Golden Acrylic gesso

hello, i am an acrylic painter aiming to paint both in acrylic and oils now. I have read a seemingly endless amount of threads on canvas primed with acrylic medium, and acrylic gesso. I have a large amount of Golden Acrylic Gesso as well as medium, and was wondering if anyone else has experience painting oils onto an acrylic primed canvas. I know that some say it’s fine, and others say that the color sinks in. I find that if the color sinks in (this can happen with acrylics as well) it always has meant that the gesso was too thin, or not enough coats applied but am not sure if that is true for oils. It would be really cool if I can use the same gesso/primer for both my acrylic and oils, which is why I made this thread as a sort of hub for anyone who used acrylic canvas to post their experiences. Thank you everyone!


  • Acrylic gesso as ground for oil painting. Some brands of gesso are absorbent, some are not so. My experiences with Golden brand is; hard sandable gesso for rigid surfaces such as panels, and their regular gesso for canvas. The hard sandable gesso is basically non-absorbent. To prevent absorption or sinking in of oil paints, I found that applying an additional "oil lead ground" over the acrylic gesso will eliminate sinking in and dulling of colors, and provide much greater adhesion of my work on my painting surface over the years.
  • @Forgiveness interesting thank you. Do you have any experience painting oil right onto golden acrylic gesso (normal not sanded)? I thought In addition to being easier and versatile for use between acrylic and oil, it would be very easy to tone canvas because for acrylic I generally just add some burnt umber to my gesso to get it just right. From your experience is golden acrylic regular gesso too absorbant to be used or have you or anyone else had good results? I was thinking using 2 or 3 coats might work well
  • edited November 2020
    Many modern oil painters apply 4 coats of acrylic gesso, many of us find it too absorbent and put up with it. The hard sandable gesso is much less absorbent, but still somewhat absorbent, mainly only with certain colors. Many of us just work with that. But to eliminate any sinking in of colors, an oil lead ground remedies this problem.
     Also, today there are painting mediums available that prevent dull areas from occurring in oil painting, I recommend "Rublev" brand from natural pigments.
     Also a popular alternative is to apply a "temporary varnish" that can be applied to any oil painting the moment it is dry enough (perhaps 2 weeks drying time or less), this will restore life back into the painting, no doubt.
  • @Forgiveness ok thank you! I would definitely use the sand able hard gesso on Masonite or wood but would feel scared to apply it onto a flexible ground like canvas. Also does the oil lead ground contain lead? I just don’t want to work with things like lead or solvents but I am curious about this temporary varnish. You mean that if you apply it once it is touch dry the paint might soak in that varnish? I am going to use the gesso at least in the beginning since I have it already and see how I mind it. I appreciate your advice! 
  • edited November 2020
    @ConnerDios Yes the oil ground contains lead. And I agree the hard sandable gesso not recommended for use on canvas unless its mounted on a hard surface. The purpose of temporary varnish is, it is removable but not necessary to do so, you can apply final varnish over it no worries. The temporary varnish protects the painting while it is still drying over a period of a year. In the case of a private sale or a public showing, the client can possess the painting with an agreement to have a final varnish applied, by any qualified professional in their area, when the time is ripe.
  • Oh ok thank you again, I am so happy to have made an account here. Such an awesome and helpful community!
  • @Forgiveness hello! I was just wondering if you could clarify this for me: I was wondering if the gamblin oil ground is what you are referring to, and if that one specifically would be safe to apply over my golden acrylic gesso (from a conservationist standpoint), I just want to make sure that their will be no binding issue with ground to gesso, or oil paint to ground, if I prime a canvas for acrylic, and then add a layer of the Gamblin oil ground. It seems that the nature of Acrylic would effectively “size” the canvas as well, and I was just hoping for your advice. It would be very convenient if all I needed to make my acrylic primed canvas ready for oil is to apply a top layer of oil ground, it sounds almost to good to be true! Lol thank you again for your input. Here is a link to the oil ground I am considering: Also, am I correct in assuming that the nature of acrylic gesso would act as an effective substitute for the pva sizing listed on the website, or would I still need to size over the gesso? 

  • edited November 2020
    @ConnorDios Thanks so much for asking. I've been through this entire process and experience on my own pieces. The final conclusion is, no sizing necessary, simply acrylic gesso, however lead oil ground for canvas, lead alkyd ground for panels, is necessary in painting best practices. It's ok to skip the oil gesso altogether and paint directly on the acrylic gesso, this is quite ok. You may want to consult with, best painting practices.
     Also, sizing is only necessary on bare canvas and bare wood panels prior to applying lead oil gesso ground and lead alkyd ground where in the case acrylic gesso will not be used at all in the preparations.
  • @ConnorDios Interesting you raised this question as I just ordered some unprimed canvas and the Gamblin PVA size with intent to then apply the Gamblin oil ground once it is sized. I have applied the Gamblin oil ground over canvases that I bought pre-primed with acrylic gesso and assume that is a permissible practice but maybe worth checking with Gamblin to make sure.
  • @Forgiveness thank you for your once again detailed and helpful advice. I have been down the rabbit hole of best canvas and preparation methods for archival quality work for the past three days now and have decided to purchase a linen roll and apply oil ground. I have done some research and have found that while pva is a usable option, the best practice seems to be to apply one layer of Gac 400 to stiffen the linen in place of rabbit skin glue, and then 1 layer of gac 100 to prevent strikethrough. I was wondering what your thoughts were on this? I know that the potential issue with ova from a conservations list standpoint is that it may disintegrate prematurely and could leave the remaining painting exposed, although likely not for many years. I am currently planning to use the Gac 400+ Gac 100 method for sizing and am likely going to go with the gamblin (titanium) oil ground, but I have a couple questions (I may make a separate thread for this but thought it might be of benefit to those who find this thread to ask it here as well) 

    1. is there a brand of canvas that is recommended? On I see great deals on fredrix and Caravaggio,

    2. Do you think it would it be more economical to buy a roll of the oil primed centurion canvas mark recommends and avoid the sizing/application of ground entirely?

    3. i am hoping to avoid working with mineral spirits as much as possible (although am not strictly opposed to staining with marks recommended mixture, because I currently use the golden msa varnish for my acrylics anyways) but was wondering if I could somehow color my oil ground and avoid the need for a stain in the first place?

    Thank you again for your help! I am likely going to just buy the centurion oil primed roll, because as mark pintes put it does seem to be a very economical and high quality choice, but I just wanted to post these questions to gather some further insight.
  • @Forgiveness hey what lead oil ground do you personally prefer? I’m looking at rublev 
  • edited November 2020
    @ConnorDios Rublev is my favourite.
     For staining canvas, I would apply a wash over the ground once it is dry and not into the oil ground, I believe the original adhesive qualities of oil ground would weaken or be disturbed if stain was mixed in.
  • I see that makes sense thank @Forgiveness. I read that the gamblin alkyd based ground could be tinted with their fast-Matte alkyd oil colors but I agree with you. Btw Where do you stand on the alkyd-primer debate? I’m trying to decide if the roll of primed centurion is good, or if a roll of unprimed linen is better for me so I can fo it myself. Btw last question, do you use pva size or Gac 100?
  • edited November 2020
    @ConnorDios I understand that lead alkyd oil ground is great on hard panels because of lack of flexibility. Simple lead oil ground is good for canvas because it is more flexible, less chance of cracking or breaking off.
     I would apply sizing on bare canvas before applying the ground, if I were to go that route.
     I purchase pregessoed canvas, available as acrylic or oil gesso, good to ask at the store before purchasing. Just me, but much of how I practice is governed by my personal budget, just doing the best I can within set limits, while keeping "painting best practices".
  • @forgiveness do you know about something like the lead free oil ground used in most canvas ore primed with a sizing and oil primer? I just see that many company’s don’t ore prime with flake white additive and so it must be ok is what I was thinking 
  • edited November 2020
    @ConnorDios I believe this is OK and definitely common practice, as long as the artist applies their own lead oil ground prior to painting, all is good.
  • @Forgiveness Oh ok I didn’t realize that. So then do you mean if I bought something like the centurion oil primed canvas I would need to apply my own lead oil ground or did you think I was talking about an acrylic primed canvas. (I realize that might’ve been confusing, I just meant the oil primed canvas on marks supply list. I’m thinking about getting a roll of it but it isn’t a lead ground)
  • @ConnorDios I have a roll of oil primed heavy cotton canvas from my local art store but no lead in it. In this case I would apply the lead oil gesso over this, no sizing required here.
  • @Forgiveness Ok thank you for clearing that up! I have read a lot about the advantages of a lead white primer, and was wondering why it is your preference? I know some people paint right onto the lead free titanium white oil primed canvas and so I was wondering what makes it so desirable for you to paint on? Thank you for so many of your helpful replies my friend  
  • edited November 2020
    @ConnorDios Thank you so much for asking and for being so passionate about your painting. I recently learned that chances of my oil painting surviving past 100 years by current common practices is almost almost nil. The oil painting would eventually peel, crack and fall off from the ground that I use to support the painting. This lead oil ground and lead alkyd ground is more efficient at preventing this from occuring for the quality of adhesive properties these contain. Many of us settle for what the vast majority agree upon for common practice and are very happy, content and comfortable and settle with this, and I agree and support same, "somewhat". Some of us including me, are committed to something greater in our work, such as practicing higher integrity, a deep profundity, some of us just want to experience giving something our all, our very best, some of us love mastery at something, many are in awe of excellence and some us love practicing such. But please keep in mind, there is no way that I could practice the very best on every one of my paintings, so I'm being selective as to which of my works would be worth going the extra mile for. And I have underlying personal reasons for creating such long lasting works. For me this means that much of my work will be oil sketches that look like paintings, that can be taken well as oil paintings.
     Right now I have 30x 5" x 7" prepared white birch panels and a prepared aluminum panel ready to receive this lead alkyd oil ground for oil painting, I plan to paint my very best on these. Aside from this, for me this means that much of my work will be oil sketches that look like beautiful paintings, this is what I have settled on at this time, and this may possibly change later.
    Stay safe & stay well, keep on painting! 😁🙏
  • Folks

    Please be mindful that lead is an insidious and cumulative neurotoxin.
    Never use sandpaper to smooth lead. Keep away from children and pets.
    Dispose of waste with care and thought for the next generation.

  • @Forgiveness I see, thanks! I too am concerned with the best possible practices for the longevity of my work (multiple centuries+). I will also use the lead ground for my work. How long do you consider a safe dry time to wait before painting? I know the driers and alkyd part of the lead ground speeds up the dry time, but I only ask because some old masters recommended waiting up to a year before painting so as to avoid cracks. Also I am Interested to know what you mean by an oil sketch? Are you still sketching in Paint or referring to Pastel?

    all the best,
    Connor Dios
  • @dencal i couldn’t agree more and personally plan to wear disposable latex gloves when working with the lead ground or any flake white for that matter, but I believe that to a degree the dangers (at least to the user) have been exaggerated and misunderstood, like cadmium pigments to some degree. Lead is only harmful when swallowed or eaten or breathed as dust as you pointed out, so as long as you clean up very thoroughly and work consciously and are mindful about where you get the paint, and as you said dispose of any waste responsibly, I believe it should be perfectly safe. (:
  • edited November 2020
    Thanks Denis
    "Safety best practices" in the studio are more important than "painting best practices" for me. I'm glad to be so aware and sensitive to care a little more.

    @ConnorDios I only have to wait 2 maybe 3 weeks or less give or take, depending on the environment, for any of these lead oil grounds to dry. Back in the old masters ways, they didn't have such highly controlled environments and technology as we do today. They did not have thermostats in their rooms as we do, lol!
     About oil sketches: I've been taught to render small thumbnail sketches of paintings prior to the final painting. These often measure 4"x4", 5"x7" & 8"x10", sometimes larger as large as full sized paintings, I have such at 24"x30". And I am to develop these as best of my ability as possible, close for a final painting. The only big difference is, these have not been treated with such a high degree in thoroughness & integrity in professionalism as a full oil painting would receive, but almost, very close. If these oil sketches are developed and rendered well enough, they are worthy. I've learned this from many great practicing artists and through studying Andrew Loomis and from Famous Artists' Course that included such greats as Norman Rockwell for one. 🙏

    The one most important thing is,
    oil painting is fun and it feels like it, and it's a real joy!

    I'm honored and privileged and humbled to have gained so much wealth and information and richness as an oil painter in only 4 short years, as a result of visiting here and the many friends and partners that I made! This in part is what it means to be an artist today with our present technology, this is the 1st generation of this in our culture.
    And what a fine oil painter we have grown me into here!
     It blows me away!
    Glad to help.

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