Should I Prime Canvas Before Painting

If you are about to start a new painting project, you may wonder whether it is necessary to prime your canvas before painting. In this blog post, we will discuss this topic to assist you in making a well-informed choice.

What is Priming?

Priming is the process of applying a layer of material, called a primer, onto the canvas to create a smooth and uniform surface for painting. This layer serves as a barrier between the canvas and the paint, preventing the paint from soaking into the canvas fibers.

Why Should You Prime a Canvas?

There are several reasons why you may want to prime your canvas :

  • Longevity: If your canvas isn’t primed, the paint may eventually eat away at the canvas over time. This can cause your artwork to deteriorate much faster than if it had been primed.
  • Smoother Application: Priming your canvas creates a smoother surface for your paint to adhere to, making it easier to achieve a clean, professional look. This is especially beneficial when using techniques such as glazing or scumbling.
  • Color Vibrancy: The white color of a gesso primer can brighten up the colors of your paint, making them appear more vibrant and true to their original color when dried.

When Should You Not Prime a Canvas?

While priming a canvas has its advantages, there are also times when it may not be necessary, such as:

  • Pre-Primed Canvases: Many canvases that you buy in stores are already primed. These are typically labelled as ‘pre-primed’ or ‘ready-to-use’.
  • Specific Artistic Effects: If you’re going for a specific artistic effect or texture, you may opt to not prime your canvas. Some painters prefer the coarse texture and the absorbent nature of unprimed canvases.


In the end, the decision to prime your canvas comes down to personal preference, the type of paint you’re using, and the end result you’re hoping to achieve. If you’re new to painting, it might be beneficial to experiment with both primed and unprimed canvases to see which one you prefer.