. Pariano, where did you find frosted mylar?? I asked at some places around town, and most had no idea what mylar even was. I found something I think is similar at Blick, but would like to know specifically where to find it if you have a good source.

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    I believe mylar is a brand name- I remember my drawing teacher telling me that it and "drafting film" were basically the same. I go to school at SCAD and we have it a primary art supply store right near me. I honestly haven't gotten it anywhere else so I wouldn't know. The stuff really feels alot like good tracing paper so if you're just doing studies I think that would be fine. Sorry I can't be of more help.
    "A drawing is not necessarily academic because it is thorough, but only because it is dead. Neither is a drawing necessarily academic because it is done in what is called a conventional style, any more than it is good because it is done in an unconventional style. The test is whether it has life and conveys genuine feeling."- Harold Speed
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  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Praemium View Post
    Don't want to hijack your thread, but I have a quick question. Pariano, where did you find frosted mylar??
    Mylar is technically a brand name for polyethylene film, but it's not uncommon for people to call other frosted plastics such as polyester film "mylar" as well. It's usually found in large sheets (20 in x 30 in or more), and stored in drawers at better art stores. Aside from drafters, printmakers sometimes use this stuff for registers (because it's easy to clean oil based inks off of the smooth side)...so if you can find an art store that sells printmaking supplies, they might have it as well.

    Much more commonly available: "vellum" printer sheets from Staples. Chaosrocks said that these worked perfectly fine for her, and it costs about $20 for 50 sheets of 8.5 x 11. I can attest that regular old Strathmore 300 tracing paper also works pretty well if you need something larger, but can wrinkle with age (not a paint related issue). Another option (I haven't personally tested this), Canson Vidalon is a 55 lb weigh vellum that comes in 50 sheets pads, and has a good range of sizes.
    Last edited by Aphotic Phoenix; January 1st, 2010 at 02:34 AM.

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aphotic Phoenix View Post
    Mylar is technically a brand name for polyethylene film, but it's not uncommon for people to call other frosted plastics such as polyester film "mylar" as well. It's usually found in large sheets (20 in x 30 in or more), and stored in drawers at better art stores. Aside from drafters, printmakers sometimes use this stuff for registers (because it's easy to clean oil based inks off of the smooth side)...so if you can find an art store that sells printmaking supplies, they might have it as well.

    Much more commonly available: "vellum" printer sheets from Staples. Chaosrocks said that these worked perfectly fine for her, and it costs about $20 for 50 sheets of 8.5 x 11. I can attest that regular old Strathmore 300 tracing paper also works pretty well if you need something larger, but can wrinkle with age (not a paint related issue). Another option (I haven't personally tested this), Canson Vidalon is a 55 lb weigh vellum that comes in 50 sheets pads, and has a good range of sizes.
    I went to about 3 arts & craft stores, asked for mylar, and they had NO IDEA what mylar even was. I'll try a better more "art-focused" store in a bigger city. For now, I've just been using tracing paper, although I was hoping that mylar, being a plastic, would hold up a little better. I'm not really surprised that I couldn't find it though, the art stores here tend to be more towards the crafting side. I'll also try the vellum idea when I run out of tracing paper... thanks to you both for the help!

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