If you have assembled a stretcher frame for an oil painting and stretched a canvas (or a comparable fabric), the picture carrier must be primed. The priming is of fundamental importance for the colour effect and the durability of the later picture. There are numerous methods of priming, which differ mainly in terms of the primer used. The following video shows a very simple way of applying a primer in one go:
Material and tools
The following materials are required for priming the canvas on a stretcher frame:
- An assembled and stretched stretcher frame
- A primer, preferably titanium dioxide white. Simple wall paint is possible and of course inexpensive. But of course a "right" primer for the artist's needs has a much better pigment quality.
- Acrylic binder (acrylic emulsion). The acrylic binder is important to give the primer more binding power and elasticity.
- A wide brush (which should not hair if possible). Depending on the size of the canvas, you can also use spatulas or rollers. It is decisive that the primer is worked into the pores of the canvas at the end and not only painted on the surface.
The priming of the canvas is very simple:
- The primer is produced as a mixture of titanium white and acrylic binder in a ratio of 1 : 1 and is well stirred.
- The primer is applied from the centre outwards (in order to distribute the tension as evenly as possible in the fabric).
- The outer edges are usually primed, the reverse side is not necessary.
The following should be observed:
- The primer must be worked into the pores of the tissue. It is not enough to paint the fabric only on the surface. In this respect, the process cannot be compared to painting a wall.
- Priming with a painter's roller is therefore problematic. The roller is usually just a superficial film that covers the fabric. Here the danger exists that with later climatic fluctuations (temperature, air humidity) parts of the primer come off - and with it parts of the paint crumble off.
- Large formats in particular can cause considerable tension in the fabric. If the wedge frame is not strong enough, the entire canvas can warp. A few heavy books or bricks can help, which you put on the corners. Usually the tension dissolves during drying. But even later there is still the danger that the whole picture carrier distorts. You notice this at the latest when you want to hang the picture on the wall.
Why is the primer so important?
Why does an oil painting need a primer? There are three reasons for this:
- The primer seals the fine fabric structures of the fabric (canvas, nettle, cotton, etc.) The coarser the fabric, the more absorbent it is - and the more thoroughly you have to prime. Why? Because otherwise the fabric absorbs the binding agent of the paint. The colour pigment remains on the surface, but with too little binding agent it becomes slightly brittle, which will lead to cracks in the oil painting.
- The primer stretches the fabric after it has been applied to the stretcher frame. It therefore makes sense to prime large formats (more than 100 x 100 cm) synchronously from the inside to the outside. In this way, the image carrier is tensioned evenly.
- The primer gives the picture its first basic colour.
A major disadvantage of finished canvases that you can buy in specialist shops is that you usually don't really know how the primer was applied. For the layman and beginner this may be an advantage - because you can of course do a lot wrong with the primer. But in the long run you lose control over the canvas - and you risk unpleasant long-term consequences. A bad primer is usually only noticed years after the picture is finished.