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Painting Basics - Choosing a Surface
By Prudy Vannier

Choosing a surface for your painting project can be overwhelming.

Oil painters most commonly use canvas. Canvas needs to be stretched and primed with Gesso. It’s available at art and craft stores in just about any size. If you want an unusual size or shape, you can buy the supplies and stretch it yourself with stretcher bars and staples.

Fabric painting can be done on anything textile. Don’t restrict yourself to t-shirts! Anything can be painted!

Watercolorists generally paint on watercolor paper. It’s taped to a surface and then wet with soft brushes. It comes in different thicknesses which are measured by pound weight.

Metal – old metal, new metal, painted metal or raw. Metal can be prepped with a sealer so that paint adheres to it, or there’s paint that does that for you.

Terra Cotta – There’s even special paint for things like this to last outside such as terra cotta pots and concrete.

Paper Mache: Lightweight, inexpensive, easily painted with acrylics. My favorite surface as a decorative painter, is wood. It is available in all shapes and kinds. Generally, there are 3 kinds most available in craft stores.

  1. Pine is soft and the grain is a little darker.
  2. Basswood is harder with a little less grain, so a very nice surface for paint.
  3. Birchwood ply is thinner, which is sometimes necessary for a project. Ply is made with layered wood so you can see stripes on the edges. Sometimes this is something to consider with a specific project.

When shopping for wood, check for its roughness. The more sanding it requires, the longer the prep time.

Also check for knot holes. I love knot holes, but don’t want them where my focal point is. Grandma’s portrait certainly wouldn’t look good with a knot hole in her cheek!

Lastly, if it’s at all possible, find out if the wood is kiln dried. If it is, there’s much less chance it will crack or warp, which insures a long lasting project.

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