when do you stain a canvas?

Do you stain all canvases before you beginning painting or only for a portrait and still life? I am curious about the color choice of the stain. I was taught in art school that the white background is essential for the light to bounce back through the color to add vibrancy and life to your colors and painting. So, why the color choice that Mark uses? I'm getting ready to start a 1. landscape and a "don't really know the classification" 2. a close-up of the peeling bark of a paper bark birch tree. I don't know if I want to stain my canvases or not. Is there a previous teaching on this subject?


  • What art school taught you. I would ask , why do you want your color to be more "vibrant"? Would it not be better for it to remain unchanged? If you need vibrant color, then mix it intentionally.

    In fact, if anything, for most of artists, I would say it would be better if your canvas made your color less vibrant as most artists use color which is too strong.
  • And yes, stain all canvas the same regardless of subject.
  • Got a degree in sculpture from U of New Orleans,
  • Oh wait, I meant... Regarding what art school taught you. LOL

    I said that wrong.
  • I should have used the word luminosity of the paint not the vibrancy.
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] admin
    edited February 2013
    Grandma said:

    I should have used the word luminosity of the paint not the vibrancy.

    Is that really what you want under, for instance, black paint? The brown, taupe-like color Mark uses is relatively neutral but a little on the earthy side. It's neither bright nor dark. It works well. Try it out. :)

    A white canvas is definitely not essential for "vibrancy", "luminosity", or "life" to your colors and painting. Art teachers say lots of stuff…
  • edited February 2013
    I'm not sure, but from my readings I got the impression that the reflective quality of the support or under layers is mostly relevant with transparent water colors, and with other painting techniques using thin layers or glazes. Otherwise, with a substantial coating of highly pigmented paint, how could the light pass through?
  • I think that is basically true because when I lose that quality in my light colors I have to put a coat of white back down on that part of the canvas and start over again. When that quality is really wanted I paint in very thin layers/glazes to get that effect. Of course it not wanted everywhere in a painting. Some paintings I don't need it at all, but sometimes I don't know in advance when I will decided that I need that effect.
  • edited February 2013
    Grandma :-h ,
    Staining the canvas keeps your painting in harmony. Your light and dark stay true. You can achieve the same affect with a stained canvas, then just leaving it white.

    Perfect example, http://forum.drawmixpaint.com/discussion/487/re-post-of-painting-from-the-old-tcm-gallery#latest

    View the different paintings in that post. Each are done with a toned canvas. :) Welcome to the forum.
  • I always stain every one. Sometimes I really like to have a little area show through in a shadow and I scratch my name to sign vs painting it in and that is soooo much easier
  • Grandma , I agree with CharlieBoy...I think that it is only in water colour that the white paper takes the place of white pigment in other mediums.The white paper shines through the washes of water colour ,and adds vibrancy . I think that staining the canvas a mid tone helps to get a better reading of the value of the paint that you apply .
  • I have started staining my canvas, but in my last painting I had an object whose primary color was cadmium yellow pale and it wouldn't cover the stained canvas. I had to paint the canvas white, wait for it to dry, and then paint it the pale yellow. Made me wish I had left my canvas white.
  • Grandma

    You could have mixed white with your cad yellow to make it opaque. It takes a lot of white to lighten cad yellow, so a bit of white would give the yellow more body.

  • I tried that. It took a lot of tit. white to turn the stained canvas white so that the pale yellow could be the true hue I needed. I'm ordering some flake white tonight.
  • There's a bit of vibrancy in the pale yellow straight from the tube that is missing when you mix it with white and turn it into a tint.
  • Grandma

    Flake white is a euphemism for Lead White.

    Extract from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_paint
    Lead is especially damaging to children under age six, whose bodies are still developing. It causes nervous system damage, stunted growth, kidney damage, and delayed development.[2] It is particularly dangerous to children because it tastes sweet, encouraging children to put lead chips and toys with lead dust in their mouths. Lead paint is also dangerous to adults and can cause reproductive problems in both men and women.[3]

    A myth regarding lead-based paint claims that children must eat lead-paint chips to develop lead poisoning. In actuality, ingestion of lead dust, which can be dislodged from deteriorating paint or can be generated during painting, also occurs when children get lead dust on their hands and then touch their mouths.[
  • OK, now I'm confused. I looked up the supply list and found Holbein's Quick drying White. I checked the pigment info on Dick Blick for that and found it was Tit white PW6 with a chemical formula of TiO2. That is identical to what is listed for Tit. white in W&N water mixicible oils although it has been slightly altered so clean up with H2O. Where is the quick drying element? Thank you for the heads up on the lead. Gamblin has a lead substitute white but I'm not sure if it is more opaque than tit. white or not. Maybe a small tube of alykd white would be a nice help for some situations since it can combine with regular oils and its drying time is measured in hours. I wonder if it wouldn't make a good staining base rather than the oils.
  • Grandma

    I was able to cover gesso black with cad yellow pale with a couple of coats and a bit of spot touch up. The problem I had was that it took about three weeks to dry.

    If you are looking for a easy, quick drying white then add W&N Liquin to tube TW.
    This dries overnight in a warm environment.

  • Thank you. I am definitely wanting a quick drying white for this situation.
  • Or maybe white is a little intimidating. Even with acrylic paint I would put on some gesso so I guess staining helps the canvas helps to "grip" paint better.

    I noticed for oil when I just started playing with it (being jobless at some point lol) and because I was thining it down with turpentine and oil the paint felt like watercolor on the canvas.. it wouldn't stay thankfully the climate I'm in is very hot the oil paint dried up quickly and I managed to put on more paint. It was kind of frustrating for me not knowing when to add oil or turpentine so I thought Mark's method of adding a sdm is good in the sense that you keep the consistency of the paint -> less fuss more concentration on colour mixing. :)
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