The first step in portrait painting is choosing what surface you will paint your picture on. There are several painting surfaces on the market today. If you are painting a watercolor picture for example, there are several varieties of thicknesses or weights of watercolor paper to choose from. There are several types of painting surfaces for the acrylic and oil artists as well. Following is an overview of the most popular painting surfaces.
Preparing The Canvas
Of canvas products, canvas paper is the least expensive surface for painting on. Canvas paper is appropriate for watercolor, oil and acrylic painting. Canvas paper comes in large pads and is easily ripped off just like a pad of paper. Also available are rolls of canvas paper. This paper won't tear or buckle like ordinary paper. You can mount, matte, put it under glass or even staple it to a frame. Use canvas paper when you want to experiment, practice or use for your finished work. The best thing about canvas paper is that when framed or matted, it is hard to tell that you didn't paint on stretched canvas. The quality of canvas paper is very good. I suggest using canvas paper when beginning or practicing but realize that for lasting quality features, you might want to advance to stretch canvas.
Canvas boards or panels. Canvas boards are usually very sturdy and relatively inexpensive. They are made from a stiff cellulose product, lined with a cotton canvas and primed with gesso. They are suitable for all types of media, including acrylics, watercolor and oils. Some advantages to using canvas boards are cost and the fact that they are thin. It's very easy to find mattes and frames when the painting or work is on a thin surface. Some disadvantages are that if cheaply made, these boards can and do warp over time. This can be especially aggravating if you have spent a lot of time on a piece.
Stretched canvas. Most professional oil or acrylic work is done on stretched canvas. Stretched cotton canvas is stapled on wooden strips or frames. The staples are either on the sides of the frame or the back depending on the company that made them. The canvas is usually primed with a couple coats of gesso and is ready to be painted on. There are a variety of stretched canvases so be sure that you are buying the correct one for the medium that you are using. There are also different textures from rough grade to portrait grade. Some canvases come painted around the deep edge for a frame less, contemporary look.
It is important to choose an appropriate painting surface for your best portrait. After all, the painting may grace the walls of you or your loved ones home for many happy years.
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