Do you prefer a smoother or rougher surface?

Which do you prefer? Or does it depend on the subject?

I like a smoother surface, but if it's too smooth then the paint slides around a bit too much and it's hard to do blending or to keep opacity.


  • edited January 1

    The surface I like is canvas primed with a couple of layers of gesso. This leaves it rough enough with a good tooth to grab the paint. I paint with stiff, opaque paint and like to see brushstrokes and the texture of canvas provides a good surface for this. If the surface is too smooth, then it wont easily accept wet paint on wet paint and , as Richard-P said, your brush starts sliding around in it.

    People who like a smooth finish without visible brushstrokes would be better with fluid paint on a smooth substrate such as  aluminium.

    There's no one right way. It depends on the look you are after.  :)
  • I like it smooth, kind of like the surface of an egg. That's because i don't use the Carder method. I start with loads of turp mixed with paint and wipe back to get a rough drawing of dark and light values. After a couple of minutes while it's still a bit wet i lay the paint straight out of the tube . Works for me. I just wonder if it's bad having too smooth of a surface(in case the paint doesn't stick well on the surface).
    Best thing is to experiment with all sorts of surfaces. 
    Surface preference really depends on ones needs i suppose?   
  • I'm guessing if you like a lot of drybrushing (I'm thinking of some of Turner's landscapes here) then you probably would get better results with a rougher surface with a more pronounced weave.
  • edited January 1
    Agreed @Richard_P I'm using a very rough paper in my current travelling watercolor sketchbook series. It's very interesting in order to achieve impressionistic effects. Instead of juxtaposed dabs of broken colors, subsequent layers of paint dry brushed on top of the other on rough paper produce a similar effect of optical mixing with as minimum effort as two or three brushstrokes using a large 1 inch synthetic brush. This also works in oils. I'm also rediscovering finger painting for soft edges, it works like a charm I'm loving it. 

  • I like eggshell-level smooth. The Yupo sheets have arrived and my heavens they are slick. I will prep them to prevent my paint from iceskating. 

    @tassieguy - I am guessing you mean acrylic ground. Do you sand it down a little before painting? 
  • I would probably say erring on the smoother side of things, but I have so many substrates I have not experimented with yet, so cannot be completely definitive. 
    A lot depends on what you are hoping to achieve in the painting.
    Honestly, I was thinking recently that I don't actually care what I paint on, as long as I can paint.   Having said that, of late, I have begun sanding with a smooth grade sandpaper before adding gesso, during layers, and afterwards.   I am able to do finer work, the smoother the surface.  It saves on having to do layers and layers of paint to get build up to a stage you can get detail.   Gesso and sandpaper are cheaper than oil paint and replacing worn brushes!

    I even bought a canvas pad recently (never tried one before), and am having fun smoothing the pages with gesso and sanding; taping to a board and experimenting with paint.    It has made me realise I can get too caught up in the "archival" route and I am trying to just chill out, have fun, play with my materials and see what comes of it.    I think I was getting too "precious" about my art.
    In the past I have painted on a variety of substrates; canvas - taped, stretched and on board, linen the same, Iron, wood, frost cloth, paper, rocks (river stones) mdf; to name some of the ones which pop into my mind.    All very different, but I enjoyed the process with all of them.

  • Smooth for sure. Ampersand gesso board is my favorite. 
  • It was doing portraits that made me realise I wanted smooth surface for those very accurate tiny marks sometimes. Perhaps very high quality canvas or linen doesn't present the same problems as the cheap hobby canvases I used to use. Whatever surface, it must have tooth. Big lesson from current painting with first attempt at brush on oil primer.
  • edited January 2
    Smooooooooth as a baby`s bum for me.  =)

    I like doing detail and smooth lends itself to this. 

    I recall one of my first pieces done on a fairly cheap canvas and the similarity, I heard somewhere, of it being like trying to paint over a ploughed field, seems apt.

    Belle Arti wooden gessoed panels made in Italy are a favourite. Also I sometimes use Ampersand. Have recently purchases a good few of Jacksons own smooth gessoed panels.

    If I am using canvas I will gesso it smooth.
  • Desertsky said:
    I like eggshell-level smooth. The Yupo sheets have arrived and my heavens they are slick. I will prep them to prevent my paint from iceskating. 

    @tassieguy - I am guessing you mean acrylic ground. Do you sand it down a little before painting? 
    No, @Desertsky. I just apply a coat of acrylic.  This serves two purposes: - 1) It helps ensure that the canvas is sealed against oil and 2) it serves as a mid-value stain over which I paint in oils.  
  • I have always appreciated the way the light dances across a painting on a canvas.  It seems to help it come alive.
  • @tassieguy - Maybe I am just obtuse to start the new years, but do you mean that you apply neither a traditional ground (glue and calcium) nor an acrylic ground (acrylic, calcium, and whitener)?

    So on canvas, you just apply a tinted acrylic coat (like plain acrylic paint?) to seal, and start oil painting?
    If so, I think this probably works pretty good. You probably don't have a sinking in problem with this application. 
  • edited January 3
    @Desertsky, I use canvas primed with two layers of acrylic ground and on top of that I put a layer of acrylic paint to tone the canvas. No problems with the oil sinking into the canvas.  :)
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