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Stretching Canvas & Other Surfaces for Painting

00:11   Which surface to use?
01:42   When to stretch a canvas
01:55   Archival surfaces
02:18   Canvas paper
03:45   Canvas boards
04:47   Pre-stretched canvases
06:03  Stretching your own
01:18   Acrylic gesso intro
08:10   Clear gesso intro
08:42   Rabbitskin glue intro
10:00   Types of canvas

01:33   Watercolor canvas
12:22   Stretching paper flat
13:30   Masonite & wood
14:14   Large scale canvases
16:03   Re-using stretcher bars
17:42    Assembling stretchers
19:38   Stretching canvas techniques
20:25   Canvas pliers
25:10   Applying gesso
27:52   Loose canvases: canvas keys
29:12   Sanding gesso

29:52   Stretching paper flat
34:16   Stretching paper on bars
37:53   Rabbitskin glue overview
38:46   Oil primer overview
40:03   Mixing rabbitskin glue
43:48   Applying oil primer
49:59   Cleaning up oil primer
51:10   Heavy duty stretcher bars
53:47   Assembling heavy duty bars
56:39   Very large scale canvases
57:58   Bloopers

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Winsor & Newton

Materials provided by Winsor & Newton

Fredrix Canvas

Materials provided by Fredrix Canvas

Painting Surface Supply Lists

Pre-made surfaces
canvas paper, canvas board, stretched canvas

Stretching canvas on a stretcher bar frame
standard stretcher bars, staple gun, staples, canvas keys, canvas or linen, sandpaper, canvas pliers

Stretching paper flat on plywood
Rives BFK or watercolor paper, china bristle brush, towel, large flat tray for water or bathtub, acrylic gesso, paper tape, 3/4″ thick plywood, utility knife

Stretching paper on a stretcher bar frame
standard stretcher bars, staple gun, staplesRives BFK or watercolor paper, china bristle brush, towel, tray for water or bathtub, acrylic gesso

Clear gesso on masonite or wood
W&N clear gesso, untempered masonite, 3/4″ thick plywood, other types of wood,  sandpaper, china bristle brush

Rabbitskin glue & oil primer on canvas
canvas or linen, rabbitskin glue, tablespoon measure, plastic container for rabbitskin glue, boiling water, oil primer, palette knife, gloves, linseed oil, china bristle brush, canvas pliersstandard stretcher bars, staple gun, staples, canvas keys

Taking a stretched canvas off a stretcher bar frame
screwdriver or needle nose pliers

Heavy duty canvases, for canvases larger than 24″ x 30″
heavy duty staple gun, heavy duty staples, heavy duty stretcher bars, cross braces, canvas pliers

Art Supplies: Canvas Stretcher
Art Supplies: Canvas Stretcher
Art Supplies: Canvas Pliers
Art Supplies: Fredrix canvas
Art Supplies: Canvas Keys
Art Supplies: Heavy Duty Staple Gun
Art Supplies: Acrylic Gesso
Art Supplies: Clear Gesso
Art Supplies: Cross Brace
Fredrix Heavy Duty Stretcher Bars
Art Supplies: Heavy Duty Staples
Art Supplies: Linen canvas
Art Supplies: Canvas Paper
Rives BFK Paper
Art Supplies: Tablespoon measure
Art Supplies: Rabbitskin Glue
Oil painting primer
Art Supplies: 3/4" thick Plywood
Art Supplies: Off Set Palette Knife
Gummed Paper Tape
Art Supplies: Fredrix Watercolor Canvas
Art Supplies: Hot Press Watercolor Paper
Art Supplies: Canvas board
Boiling Water for Rabbitskin Glue
Art Supplies: Scissors
Art Supplies: Utility Knife
Art Supplies: Needlenose Pliers

Recommended Tutorials

Partial Video Transcript, Painting Surfaces

Alex: “Painting’s an interesting medium because there are so many choices and options. Not least of all, the surface you paint on.”

Prof Lieu: “I think a lot of it depends on your situation, like the amount of time that you have and also the type of work that you’re doing.”

Alex: “Yeah, I did a big painting that was commissioned and they really wanted archival quality materials including canvas, gesso, the stretchers, all of it. And then if I’m just at home, practicing with a new color or testing out a new type of paint, I’ll even paint on an old cardboard box, you know?”

Prof Lieu: “Or sometimes when I was in art school and I didn’t think about it in advance, I was running to painting class like, ‘Oh shoot I need something to paint on!’ I’d run to the store, grab a stretched canvas, and go to class.”

Alex: “They all serve their own purpose, but you can definitely notice when you’re painting on a pre-stretched canvas, or a piece of cardboard obviously, or a really nice canvas you’ve stretched yourself. It’s so hard to get into painting because they can seem just like a monumental feat to get all the paints you need, all the supplies, the brushes, the canvases. When you’re starting to test something out, I don’t think that a cheaper, pre-stretched canvas is going to make or break your experience.

Prof Lieu: “I don’t think so at all. I mean definitely, I have personal preferences. For example, I tend to really like rabbit skin glue and oil primer, but whenever I’m teaching a beginning painting class, I don’t start with that because it’s overwhelming.”

Alex: “There were so many painting classes where you start off and the supply list is just like, ‘I’m sorry, whAT???’”

Prof Lieu: “I’m just going to break the bank to find the basic supplies and I would say if you’re just dipping your feet into the water, I don’t think it’s worth it to stretch your own canvas. I think just a pre-stretched canvas, that’s totally sufficient for your needs. I really think it’s people who are concerned about the archival nature of their work – if it’s going to last long term – that’s when you really need to spend time on it. And some of these processes take a long time.”

Alex: “Oh yeah!”

Prof Lieu: “Oil primer takes like two weeks to dry. Gesso is overnight.”

Alex: “Like you said, you’ve developed your own preferences for it. You have to learn the medium in general to see what those preferences are.”

Prof Lieu: “Probably, the most affordable option for a surface to paint on would be canvas paper. It usually comes in a pad so you can get many sheets at a time. It’s pre-primed, so you don’t even have to bother with gesso-ing it. This is for when you have no time at all and you really need something to paint on right away.”

Alex: “More-so, I use this for things like on-the-go. I don’t often do plein air painting, but when I do, something like this is great because if you tear out the individual sheets, you can roll them, fold them. And then if you just get some painter’s tape around to box it off, I can roll this up in a backpack, stick it in with my paints, and then you can just do a quick little painting study without needing to set up an easel or stretchers, or anything like that.”

Prof Lieu: “But I think one of the disadvantages of it is that you can see it’s just floppy. So it’s really flimsy, it’s not going to be a very sturdy surface, and you have to tape it onto something else. So it’s not terrific in terms of being really sturdy compared to the other options our there.”

Alex: “I think that that difference is so vast, that if you’re just trying out- like let’s say you’re just looking into whether or not you like acrylic or oil better. I would say that this is not an accurate representation of what either of those mediums can do. This is the thing where if you know what you’re working with, then you recognize how this is a different surface and you kinda plan for that. But if you just kind of start painting for the first time on this, it can be a completely different experience.”

Prof Lieu: “The next step up from canvas paper, I would say, is a canvas board. So this one here is made by Frederick’s and it’s basically just canvas paper with a board behind it.”

Alex: “They come in all different sizes and I get some of the smaller 8x8s, and anytime I’m doing color studies, or film studies or something like that, they’re just perfect to sit on your lap as you sit on the couch and just play around with the painting.”

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