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Painting with Acrylics | Do I need to prime my canvas?

How to Avoid Beginner Looking Art and Make Your Art Look More Professional

I get this question from newbie beginner artists who are just learning how to paint with acrylics.

Note: This post contains affiliate links which may compensate me for a purchase – thank you!

Do I Need to Prime My Canvas Before Painting with Acrylics?

SHORT ANSWER: Yes, prime your Canvas.

LONG ANSWER: Yes, you should prime your canvas when using acrylics and this is why:

  1. Canvas is a textile. Textiles have texture. Think of any fabric you know; it has some sort of texture, even if very smooth.

  2. Canvas texture is known as “tooth” and it will absorb the paint very quickly if not primed.

  3. Laying down acrylics directly on canvas will not give you a smooth result. You need to lay down multiple layers of paint to get the smooth result (possibly wasting paint), so priming first with one of a few options will help give you a smooth, beautiful canvas upon which to paint.

What should I use to prime my canvas?

You can use a variety of things to prime a canvas before painting with acrylics.

One of my favorites is just Titanium White acrylic paint. This can be used in one or two layers to give your canvas a nice, smooth finish with just a slight bit of tooth.

Titanium White is a great primer and you can purchase cheaper versions to use as primers. I like these (below). They work well and you can use the freely and afforably:

Liquitex Basic Titanium White – I buy it in big jars or multiple tube packs because (ask any artist) it is one of the STAPLES of my art painting kit!

Here is another choice – good, basic, affordable Titanium White for priming canvas


Other choices for priming a canvas before painting with acrylics:

Another choice, for professional projects and when you really want a nice start to your painting is Gesso.

Gesso is a chalky, white substance that will prime your canvas. You can layer it (let it dry between layers) or apply one fairly thick layer. Let it dry thoroughly before painting. This is a basic gesso (student grade) that is good for beginner projects.

Gesso is also excellent for covering up “boo boos” and even painting over an entire painting if you want to change it or re-do it. It will act like a good cover up for anything you want fully covered.

Note: You should always have some Gesso on hand. It will be very useful for both priming and re-doing painting that have gone south!

There is also Black Gesso – sometimes useful, too

This painting, BRONZED EARTH, started with a texture medium as a primer to give it a very smooth, hard surface. SEE THE TUTORIAL

Texture Medium as a Primer

Working with texture mediums – use a palette knife for thicker texture; a flat brush if using Texture Medium (thinned with water) for priming

Another option is to use a texture medium as a primer. I always suggest laying down a coat of white or Gesso before this, but you could just use a thinned modeling paste or heavy gel.

Remember if you are using a texture medium, you must thin it with a little water and also a modeling paste could crack so always use it on a firmly stretched canvas (not raw canvas) or a canvas board.

This is a good texture medium for priming (affordable – good for beginners)

A higher-grade texture medium is good for more professional projects

Or you can use a heavy gel (matte) as a primer (thinned with water) and as a nice texture medium. Gel mediums are more flexible and won’t crack as easily as a paste.

Want to learn upscale abstract art painting step-by-step?

These are two guided classes that will teach you many techniques to working with acrylics, mediums, priming/finishing, and working on larger canvas.


Happy painting!

See more of my original art and prints

Resources for Beginning Abstract Art Painting

This post first appeared on Learn How To Paint With Acrylics, please read the originial post: here

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Painting with Acrylics | Do I need to prime my canvas?


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