How To Prime Canvas Before Oil Painting

Oil painting is an incredible form of art, appreciated for its versatile nature and vivid shades. But before immersing yourself into it, it is crucial to recognize the significance of prepping your canvas, which is also known as priming. This blog post will guide you through the necessary steps to prime a canvas for oil painting.

Why Should You Prime Your Canvas?

Priming your canvas creates a barrier between the oil paints and the canvas itself. Oil paints are corrosive, and if applied directly to the canvas, they can eventually cause it to rot. Priming prevents this, extending the life of your artwork. It also provides a smoother and more responsive surface for your brush, enhancing your painting experience.

Materials Needed

  • Pre-stretched Canvas
  • Gesso (Acrylic-based white paint)
  • Sponge or Wide Paintbrush
  • Palette Knife (optional)
  • Sandpaper (optional)

Steps to Prime Your Canvas

1. Setting up Your Workspace

Firstly, ensure that you have a clean and well-ventilated workspace. Lay down newspapers or a drop cloth to protect your floor from any possible spills.

2. Applying the Gesso

Scoop some gesso out using your palette knife or brush and apply it onto your canvas. Start at the middle and work outwards in a circular motion, ensuring to cover the entire canvas. It’s perfectly fine if your brush strokes show, many artists consider this texture to add an extra layer of depth to their paintings.

3. Let it Dry

Allow the first coat of gesso to dry completely. This can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight, depending on the thickness of your application and humidity.

4. Sanding (Optional)

If you prefer a smoother canvas, you can gently sand it with fine-grit sandpaper. Be sure to wipe off any dust before proceeding to the next step.

5. Repeat

For best results, apply at least two more coats of gesso, allowing it to dry and sanding between each coat.


Priming your canvas is a crucial step that should not be skipped in the process of oil painting. It may take a little extra time and effort, but the benefits it brings to both the longevity of your artwork and your painting experience make it well worth it. Happy painting!