Basics Oil Painting

Prepping a Surface to Oil Paint On (canvas,panel,board)

Preparing & Priming a Canvas,Panel or Wood Board
“PRIMER: is a preparatory coating put on materials before painting. Priming ensures better adhesion of paint to the surface, increases paint durability, and provides additional protection for the material being painted. “(-Wiki)


A surface area (or support) is the name given to a supporting surface on which all (oil,acrylic,etc) paintings are created, or carried out.

The most popular surface or support’s to paint on are: canvas (stretched & board), wood panel, board (i.e. masonite, gessobord) and stretched linen. (see, Detailed Information section below)

Many artists prefer to use panel or board because the surface is rigid, smooth and not heavily textured and requires less prep-work and priming. Canvas is flexible and heavily textured and requires extra work to get a firm desirable surface for painting.


Primer is the first coat of paint applied to the support. One of the main purposes of a primer is to prevent the color pigment from absorbing into the surface. A white coat of primer or Gesso keeps the brilliance of the paint.

Gesso can be purchased ready made. It is similar in consistency to acrylic paint and comes in a multitude of colors. Gesso firms the surface, preventing the paint from soaking into the support; giving the veneer a little more texture or “tooth,” enabling the paint to stick better.

Adding primer to ALL surfaces is HIGHLY recommended- with an application of between 2-4 coats before actual pigment painting can begin.

Apply first coat with a vertical brush stroke and apply second coat with a horizontal stroke to fill in the groove. For each coat alternate and repeat, letting each coat dry thoroughly.


(full supply list in the tabbed section below)


Based on ease, quality and convenience- we recommend a gessobord with a 3/4 inch +(plus) cradle, meaning the support is attached and thicker widths can also function as a frame. Take into account what you want your finished product to be.

Cradle of Gessoboard

Application of a coat of gesso is still recommended, before painting, even on gessobord.

Check Blick Art Materials for the best selection of Gessobord panels, here.


complete information on prepping your surface to paint on

(expand sections below)



CANVAS: The traditional surface of the painter. Canvas comes in both a coarse and fine weave. The texture of a canvas is called the “tooth” of the canvas. The “tooth” when primed becomes very responsive to oil paint. A stretched canvas is easy and lightweight (easy to ship).

LINEN: Linen is the finest weave of canvas. Linen is less likely to shrink or loose its shape than regular canvas. Cotton canvas more inexpensive but is more prone to distortion. Linen is on the pricey side.

HARDBOARDS: Hardboard is made from compressed wood pulp. This type of surface area is largely favored by artists because it comes pre-made, it is lightweight, inexpensive and strong. Hardboard should be properly primed so that acid or oils do not leach in from the board which could result in yellowing of the painting. (This includes Gessobord and Masonite, which are both brands.)

WOOD PANELS: Hard woods are more suitable to use as panels, as softer woods are more likely to warp. It is believed that paintings on wood panel are likely to last longer. Panels can be should be cut from well seasoned wood and be free of knots, cracks and or defects. Painting on wood panels can create a heavy painting, and is therefore not recommended for shipping.

*best hard woods to paint on include: oak, cedar, birch, walnut, or mahogany.  

(Visit Blick Art Materials, for our recommended selection of pre-made hard wood panels)

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The “drumlike” tautness of a canvas is achieved by stretching the canvas over a wooden frame called a stretcher. The stretcher is a mitered frame in which the beveled corners do not press against the stretched canvas. Ready made stretcher bars can be purchased here, and a list of full supplies below for stretching your linen or canvas.


(full supply list in the tabbed section below)

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When considering what size you want your surface area to be, consider using standard framing sizes. If you plan on doing an framing you will be thanking yourself.

Below is the Standard Canvas Size chart in both inches and centimeters:






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gesso brushes






We recommend gessobord, and if you live in the United States, the best selection and prices come from Blick Art Materials.

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Blick Art Materials has the best selection for all supplies and materials listed above.


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These were the resources that were used in the creation of this article:
BOOK: The Materials of the Artist and Their Use in Painting- With Notes on the Techniques of the Old Masters by Max Doerner
BOOK: The Complete Book of Painting & Drawing by Gerald Woods

If you require large quantities of Gesso, it can be made from scratch. Recipe to follow in a separate post.


Patron of the Arts- Creativity & Inspiration Crown

-article compiled, photographed & written by Lyrica Glory, founder of Patron of the Arts