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Oil: Preparing a support

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Canvas, paper, or cardboard… Any support works with oil paint! On just one condition: you need to apply a preliminary coat for the paint to adhere over the long term.

What you need to know

Primers are substances that you spread on the support before painting. If there’s no preliminary coat, oil paint, when it comes into direct contact with the support, will have a corrosive effect on your work and alter it. There is a wide range of ready-to-use primers, but you can also make them yourself.

1. Applying an acrylic gesso

This is easiest to use primer, because, along with protecting the support, you can use it as your background.

Step by step application

Step 1: use a wide soft bristle brush to coat the support with a first layer of gesso. Paint strips lengthwise.


Step 2: If necessary, gently rub the surface with fine grain sandpaper to smooth it, once the gesso is dry.

Step 3: repeat step 1, applying the gesso widthwise, then repeat step 2.

That little extra

Add some acrylic color to your gesso for a tinted primer.

2. Préparer un apprêt à la colle

If you want to work on a colored background with oil paints, you need to coat your support with a glue filler.


  • Pour a teaspoon of granulated rabbit skin glue in a jam jar type of container (it needs to hold about 450 g).
  • Add water until the glue is covered and allow to stand for 20 minutes (for the glue to swell).
  • Fill the container three quarters full with water.
  • Heat in a double boiler, over low heat, for about a half-hour.
  • Allow to cool. You can keep the preparation unrefrigerated for 3 days, or for a week in the refrigerator.


Step by step application

Step 1: when applying the glue, soften it over heat (double boiler), stirring with a wooden spoon.

Step 2: once the glue is liquid, apply to the support with a wide brush, using vertical strokes. Allow to dry.

Step 3: do it again widthwise.

Step 4: Allow to dry for about 12 hours before applying an oil-based colored background.