View Full Version : Digital Painting canvas print for underpainting?

03-15-2010, 03:53 AM
I havn't posted in this forum for ages (and can almost hear the collective gasp of horror from the purists when they read the title of this thread;). LOL none the less, I would really like to know if anyone has experience with using digital paintings, created using a real media emulation program like Corel Painter and printed on canvas, as the underpainting for an oil painting?

This is common practice with acrylics, but I know that there are definitely digital artists who do this with oils as well, but I wonder what product has to be used on the printed canvas to both protect the digital print and the canvas from the oils?

I know that acrylic gels, polyurethane surface sealer and/or a fixative spray are used by some digital artists before painting with acrylic but wonder if the same products can be used under oil paints without compromising the longevity of the painting? I can't get my head around the idea that it could be possible, so would love to hear from anyone who has experience with this kind of mixed media painting.



03-15-2010, 04:07 AM
Ink will not damage a canvas,printing on canvas can be done on a normal printer providing the canvas is not too thick and is a 10x8 format or just short of the printers printing head pass?

Those printers that are designed for this sort of thing are expensive.

I have a shop by me that sells a couple of different compositions on stretched canvas in 14x10 size,problem is the canvas is rough and its hard to get the paint where you want it.

I was pondering on the idea of using my darkroom equipment from way back when I developed my own negatives,I could print on cups,saucers,tin boxes,ceramics but never thought of printing on canvas? as I don't know what effect on it in terms of detroying the weave? as it meant after the enlarger exposer you have to soak the canvas in the developer,this being like an acid.
I suppose it might not destroy the canvas? as if Paper can be immersed in the acid then it should destroy the paper,it being wood pulp like.

The other drawback is the silver component liquid would be dear for sentising the canvas prior to exposure under the enlarger.

03-15-2010, 05:36 AM
I'm not doing the canvas printing myself, I will send the digital file to a professional printing lab that has the expensive equipment that uses pigment dyes and museum quality canvas to create giclees that are rated to last 100 years.

The ink on the canvas is not what I am questioning:) I want to develop the painting further than the digital painting canvas print, by painting on the printed canvas with oil paints. I'd like to know what product can be used over the giclee ink to protect the canvas from the oil paint (if this is at all possible?)

03-15-2010, 01:57 PM
Acrylic meduim, matte or gloss, will work fine. Test a small part of the print first to be sure that water won't make the ink run. If if does, use a solvent based spray-on fixative like Krylon Preserve It or Kmar Varnish first.

Mark Sheeky
03-15-2010, 03:32 PM
AFAIK these are printed in acrylic inks. I suggest a lightfastness test though. By chance I left a "75 year" ink print in the sun and the yellow faded in 2 weeks. I have also had delamination problems with the ink on photo paper... it peels off easily. I also imagine that the "canvas" used by giclee printers is the cheapest cotton they can lay their hands on.

It would be cheaper to paint by hand, yes? I imagine that a painting that was "oil over ink-jet print" would put buyers off too?


03-15-2010, 04:59 PM
If the canvas with the print on it had an acrylic gesso coat to begin with then you should be able to paint right on top of the printed surface. Question is whether you'll get any satisfaction doing so.

03-15-2010, 07:14 PM
So what do the Kinkaid folks use when they "enhance" those giclees on canvas? Is it always acrylic paint? I'll bet they use oils.

I know a painter here in Northern California that gets very large prints (60"W or more) on canvas made of little landscape paintings he's done - then paints over them in brilliant colors - not sure if he's using acrylics or oils though.

03-15-2010, 07:19 PM
So what do the Kinkaid folks use when they "enhance" those giclees on canvas? Is it always acrylic paint? I'll bet they use oils.

I believe it is clear acrylic gel.

Edit: I had to google it, it does say they are enhanced with paint. I do recall reading something afew years ago that indicated they used clear gel to make the impression of brush strokes.

Keith Russell
03-15-2010, 07:30 PM
I havn't posted in this forum for ages (and can almost hear the collective gasp of horror from the purists when they read the title of this thread;).

I'm proud to be a "purist", and it's not a gasp of horror.

It's a free country.

You do it your way; I'll do it my way.

03-15-2010, 08:07 PM
Thanks for the info everyone!

Like everything, print and canvas quality varies, however the print lab I would use if I chose to do this (I havn't tried this yet) only uses pigment inks and top quality american canvas - their prints are museum quality and this company is used by many artists for giclee prints of their work.

LGHumphrey: LOL I get *NO* satisfaction anymore from spending 100 hours on a painting. I wish I didn't obsess about painting photorealistically but I do. I didn't paint for over a year and felt like part of my soul had been lost.

Solution: I Learnt to paint digitally last August using Painter which is a real media emulation program and I feel whole again. I suspect - and I don't know as I havn't printed any yet - that once printed I will see things that I might like to change or develop further, hence the desire to use oils to finish the painting to my mind's vision for it. So yes, I do get satisfaction out of painting digitally, and probably will get more by playing with real oils for a few hours to finish a painting.

As for value, I havn't been involved in digital art long, but I have seen that canvas prints from good digital artists sell for much more than many artists sell their original oils for and others for much less. Same as any other art medium really, price has little to do with anything other than the business skills of the person selling it;)

I'm sure it could be debated until the cows come home, but that was not the purpose of this thread, I simply wanted to know what products to use should I go down this path, and appreciate that information:)

03-16-2010, 03:14 PM
I'm not sure why a digital underpainting is inherently any better or worse than squaring up a drawing, using charcoal and a pounce bag, tracing with graphite paper, using a projector or any or the several dozen other methods painters have used over the centuries to transfer their initial ideas to the final canvas.

Most illustrators who work in oil (and need to make a living from it amid intense competition from other extremely talented painters) draw and redraw their preliminary sketches. They physically cut pieces from different drawings and paste them together. They trace parts of one drawing and combine it with others, along with many other techniques until they have a preliminary drawing to work from. Then the drawing is transferred to the canvas or panel using a variety of methods, some 500 years old, some 20th century. Its not a question of "pure" vs. "impure". Slapping a painting down on a stretched canvas in one or two sittings is relatively recent technique that would have horrified the likes of Vermeer and van Eck (althought something tells me da Vinci would have embraced it whole heatedly had oil pint in tubes been available in his day!)

So again, can someone who poo-pooed this thread explain how using a computer and printer to transfer an underpainting is inherently worse than other methods?

Keith Russell
03-16-2010, 09:21 PM
If an artist uses various "bits" of their own drawings, pasted together, then re-sized using an Art-O-Graph to projec the "collage" onto canvas or board, the finished result is still original work.

If an artist prints someone else's photograph onto a canvas or board, then paints it by hand, the result cannot be called original work.

(For that matter, if an artist draws someone else's photograph, freehand, onto canvas or board, then paints it by hand, the result isn't original work, either!)

03-16-2010, 09:43 PM
I think she said she was using PAINTER. That might be what she wants printed on her canvas and then enhanced with oil paint. I might be wrong. In one of the magazines at Borders where they show computer painting they were oil painting on a printout of their computer art. Looked amazing. I will let them worry about if it is a good thing to do. I think they used preprimed canvas, what ever ink their printed had (probably the best they had available), and just painted over the print. No prep work, just painted over the print.

03-17-2010, 06:24 AM
There is no printing of any photographs involved in my question. At All. None. Nada. Zip.

The photograph is used as a reference to hand paint the digital painting, colour by colour, brush stroke by brushstroke just like anyone on this forum may use a photograph as a reference for a painting.

I am using Corel Painter XI...I open a blank canvas and start selecting my colours and paint them with a pressure sensitive digital paintbrush (stylus) on a pressure sensitive electronic canvas (Wacom intuos 4 tablet). I can also scan and use my own hand drawn sketch or trace the photograph digitally, dosn't matter really how the sketch gets on the canvas, as with any medium the rendering of the painting is what makes or breaks it.

There are no filters or one mouse click effects involved in this type of digital painting - it takes between 10 and 20 hours to paint one depending on the detail.

I am also a professional photographer and I prefer to paint from my own photographs...I rarely need to change composition from photo to painting as I tend to shoot with a finished painting in mind (my camera, like Painter Xi and my wacom, is just another tool to create with). So originality is largely irrelevant to what I paint personally.

However, I do believe that an artists who freehands from someone elses photograph is indeed creating an original interpretation of that reference photo. A painting would not be original if the photo was simply printed and painted over, or if the photo formed part of an instructional tutorial with a step by step instruction on how to create that painting.

Methinks there must be about a gazillion portrait artists who incorrectly state they create original artwork - in whatever medium they use - from client photographs. LOL I would imagine that if I gave Picasso one of my photographs to paint that the result would indeed be an original painting:D

Now even I am digressing from my original question of which products would be suitable to use...my research so far indicates that the finished artwork has the same stability and archivability as oil paintings created with an underpainting done in acrylic.

03-22-2010, 10:43 AM
I have done this. Having used Painter to paint something digitally like you say and then have it printed on canvas. I just gessoed it up with about 4 coats and used the digital painting as an underpainting. The thing about using painter or Photoshop is you can easily test color harmonies as opposed to having to do various watercolor studies atleast in my experience.

I also follow the process of drawing in pencil using fixative, scanning, painting in Painter the based on techniques I learned from Donato Giancola, I have my picture printed on watercolor paper then gesso it to board and do the same thing. One thing is Canvas prints can be expensive compared to buying your own watercolor paper and running it through and essentially doing the same thing.

Surfaces are obviously different, so for a rougher texture I suppose you would use a print on canvas, but for smooth work, printing on WC paper may be more economically viable.

I hope this helps. Here is a link to one I am doing exactly that with now due to a request for a large painted version.


Best of luck


Café LoLa
03-22-2010, 05:06 PM
So again, can someone who poo-pooed this thread explain how using a computer and printer to transfer an underpainting is inherently worse than other methods?

My concern would be of archival quality of the materials used. It all depends on the printers, I suppose. If, as one surmised, used a cheap cotton canvas, and coat it with some clear acrylic gel, how do you know, unless you are there watching it being set up and printed, that you're getting the best quality you want? Like with drawings, tracing, etc, the finished painting is only as good as the quality of materials you put into.

I only guess that quality would be of factor if the OP mentioned "without compromising the longevity of the painting"... so really, without getting into the "ethics" of using giclee as an underpainting/drawing, it's really about how to get the best materials possible out of it. I think that's what the core of the issue is?

03-22-2010, 09:09 PM
I never really thought of that and am not educated enough to speak to it. But I hope i helped make an informed decision either way.

03-24-2010, 04:01 PM
Goldenpaints.com has a lot of information about digital grounds that might be of interest to you. Just do a search in their box, and check also for the information in their newsletter 'Just Paint.'