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Canvas Stain even with Black BG?

Do you tend to stain your canvas the same way, regardless of the colors and tone of the painting to follow?
What about in cases where your still life or portrait has a background that is predominantly black? Predominantly white?
In your experience following Mark's methods, have you found that staining beforehand has improved your ability to see and judge color better?


  • Breeze

    Yep! Brown, iron oxide red, grey or black is my choice for toning. Love black so much I bought a roll of it.

    Toning the canvas and palette is all about providing a visual environment for your eyes and sense of color judgement. The neutral tone allows you to accurately mix and apply subtle nuances of value without being glared out by a bright white surface.

    Some of the benefits include;

    Creates a receptive surface for oil paint.
    Assists in sealing and separating the cotton/linen fabric from the oil in the oil paint.
    Adds tonal depth to transparent paint in the top layer.
    Allows the eye to mix and apply correct values without being influenced by a white surface.
    Reduces glare from studio lighting.
    Contributes to a balanced harmony in the limited palette.
    Eliminates the white pinhole problem evident in untoned canvases.
    Can be left to show in the final painting in small patches and not be a distracting white error.


  • I used to sweat bullets deciding what color to stain my canvas.  But over the years, I have come to a mix of raw umber and ultramarine to make a general gray.  On rare occasions, I stain a different color.  The point to staining the canvas to a middle value is so that you can more easily judge values when laying the first few strokes of your painting.  Any color you use on a white canvas will look dark.  On a middle value stain, they will appear either lighter or darker.  In other words, you get a better idea from the start whether your making a good start.  I know an artist who stains dead black, and it affects the final painting, which has a dark look to it.
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