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Canvas stain over Gesso off the shelf canvas?

is it ok to stain an art store off the shelf canvas that’s already been sealed with Gesso? Will the oil based stain dry properly? Will the oils over the top bubble up, crack, or just otherwise misbehave? I like the concept of beginning with a neutral canvas rather than white. Eventually I’ll begin stretching my own canvases.


  • Oil over Gesso obeys the "fat over lean" rule, and so will be fine.  Break the rule and you get cracking.
  • Thanks for the replies. Let me get this straight...The stain over Gesso is ok, but now what if I'm staining an previously unprepared cotton canvass. Then Is it better to Gesso these before staining or just go with Mark's recommended stain. Is it that there may eventually be deterioration without Gesso? I wonder what the longevity is...perhaps it's well past my lifetime. Still I would like to paint on something that will withstand deterioration.

  • @drdoug, if oil paint comes into contact with canvas, the canvas will rot over time.  So we seal ("size") the canvas to prevent the two from coming into contact.  But we don't like to paint on rabbit skin glue, so we gesso to achieve texture and/or tooth.  Oil can penetrate gesso.  The stain is for color, and it has the effect of slightly smoothing the surface.  Depending on the stain, oil can penetrate that also.

    Staining unprepared canvas?  No, sealing is the one step you shouldn't skip.
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