Do You Need To Prime Canvas For Acrylic Paint

Many artists believe that properly preparing the canvas is just as important as the painting process. The initial step in preparing a canvas for using acrylic paints is to prime it. However, there is a question of whether priming is truly necessary for creating a masterpiece. Let’s explore this matter further.

What is Priming?

Priming a canvas, also known as applying a ground, is the process of applying a layer of material on the canvas to create a smooth, uniform surface for the paint to adhere to. This layer prevents the paint from soaking into the canvas, which can cause deterioration over time.

Do I Need to Prime My Canvas for Acrylic Paint?

The short answer is yes. Acrylic paint, unlike oil paint, is not formulated to bond to an unprimed canvas. Without a prime coat, acrylic paint can soak into the fibers of the canvas and result in patchy areas or even cause the canvas to decay over time. Therefore, it is recommended that you prime your canvas before you start painting with acrylics.

Why is Priming Important?

Priming serves multiple purposes:

  • It prevents the paint from soaking directly into the canvas, thereby preserving the integrity of the canvas.
  • It creates a smoother and more receptive surface for your paint to adhere to, enabling you to achieve more detail and a higher quality finish.
  • It provides a uniform base color, which can significantly impact the final appearance of your colors.

What Should I Use to Prime My Canvas?

The most commonly used primer for canvas is gesso. Gesso is a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, or other ingredients to give it texture and absorbency. It is typically applied in thin layers and allowed to dry before the actual painting begins.


While it might seem like an extra step, priming your canvas is crucial if you want to get the most out of your acrylic painting. Not only does it extend the lifespan of your artwork, but it also enhances your painting process and the overall appearance of your final piece. So, before you dive into your next painting project, don’t forget this important preparatory step: prime your canvas!