Treat Canvas Before Painting

Whether you’re an experienced artist or just starting out, properly preparing your canvas before painting is a crucial step that should not be overlooked. Treating your canvas creates a seamless surface that helps the paint adhere and can ultimately enhance the overall quality and durability of your artwork. Let’s explore the steps for treating a canvas before painting.

What is Canvas Treatment?

Canvas treatment, often referred to as ‘priming,’ involves applying a layer of a substance called ‘gesso’ onto the canvas. Gesso is a mixture of chalk, pigment, and binder, which serves to protect the canvas from the corrosive effects of paint. It also increases the canvas’ traction, enabling the paint to stick better.

Why is Treating Your Canvas Important?

Untreated canvas tends to absorb the oil in oil paint, which can lead to the decaying of the canvas over time. Gesso acts as a barrier, preventing this absorption. Furthermore, a treated canvas will give your colours a more vibrant and even look, as it prevents the paint from sinking into the weave of the canvas.

Step-by-Step Guide to Treat Your Canvas

Here are the simple steps you can follow to prepare your canvas for painting:

  1. Clean Your Canvas: Before you begin, make sure that your canvas is clean and free of dust.
  2. Apply the Gesso: Use a wide, flat brush to apply the first layer of gesso. Apply it in even, parallel strokes, covering the entire canvas.
  3. Let it Dry: Allow the first layer to dry thoroughly. This usually takes a few hours, but it may vary depending on the thickness of the gesso layer and the ambient temperature.
  4. Sand the Canvas: Once the first layer is dry, use a fine-grit sandpaper to gently sand the canvas. This creates a smoother painting surface.
  5. Repeat the Process: For the best results, repeat the steps above to apply a second, or even third layer of gesso, always sanding after each layer is dry.


Preparing your canvas before painting may seem like an extra step, but the improved quality and longevity of your artwork make it worth the effort. Remember, an artist’s journey to a masterpiece begins with the proper preparation of their canvas.