Smooth paper for oils
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    Smooth paper for oils

    I have been looking in many stores for blocks of smooth oil-primed paper but all I can find is paper with a texture similar to that of canvases, and it's not even as smooth as the smoothest premade canvases - it look subtle enough but the scans turn out all grainy. So my questions are:

    1) Is there a brand which makes 100% smooth, oil-primed paper?

    2) If not, is it possible to add further gesso on top of primed paper like you would do with wooden board in order to get a smoother surface or there are downsides?

    3) Is it possible to prime ordinary watercolor/acrylics paper (say 300-350 grams) for oils with the ordinary water soluble gesso?

    Thank you for any advice!

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    oil painters have used vellum for hundereds of years you might give it a try. Just be careful to find out what it is actually made of these days
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vellum

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    Yes, it is also possible to use oil on printmaking and watercolor paper with acrylic gesso. i and others have been doing it forever. Prepare it just like a board. Some artists like to actually gesso paper to a board for a more rigid surface.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    Yes, it is also possible to use oil on printmaking and watercolor paper with acrylic gesso. i and others have been doing it forever. Prepare it just like a board. Some artists like to actually gesso paper to a board for a more rigid surface.
    Bill,

    Won't the paper rot if it isn't sized? Canvas has to be sized before it is gessoed or oil primed or it will rot. Doesn't the same hold true for paper? I know illustrators paint on Illustration board but I also know its not archival and falls apart fairly quickly (50 to 75 years if it isn't conserved.)

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    Most pads of oil primed paper are crap, don't even bother with them. Not only are they embossed with that (not really) "canvas" texture, but the priming is really thin and won't stand up to anythign but the most delicate treatment.
    Some better options:
    Yes, you can prime any kind of paper you want with acrylic gesso. It's much easier to buy large sheets, prime them, and then cut them down than to try to prime lots of smaller sheets. Prime both sides.
    Arches makes an oil paper now, it's sized but not primed. I haven't used it yet, but am planning on trying it out soon.
    Use unstretched, preprimed canvas, cut to size. As you said, fine weave, double primed canvas can be very smooth.
    You could also try Yupo or mylar. Since both are plastic, they're completely non-absorbent, and have a very different feel to paint on, but they can also be primed with gesso, and you don't have to deal with rippling.


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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Bill,

    Won't the paper rot if it isn't sized? Canvas has to be sized before it is gessoed or oil primed or it will rot. Doesn't the same hold true for paper? I know illustrators paint on Illustration board but I also know its not archival and falls apart fairly quickly (50 to 75 years if it isn't conserved.)
    Sizing isn't necessary with acrylic gesso, the acrylic is inert and forms enough of a barrier (if it's properly applied) to keep the oils from rotting either canvas or paper. Sizing is necessary on canvas if you're using an oil ground, of course. You can actually use oils on paper that has been properly sized without any sort of ground. People use hide glue, gelatin, acrylic medium, or shellac.


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    Thank you! I'll try priming smooth paper on my own then, I just need a cheap and reasonably durable support for illustrations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Sizing isn't necessary with acrylic gesso, the acrylic is inert and forms enough of a barrier (if it's properly applied) to keep the oils from rotting either canvas or paper. Sizing is necessary on canvas if you're using an oil ground, of course. You can actually use oils on paper that has been properly sized without any sort of ground. People use hide glue, gelatin, acrylic medium, or shellac.
    Hmm, because I'm a geek about this I was just checking my Mayer Handbook. He says no paintings on paper survive after 35 to 50 years unless professionally restored. page 278 in the Fourth edition (1985)
    He then goes on to contradict himself saying he would expect oils on 200 lb or greater rag watercolor paper to be permanent, sized or not.

    Last edited by dpaint; July 10th, 2012 at 11:19 AM.
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    Why deal with the hassles of a paper support? Just genuinely curious because I can't think of any significant advantages and only a lot of problems.

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    Difren' strokes for difren' folks.


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    I don't think Mayer had a lot of dealing with new acrylics. Gesso is essentially plastic when it dries. You could use it as a flak jacket and be safe.

    Jeff, I like paper in certain circumstances. It doesn't have the canvas texture, which I've never enjoyed because I work fairly small. It also is easier. At one time when I was younger and trying to get better I prepared about 100 sheets of paper each under 8x10 and just painted. No worries. Plus I like drawing more on paper then covering with clear gesso and adding paint.

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    Yeah - I've done the drawing on paper thing then used matte medium to adhere and protect the paper to panel...I definitely like that for doing illustration type work.

    But Bill I thought you used exotic metals and secret alchemy grounds for your stuff? Paper? That's just a smokescreen!

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Yeah - I've done the drawing on paper thing then used matte medium to adhere and protect the paper to panel...I definitely like that for doing illustration type work.

    But Bill I thought you used exotic metals and secret alchemy grounds for your stuff? Paper? That's just a smokescreen!
    By the time I'm done the paper turns into precious metal.

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    Yep, paper or board is ideal for painting small (especially if you're painting REALLY small... I once did a bunch of paintings smaller than three inches on a side, can't easily do that with canvas.) (Should do that again, those were fun.)

    It's also ideal for student work - we used it in our beginning oil class in college because it was cheap and fast and easy to get rid of when we inevitably threw out most of our terrible beginner attempts. (Takes up less space than canvas, too. This is an advantage if you're living in a dorm.)

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    If you only want paper and not canvas/linen, I don't know if your paintings will hold up very well over time. When I was doing lots of oil studies I was using paper just a bit thicker than newsprint, taped onto a drawing board and gessoed and then sanded down until I got my paper somewhat smooth. While it makes for great studies, it also won't be archival quality work. From an art student's perspective, it's easy to store, and going to paper was great for me since I was too cheap for canvas & bars, and stretching canvas every day was a pain (it hurts!).

    Honestly, your best bet is probably somewhere along the lines of unstretched, preprimed canvas/linen. If you live in a big city, most art stores have the rolls set up and you can see how fine the weave is yourself.

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    I've really been wanting to try that Arches oil paper. I really like painting on paper and this stuff sounds perfect!

    http://www.dickblick.com/products/arches-oil-paper/

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    To be fair, and to put things in "archival" perspective, stretched canvas is an inherently unstable support. We just accept it out of convenience and tradition. If you want your pictures to last, the most important thing is to make pictures that people will care about, and want to take care of.


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    Hi Scale! Adriaen Coorte was a 17th century painter who liked use oils on paper mounted on board and his works survive in very good shape.

    Michael Pope's book on oil painting - material and technique (I only have the title in Swedish so that's a rough translation, sorry!) goes into detail about preparing paper and canvas for board and what glue you should use etc if you want to use oil mediums on it. The book is so old I'm sure you'll find it online somewhere, but otherwise I can try my best to translate it into English here if someone wants

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    I simply coat standard watercolor paper with one or two layers of (mostly beige-brown) acrylic paint. It's similar to a primer of acrylic medium, just with the extra bonus of getting a nice colored tone to start with.

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    I will make a bet for anyone who is still alive in 500 years. I will prepare hi-quality wc paper with acrylic gesso and you can prepare it any other way that you'd like and mine will be better when our bet comes around. It's like putting a plastic bottle around it. It certainly will last as long as the oil paint you put on it.

    If you win the bet you can take one of my paintings at that time. It will be worth millions or twelve dollars in today's currency.

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    I believe it, Bill! I have usually just slapped some acrylic paint on bristol board and then painted over that. Some are 4+ years old and there's not even the slightest hint of yellowing on the backside of the paper.

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    Pff, I've got some paintings on acrylic-primed Bristol board that must be well over a decade or two old now, they haven't changed a bit...

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    Not entirely off-topic, I hope, but I have some old crappy oil paintings that I'd like to do a new painting on. Can I just use acrylic gesso straight onto the old painting, or will the oils fight with the gesso and the gesso just flake off?

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    Alesoun, acrylic over oil just sounds like trouble so I wouldn't suggest it.

    I'd probably take todays oil palette leftovers, drybrush them over the old canvas then work on that.

    You don't have to completely obliterate the old paint if you don't want to and it can make for some nice texture effects. I'm assuming the old canvas is not inch thick impasto btw..

    Disclaimer - results may not last 300 years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alesoun View Post
    Not entirely off-topic, I hope, but I have some old crappy oil paintings that I'd like to do a new painting on. Can I just use acrylic gesso straight onto the old painting, or will the oils fight with the gesso and the gesso just flake off?
    Acrylic over oils is not gonna work... However you could sand down the original (if it's got texture,) and maybe do an oil ground/under painting over that. Should be archival enough, lots of old paintings were painted over other old paintings and it doesn't seem to have done them any harm.

    If you really want, I suppose you could try to sand off most of the oil and then scrub the rest off with paint thinner and then put a new coat of gesso on... I did that once. Don't really recommend it, though, it's more work than it's worth and probably weakens the canvas anyway from all the sanding and scrubbing...

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    Thanks, guys. I didn't really think acrylic over oils was a great idea, but it was worth checking out. Luckily, I have a good supply of titanium white. I guess that will do...

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