View Full Version : Canvas dilema!

08-14-2008, 01:17 AM
I used to paint on canvas paper from the pads of paper 9x12 strathmore or canson, then I decided to try the fredrix medium texture wrap canvas 8x10 & 9x12 hor hardboards cut from masonite(gessoed).
What I Noticed that didn't notice on the other surfaces, that on the canvas and I know the canvas are already primed and gessoed.. so didn't gesso them. Is that if I hold it up to the light you can see tiny holes thru them, I have painted over and over the spots and still can see light thru some holes and also it looks as if there is hardly any paint on the surface, I know sometimes I don't put it on too thick and do I guess like glazes or washes when it goes on thin.. but should I make it thicker and coat it more.. It looks great if against a wall. I'm sure the varnish will seal the holes etc. so not let air at it.. but is this unusal or is it just how the canvas is and I shouldn't worry about how thick I paint on these canvas. remember this is all new to me, only been painting short time. Just wanted others thoughts.
Should I gesso these anyways or not worry.

08-14-2008, 02:16 AM
There's been several threads on this topic, and if I remember right, the general rule of thumb is that the pre-primed/gessoed stuff is a single THIN coat, and needs a coat or two of good gesso.

My personal idea is to apply at least two coats of gesso (sanding between coats), regardless of what is already on it.

Putting on another coat or two of gesso will fill in the "holes" you mentioned, and (again, my opinion) give you a much better surface to paint on. And, as it doesn't take much effort or time, it is well worth it.

just my two cents worth.


08-14-2008, 06:21 AM
It is fairly common.

Shouldn't really be an issue but like others I add another coat or two of gesso as a personal preference.

chammi kaiser
08-14-2008, 08:32 AM
I also add two layers of gesso. These boards really do have a very thin layer. They are great for outdoor work but best prime them first.

08-14-2008, 09:05 AM
3 or 4 coats some sanding for me depending on what my subject is. I do many canvases at a time. Not my favorite thing to do but makes a big difference in quality.


08-14-2008, 10:12 AM
Thank you Michael, Howard, Chammi and Sergio for the info.
I just figured these wrap canvas were ready to go. Learn somthing new every day!
I like the idea of painting on the sides so I dont have to frame them, I like the look.
So I guess if I did gesso them then the areas of thinnly layered paint wouldn't look thin if against the light.
Thanks all.

08-14-2008, 10:54 PM
Ive done it both ways...I dont know if it makes a huge difference but it does knock down some texture on the canvas and makes it a bit more smooth which I personally like.

08-15-2008, 12:26 AM
I, too, have done both... Honestly, in my opinion, it's likely to be hung against a wall, thus there won't be light coming through it... *shrug*

08-15-2008, 02:53 AM
If the holes bother you on a painting you already started, you could always gesso the backside of the canvas to make it opaque and close the holes. If you were to do this though, I would suggest using a clear layer of gel medium first, let it dry, and then coat with gesso or any acrylic paint. Up against a wall it shouldn't matter though. Also, it is not a bad idea to cover the back of your canvas with a brown paper cover anyway. If you did that the light holes would not show to begin with. Probably a cheaper option too. And paper looks very nice if someone checks out the back of your painting.

Actually, it sounds like an oppurtunity to make a nice broken color affect. pushing a different color paint through the tiny hole on the backside of the canvas. Hmmm....

08-15-2008, 07:13 PM
Thanks all so much!! Appreciate it.

does anyone have comments regarding the brands of canvas??
I know gallery wrap, the edges are tucked inside the wooden frame in the back. There is stretch canvas and stapleback canvas which to me look the same in the back.. What are the extra little pieces of wood for??
Today at Michaels I got a 2 pack of 16x20 canvas for $5.99 was on sale from 9.99 I think this brand is Michaels brand.. I just don't know the difference. except the prices.


08-15-2008, 10:26 PM
I find it very easy to roll on a couple of coats of gesso with a small paint roller. The gesso dries quickly and if it is a good grade gesso, it does seal all those little flaws that disturb us at the end. I especially turn to my roller and several coats of gesso when I am using a hard surface substrate like board or masonite. I use primer first and then the gesso but there is a gesso I have not yet tried which says it is made only for hard surfaces and needs no priming before putting it on. Let's face it, all stretched canvases are not the same grade, everything from rinky dink to very good quality. I know there is a lot of controversy about Bob Ross but he did say something that is very useful to remember. He said he never spent the money on the portrait linen canvas as it is too expensive. That he found if he used several coats of gesso and sanded them smooth, he could get the same quality surface on your everyday canvas. Just a few thoughts from my end of the paint brush.

Lady Carol
08-15-2008, 10:30 PM
I never believe what they say about the gesso coat on pre bought canvases and I always add a couple of extra coats. More because I do not like the texture of the canvas and it is cheaper than buying canvas for portraits.

08-16-2008, 02:09 AM
The little pieces of wood are to add tension to maintain the right angle in the corners, if they're well machined they're easy to insert, if they're not, I just leave them out or sand them a little to fit.
The 'showing' of the canvas texture is very individual, I've had comments from some buyers that they like to see it, I used to re-gesso every one, but now only those that look as if they need some more, if I don't I usually use gel to give a good smooth coat for the paint, the canvas can soak up a lot.
I wouldn't worry about the little holes letting light through as it won't be seen when hung, but you may prefer to fill with gesso next time.
I have used linen and it is really lovely to paint on, but hard to justify the cost unless one can command a higher price, and I find that difficult as an emerging artist.
Hope this helps

08-16-2008, 02:29 AM
Kathie-Those in the picture to me "look" like a bit lower grade of canvas. Im guessing they are side stapled? The medium texture obviously means exactly what it implys in that the texture is a bit on the rough side, if that is bothersome to you the Gesso bottle is your friend. I dont really know the Brand of Canvas that I buy but they say fine texture on them, and I still hit with 3-4 coats of Gesso. I think they will be fine for you to get your feet wet with but Im quite positive you'll move up eventually to a better brand of Canvas.
I do know alot of folks out there that really recommend the Fredrick's canvas's that I believe are sold through dickblick but Ive not had an opportunity to test them out. Price and quality wise I think Im getting just as good a deal if not better just buying one at a time when I need one. Enough rambling...hope that helps.

08-16-2008, 08:07 AM
Hi Kathie!

I've used that brand of canvas from Michael's before without problems. I DO though look closely before buying, picking through the stacks to make sure that at least the top one has been stapled straight, corners are neat, no surface flaws or dents/creases etc. Personally, I don't add more gesso, but that is my preference because I don't like a surface that's too smooth. I have had the "little holes" problem a time or two and found it was because the paint I was applying was too thin. It was almost as if it was beading up. Most times these days, I give my canvases all over color before beginning a painting, but I use paint and not gesso.

I really like threads like this because in the whole scope of things, I'm still a beginner myself having only been painting 2-3 years. Lots of good advice and experiences here. I hope my two cents was helpful.:D


08-16-2008, 05:05 PM
Interesting mmhh I like Paul's idea and might just try that on a recent painting and gesso the back side...it kind of bothers me that some light gets through

Chestnut Tree Cafe
08-16-2008, 07:35 PM
It might also be that the cotton canvas being used is quite cheap (and therefore low weight and quite loosely woven). It is very difficult to tell this on pre-made canvases as they usually don't give the weights on the packaging. At art class I've been recommended to buy good heavy duty 12oz or 15oz cotton canvas (with 9oz only for sketching) which is more tightly woven.


08-17-2008, 05:13 PM
Thanks everyone for the great advice and suggestions!!
Actualy Mike(biz) these are back stapled, and I think this is Michaels brand.. note the "M". I have been using some Fredrix brand and that is what I am using now for Rebel's painting.. but wanted to try bigger and most other brands range from $14-$21 for 16x20 if I remember correctly and when these went 2/$5.99 I jumped at it.. and bought a abunch.. SO I actualy got 10 canvas for $30. not bad for 16x20!! so soon to be cranking out larger paintings!! I just got another horse commission from another friend of the horse Face I did before, fortunateley its only a head and neck portrait!! So have to run out and get a 9x12 for that one!!

08-17-2008, 09:22 PM
Hi Kathy,

I think everything well covered and I do the gesso part as well when I use canvas. When I buy it I do tend to go toward the higher grade, someone else said it, better cotton, tighter weave. Linen nice too but expect alot of texture.
Just recently I bought a couple of what they call "Portrait" canvas, the surface much smoother but still canvas. Not terribly expensive and since I really don't use canvas much thought I'd try it. It's called Yes! Canvas, not bad, I seriously dislike Fredrix but that's just me. You can go costly or inexpensive but the Yes is triple-primed cotton canvas. The really neat thing is it accepts all wet medium, yes even watercolor. You can also use canvas boards, I've used them and they work, no holes there. I switched to almost primarily panels. Gessoed marble dust panels and I love how they react to the acrylics and the plain old acrylics stays moveable longer then you would think.

You have alot of options and you'll settle on what works best for you in the end. I buy online, and at the moment they are selling a box of three of the Yes canvas from 10 and change for 8x10s to 79.99 for 36x48. Problem with on line you need to buy the boxed three of the same size, but if you're stocking up it's great, if you're just trying it out, well you have to decide if it's worth it. The site is ASW Express, used them before very happy with them.

Less expensive canvas and a large 32 oz. of gesso works just great. I use
Grumbacher gesso because it's the only one that has marble dust in it, gives a nice finish for acrylics.


08-17-2008, 10:22 PM
Thanks so much for the info Elaine!!

08-17-2008, 10:28 PM
Im working off one like that right now...stapled back. I hit it with Gesso about 4 times to smooth it out a bit first though.

08-17-2008, 11:11 PM
When I used to paint on canvas I used to buy it by the roll and coat both sides, made it abit stiffer, but I used to add about 4 coats and sand it until it was super smooth (the way I like it) but as everyone else says a couple of extra coats on store made ones should do fine with fine sand paper (depending on how much texture you like), I stick to paper now, it's alot easier plus I like the fact I can get a watercolor effect and a thicker acrylic look also.
I even heard of one artist that would sand his canvas till his fingers bled to get it smooth enough, abit beyond what I would do lol.

08-18-2008, 02:26 AM
I sometimes add a little acrylic modeling paste to the gesso I add to the medium texture pre stretched stuff to fill in the texture more quickly.