Smooth canvas – prepare surface for detailed and fine work

Commercially available canvases, or more specifically stretched stretcher frames, have many advantages as image carriers. They are lightweight, durable and fit well on the wall without a frame. From acrylic and oil painting to heavy, structured work can be implemented on a variety of ideas. The roughness of the fabric structure of canvases is not a problem for many painting techniques. However, in very precise work, where fine details or smooth color transitions are desired, one quickly comes up against the limits of feasibility. Of course, there are also very fine types of fabric with a smoother surface. These are often more expensive and still too rough for some work.

Since I prefer a smooth surface for some of my work, I have already experimented a lot in this direction. Some of my pictures I paint on so-called hardboard. These approximately three to four millimeters thick wood panels have an absolutely smooth surface and are very cheap to have in almost every hardware store. Often you can even have the desired format cropped there. These then only have to be primed with Gesso. This is most easily done with the help of a small foam roller.

For accurate work, the thin hardboard are the better alternative to screens. But if you want to present your works in public exhibitions, the plates have the big disadvantage that this is only possible with the help of a framing. A sensible framing costs a lot of money, which then quickly leads back to the screens. A stretched stretcher usually has a depth of 2cm or more, so it can be well presented without costly frame.

To do this, mix a simple putty with a little bit of white acrylic paint and a little water until you get a mass that is easy to spread but not too fluid. This is applied to the canvas and evenly distributed with an elastic rubber spatula. As the mass attracts as it spreads, making it increasingly difficult to get a uniform surface, it is very helpful to keep the mixture moist with a water spray bottle. The whole thing requires some practice. But you quickly get a good result. After drying, the sealed canvas can be sandpapered to make the surface finer. The result can be improved with a second applied layer. As a result, the ready-prepared canvas has a less absorbent surface, which somewhat inhibits the drying of acrylic paints during the painting process. In addition, softer color transitions and wiping effects can be achieved. Similarly, fine details are no longer distorted by the fabric structure.

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