Canvas Seal

Did clear and Transparent gesso can use to seal canvas rather than GAC 100 and PVA product.


  • Yes, but you may need a few layers of all those products.
  • GAC and PVA are glues. Why ? Use standard gesso. Is it raw unprimed canvas you're working with. Not enough information.
  • Pre prime canvas I used. But Iam face some sinking area in my work. 
  • Is the sinking fixed by oiling out?

    Or does the sinking persist even after oilingout?
  • Yes. Even after oiling out. The problem I think oil paint go through canvas fibers. 
  • Hi Esam33 -  

    If by gesso you mean hide glue and powdered calcium (this is traditional gesso), I would not use it at all on canvas. Depending on the amount of the calcium, it will crack easily. I know this from personal experience and it is backed up by a lot of research at MITRA.

    If you mean the modern, acrylic-based ground, often called “gesso”, then yes, I think acrylic-based grounds are better on canvas (of any kind: unprimed, pre-primed or you don’t know :) ). If you have sinking in problems, it may be partly from the amount of calcium in your ground. Or, if your use GAC or PVA, it may have allowed the oil from your paint to go into the fabric and be absorbed there.

    I suggest you try an acrylic ground or medium which does not have any calcium to give it tooth. I agree with Richard P that two layers will be better than one layer. An acrylic ground will be much thicker than either GAC or PVA, and provide better blocking between the fabric and the oil.

    I use an acrylic ground, followed by a layer of thin oil paint, which helps prevent sinking in. I paint my painting on top of these two layers. 

    I think that GAC and PVA by themselves don’t seal the fabric of the canvas from the oil paint’s oil well enough, which may lead to problems if the oil seeps into the fabric. It can cause deterioration of the fabric within 30 years. I know this from personal experience, and it is backed up by research at MITRA.

    One of the advantages of being old like me is that you actually have seen the consequences of your mistakes. ....Please let us know what works and what does not. 

  • I used asphaltum paint instead of burnt umber in the last painting I did and did not have any sunken areas.   I think it was @dencal that may have recommended trying that. 
  • GTO

    Not guilty me lud!


  • @dencal I forget who recommended asphaltum but it works in terms of not sinking in. Though I can’t help but think that I’m painting with road tar when I use it. 😀
  • GTO

    I’m sure you’ll get some mileage out of it :)

  • edited March 2021
    For DMP beginners who want to paint on canvas I think the best solution is to use quality pre-primed canvas. Doing it yourself is such a waste of learning and painting time. Our first paintings are unlikely to be masterpieces that will warrant preservation for centuries. And all this navel gazing about substrates can be just another form of procrastination. In the beginning, just paint on the best pre-primed substrate you can afford and let posterity look after itself. If anything you paint is deemed worthy of preservation you'll be providing work for the conservators. If it's good, if it's valuable, they'll find a way to conserve it. If a painting is no good it will remain no good whatever it's painted on and it won't be conserved. Just paint and stop worrying about this stuff. Let qualified conservators worry about it if and when it is deemed worth worrying about.  :)
  • @tassieguy

    Navel gazing and procrastination: I agree.

    Paint on what you can, and let someone else later on conserve it: I disagree.

    I think that many people paint for themselves or for family members and want to have the best results. There is a middle ground between unworthy and worthy of conservation; and beloved family heirlooms fall into this middle ground. The vast majority of ordinary people who own oil paintings would never think of conservation or even know what it is; yet they would want to keep grandmother’s painting in good shape if they could. If grandmother’s painting falls apart later rather than sooner, this is good. This goodness, if not an accident, starts with the painter knowing materials and processes.

    I think there are many beginners who live in countries in which good quality art supplies are difficult to find. Also, it takes some knowledge in order to decide if some pre-primed canvas is good quality or not. (How would you decide? What are the criteria? Is it based on brand reputation? etc.) For these reasons, I tend to write longer responses, with more information about various aspects. This may be considered unnecessary by experienced painters, but may be appreciated by beginners.

    I was once a beginner, and remember what it was like.

  • edited March 2021
    Thanks for your response, @Desertsky. You make some good points. 

    I agree that as professional artists we should use the best substrates we can afford and that we should employ best-practice technique so that our work will have the best chance of not falling to pieces within a short time after completion and sale. We owe this to our buyers 

    My post was really aimed at beginners who's primary need is to get painting. Priming a canvas to the best archival quality is not what they need to learn first IMHO.  If realist painting is what the beginner aspires to then, without the basic painting skills and technique, nothing worthwhile can be produced on even the best and most expensive substrate. They need to learn to draw, and to mix so they can paint realism. When they have attained a certain level of skill in these areas so that their work no longer routinely goes in the trash, and once they are able to create paintings someone will actually want, then they should consider whether it is in their interests to prime and stretch their own canvas and, if so, learn how to go about it to ensure a substrate at least as durable, or more so, than what is commercially available.

    I was once beginner, too, and for the first year or so, everything I painted went into the trash where it belonged. After that, once I stated winning competitions and got taken on by a gallery, I became much more careful about the substrate I painted on. No one wants to buy an oil painting on unprimed cardboard.(Unless it's by a famous artist.)  I now use pre-primed linen or the best quality pre-primed cotton canvas available commercially. I don't have time to waste priming canvas myself, just as I don't have time to be making my own paints. I'm not a manufacturer. I'm a painter. I just want to paint. If I use the best quality substrate available commercially then I think I'm doing the best I can by my buyers to ensure durability. Some 19th C art and much of the 28th C art we see in museums today was painted on                              v commercially prepared canvas, It will be conserved just as great art from previous centuries is conserved. Worrying about substrates is no way to get on with painting, If Beethoven or Chopin had been overly concerned about the quality of the paper they had to write their music on, and if they had to spend their time learning to make their own paper, they may never have had time to write anything.

    Beginners should acquire the basic painting skills first, then worry about posterity. While they are acquiring the basic skills, it doesn't matter much, IMHO, what they paint on.  If they happen to throw off a masterpiece on ordinary cheap canvas it will be conserved. As for granny's portrait by uncle Joe, the family can, if they really want to conserve it, take it to a professional to be relined. ) 
  • tassieguy – I respect the passion of your response.  To use phrases such as you did - “who’s primary need is to,” “They need to learn to draw” and “then they should” is directive. Not everyone follows the sequence of proficiency you directed: first composition and drawing, then material handling. Also, not everyone who is a beginner thinks of learning and using good craftsmanship in constructing substrates as a waste of time. I do understand that you do, and I support you in this for yourself. However, others may come to a different, and equally valid, decision.

    I think that developing knowledge about substrates and materials at the same time as drawing, composition, and paint handling is fine. It was the way I was taught in art school many years ago. Mr. Carder gives great advice on materials, studio set up, and paint handling. None of this is related to composition. I am unaware where he tells people to not worry about materials until they have achieved good composition or basic painting skills.  Could you please direct me to it?

    We have no idea what level of painting expertise Esam33 has, and we have no idea what kind of art products are easily available where Esam33 lives. To give useful information to someone who specifically requested it, is the basis of most of the excellent Q&As I have read here over the years. It is in this spirit that I responded.

  • edited March 2021
    I agree, @Desertsky. People have different opinions and priorities and will act accordingly. Nothing wrong with that 

    My "shoulds" and "needs to" were used in the conditional with "if" and in the prudential rather than the prescriptive sense  

    @Essa33 asked whether transparent gesso can be use to seal canvas. He got some good answers to that specific question. My response was to the related but more general question of the pros and cons of preparing substrates ourselves or relying on what is commercially available. I don't think that is widely off topic.    :)
  • Going back to original question about gesso
    on prepriimed (oil) didn’t we determine that that was a bad idea?

  • Yes, I think we did, @BOB73. As I understand it, you can prime canvas with acrylic gesso and paint in oils on top of that acrylic ground but you can't do it the other way around. That is, it would not be wise to paint acrylic over an oil ground.  And before you put an oil based ground on the raw canvas it should first be sized with glue or some other size that won't rot the canvas. I think that's how it works. Someone please let me know if this is incorrect. 
  • Correct. Never paint acrylic over oils!
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