10 Best Canvas Primers For All Your Painting Needs In 2022

Best Canvas Primers For All Your Painting Needs

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If you are an artist, there is nothing more important than getting suitable materials to use. From paintbrushes to canvases, you must have what you need so that your artwork looks its best. It can be challenging to know which canvas primer to buy when there are so many options out there. This blog post will cover some of the best primers for paintings and help narrow down the choices.

Our Top Picks

Grumbacher Gesso
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Best Overall: Grumbacher Gesso

Best for porous surfaces
Priming before acrylic & oil painting
Creamy consistency

Best for Professional Artists: Liquitex Professional Gesso

Resistant to cracking
Does not cause yellowing
Improves the teeth of canvas

Best Gesso for Acrylic Paintings: Handy Art Acrylic Gesso

Non-toxic
Affordable
May be used as an undercoating or primer

1. Grumbacher Gesso - Best Overall

Grumbacher Gesso
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Pros Cons
  • May be tinted with acrylic colors
  • Best for porous surfaces
  • Priming before acrylic & oil painting
  • Creamy consistency
  • Extra-thick texture
  • Not for egg tempera or gilding
  • Not as opaque as gesso should be

 

 

What Customers Have to Say

Artists think this gesso is the best for preparing canvases for oils and acrylics. It makes good coverage on the canvas. It also comes well recommended by artists for priming canvas, wood, cardboard, plaster, and concrete.

Grumbacher Gesso

Why We Think It's Great

Grumbacher Gesso is an extra-thick primer perfect for priming porous surfaces before acrylic and oil painting. It has a creamy texture, making it easy to apply on the canvas.

You can also tone the canvas during the priming, so you save time by adding a few drops of acrylic paint into the gesso before applying it to the canvas. It effectively improves the texture and absorbency of the canvas. 

It also comes in a 32oz bottle that's easier to carry around than regular gesso jars.

Who Should Buy It

Grumbacher Gesso is best for artists working with oils and acrylics. This gesso will be the right choice if you need a primer that you can use as an undercoat.

2. Golden Gesso

Golden Gesso
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Pros Cons
  • Applies smoothly using a brayer or paint roller
  • Improves adhesion for oil and acrylic paints
  • Does not need sanding
  • Reasonable price
  • Flexible even when dry
  • Not absorbent enough for alla prima painting
  • Rubbery texture
  • Does not much tooth

 

 

What Customers Have to Say

Golden gesso is one of the favorite brands of most users because it applies smoothly and doesn't even need a palette knife to apply. It also works on various surfaces. It also dries clear, so it doesn't interfere with the colors of your painting.

Why We Think It's Great

Looking to improve the adhesion of your oil or acrylic paints? Look no further than Golden Gesso! This fantastic product applies smoothly and quickly and doesn't require sanding between applications.

The white gesso comes in a 32oz plastic jar, but they're also available in black. It's flexible even when it dries, making it perfect for priming for oil painting canvases.

It also improves the adhesion of oil and acrylic paints and doesn't need sanding. Plus, it dries to a flexible finish, so you don't have to worry about cracking. Golden Gesso is a must-have for any artist's toolkit at a very reasonable price.

Who Should Buy It

Golden Gesso is great for anyone who needs a primer that creates less texture and dries quickly. It's also good to paint on different porous surfaces aside from canvas.

3. Gamblin Oil Painting Ground

Gamblin Oil Painting Ground
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Pros Cons
  • Non-absorbent ground
  • Makes the canvas stiffer
  • Bright white gesso
  • Needs sanding
  • Not does have a funky smell
  • Works only for oil painting canvases
  • Contains petroleum distillates
  • Forms a very thick film over the

 

 

What Customers Have to Say

Gamblin Oil Painting Ground is a great product. Artists and art reviewers highly recommend it. Since trying this product, many even swear that they're not using other primers. 

Why We Think It's Great

The Gamblin Oil Painting Ground offers an alternative to acrylic gesso as a ground for oil painting. This non-absorbent ground makes the canvas stiffer and brighter. It needs sanding to ensure proper adhesion.

It is a bright white gesso, so you need to tone your canvas before painting. However, it works better than acrylic gesso for your oil paintings. Unlike other primers, it doesn't have a funky smell.

The oil painting ground comes in a 32oz tin can with locks on the cover, so it doesn't spill easily.

Who Should Buy It

We recommend this ground for oil painting artists. It also works for priming wood panels for painting, so you should get this priming ground if you love painting on wooden panels.

4. Liquitex Professional Gesso - Best for Professional Artists

Liquitex Professional Gesso
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Pros Cons
  • Reduces the viscosity of paints and gels
  • Conforms to ASTM D-4236
  • Resistant to cracking
  • Does not cause yellowing
  • Improves the teeth of canvas
  • Applies thinly
  • Uneven finish

 

 

What Customers Have to Say

Liquitex Professional Gesso is a good gesso that you can use for priming your canvas for painting and oil pastel drawings. According to many artists, it is also easy to apply and is simply the best product for professional artists.

Why We Think It's Great

Liquitex Professional Gesso is the perfect way to reduce the viscosity of your paints and gels, making them more manageable for all sorts of art projects. It also conforms to ASTM D-4236, so it's safe to use for your art classes.

The gesso is resistant to cracking and won't cause yellowing over time. Plus, it helps improve the teeth of your canvas so that your work will last longer.

Who Should Buy It

This gesso is the best canvas primer for art teachers and professional artists. Liquitex is also great for artists looking for a reliable brand of gesso.

5. US Art Supply Black Gesso

US Art Supply Black Gesso
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Pros Cons 
  • Water-based gesso
  • Lightweight
  • Non-toxic
  • Highly pigmented for better coverage
  • Flexible finish
  • Not as black as other gesso
  • Uneven finish

 

 

What Customers Have to Say

This black gesso is an excellent primer that covers well. It also cleans up easily, even if it gets very dark. It dries to a flexible finish, making it good for oil paintings.

US Art Supply Black Gesso

Why We Think It's Great

US Art Supply's Black Gesso is a water-based gesso that is lightweight and non-toxic. It's great for newbies and professional artists alike.

It's also highly pigmented, providing better coverage with every stroke. The flexible finish ensures your oil paintings stay in good quality for a long time.

The black gesso comes in a 500ml plastic tub. You can apply it using a brush, palette knife, or brayer tool.

Who Should Buy It

Artists who love working on a dark background will appreciate having this black gesso in their studio.

6. Sargent Art Gesso

Sargent Art Gesso
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Pros Cons
  • Excellent coverage
  • Water-resistant
  • Non-toxic
  • Acid-free
  • Works for priming for oil and acrylics
  • Thin coverage
  • Forms a film after prolonged storage

 

 

What Customers Have to Say

Though this gesso is thinner and needs more coats than regular gesso, it works well in priming your canvases for oils and acrylics. It also dries fast, so you can finish priming your canvases in no time.

Why We Think It's Great

This high-quality primer provides excellent coverage and is water-resistant, even if it gets wet after applying the gesso. It has a matte finish, so you don't get a glaringly white canvas for painting.

It's non-toxic and acid-free, ensuring that your artwork stays beautiful for years to come.

The primer comes in half-gallon jugs and is best applied using a brush. It's also quick-drying and dries with a slight tooth.

Who Should Buy It

If you're looking for an affordable liquid gesso for your painting projects, Sargent Art is an excellent choice. It is also great for art teachers and students since it's very economical.

7. Handy Art Acrylic Gesso - Best Gesso for Acrylic Paintings

Handy Art Acrylic Gesso
Pros Cons
  • Flexible finish
  • Matte
  • Non-toxic
  • Affordable
  • May be used as an undercoating or primer
  • Runny consistency
  • Does not respond well to tinting

 

 

What Customers Have to Say

According to many artists who have tried it, this acrylic gesso is perfect for its price and quality. It also works well for newbie and professional artists.

Handy Art Acrylic Gesso

Why We Think It's Great

Handy Art Acrylic Gesso is a matte, flexible finish primer perfect for use as an undercoat or base coat. You also get good coverage, so a little goes a long way.

It is affordable and non-toxic, making it a great option for any artist. It doesn't get a film even if you keep it stored for a long time.

Each jug holds 32 ounces of student-grade acrylic gesso that's also allergen-free.

Who Should Buy It

Everyone loves saving on their supplies, so you'll love having this gesso in your art studio. It's free from any latex, dairy, casein, and nuts. Even if you're allergic to any of these, you can still use this acrylic gesso.

8. US Art Supply Acrylic Gesso

US Art Supply Acrylic Gesso
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Pros Cons
  • Lightweight
  • Non-toxic
  • Water-resistant finish
  • Permanent & flexible after it dries
  • Resistant to yellowing
  • Doesn't adhere to non-fabric surfaces
  • Glossy finish

 

 

What Customers Have to Say

This acrylic gesso is perfect for newbie artists who don't have enough experience working on canvas primers. It layers well, though you have to sand between layers to get good coverage.

Why We Think It's Great

US Art Supply's Acrylic Gesso is perfect for your next project. It's lightweight and non-toxic, and the finish is water-resistant and permanent.

This primer dries quickly and permanently but remains flexible. It's also resistant to yellowing, so it's perfect for your more serious artwork.

The gesso comes in a 500ml plastic jar. You can mix some acrylic paint into the gesso to cut canvas preparation time, so you can paint after you finish priming.

Who Should Buy It

If you're looking for an acrylic gesso that is lightweight, non-toxic, and has a water-resistant finish, then US Art Supply Acrylic Gesso is a perfect choice. So whether you're a beginner or a pro, this gesso is a must-have in your art supplies arsenal.

9. Mont Marte Premium Gesso

Mont Marte Premium Gesso
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Pros Cons
  • Thick & creamy
  • Smooth texture
  • Matte finish
  • Excellent coverage
  • Spreads easily
  • Not best for non-porous surfaces
  • Doesn't respond to diluting

 

 

What Customers Have to Say

It was a bit expensive, but the quality is very good. It works with various porous surfaces for all your painting jobs, including acrylics, oils, color pencils, oil pastels, graphite, and charcoal.

Why We Think It's Great

Mont Marte Premium Gesso is a thick and creamy primer that finishes to a matte and smoother surface. It covers surfaces well, spreads easily, and dries quickly.

Each tub has 500ml of non-toxic universal gesso covering almost every porous surface.

Who Should Buy It

This universal gesso is an excellent choice for priming for all your painting and drawing projects. However, if you're looking for something with more grit, this gesso is not the best choice.

10. Liquitex Professional Black Gesso

Liquitex Professional Black Gesso
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Pros Cons
  • Reduces viscosity on gels and paint
  • Non-toxic
  • Non-yellowing
  • Excellent coverage
  • Satin finish
  • Too thin and runny
  • Student-grade brand

 

 

What Customers Have to Say

This black gesso is great for priming watercolor paper. It's fantastic to use out of the bottle, and while the bottle says wait for 24 hours to dry, it dries faster than that. It works well for undercoating.

Liquitex Professional Black Gesso

Why We Think It's Great

Liquitex Professional Black Gesso is a non-toxic, matte gesso that you can use to reduce the viscosity of gels and paints. It has excellent coverage and produces a satin finish.

It is a non-yellowing gesso, so it won't affect the quality of your paintings. It's also very affordable, and you only need a small amount to cover a good portion of your canvas.

Each plastic bottle holds 8 ounces of black gesso. You can also mix it with other Liquitex Professional acrylic paint colors and mediums.

Who Should Buy It

This product is a great choice for any artist who wants to create professional-looking paintings. It's also non-toxic, so it's safe for children to use.

Canvas Primer Buying Guide

  • Medium

Priming improves or limits the absorbency of the canvas, depending on the medium you are using. Each primer has a different purpose and is all designed for different kinds of paint. For example, oil-based paints require a stiffer primer to make the canvas less absorbent, while watercolors require the opposite.

  • Rigidity

Your canvas needs to be rigid so you can apply your paints well, especially if working with oil paintings. Priming the canvas should support your surface for a long-term effect.

  • Tooth

The tooth of the primer refers to the texture of the canvas after you primed it. Primed surfaces provide an appropriate grip for the paints.

  • Color

Although primers are generally white, they also come in black and gray. Dark primers negate the need for toning your canvases. However, adding a few drops of acrylic paint into the gesso effectively colors the primer, so you can skip toning later.

  • Coverage

A thicker primer covers more than a runny primer. Find a primer sufficient for your needs. However, even the best primers need a few coats.

Canvas Primer FAQ

1. Do I need a primer for my canvas?

Some canvases and canvas boards are pre-primed. Even so, applying a layer of primer doesn't hurt your paintings. Priming improves the surface of the canvas, so the canvas is ready for painting.

2. How do I prime my canvas?

Prime your canvas depending on the medium you work with.

When priming for watercolors, you want them to be as absorbent as paper. Applying gesso or absorbent ground is a good start. Do not dilute the gesso, but apply it directly on the canvas. Let it dry overnight, then apply a second coating.

Acrylics need acrylic gesso or universal gesso. You apply the primer as you apply it for watercolor canvas, sanding between coats for better adhesion.

Oil painting requires a different approach. The canvas needs sizing and then primed with oil painting ground or acrylic gesso.

3. How can I prime my canvas without gesso?

Matte medium is an excellent alternative to gesso. It is transparent and has the same consistency as gesso. It improves the consistency and extends the volume of the paint. It even works as an adhesive.

On the other hand, the matte gel is lightweight and dries to a translucent satin or matte finish on your canvas. It improves the tooth of the canvas and the adhesion of acrylic paints on the canvas. A matte gel is also a good substitute for animal glue when working with oil paintings.

Rabbit skin glue is technically not a primer but a sizing chemical. Sizing removes the absorbency of the canvas by covering up the fibers of the canvas. It is not recommended for acrylics, though. Sizing for oil canvas with rabbit skin glue also affects its quality.

Oil painting ground is the best for priming for oil painting canvases. Oil primers render the canvas less absorbent than gesso and make it brighter, therefore needing toning. You need to protect the canvas with acrylic medium, or the oil painting ground will ruin the canvas.

If you can't prime your canvas, painting on raw canvas is a good alternative. The paint dries faster than primed gesso, though the colors of the raw canvas may affect the quality of your painting. We recommend them, therefore, for abstract stain paintings only.

4. Can I use acrylic white instead of gesso?

You may use acrylic to apply a base coat for your canvases but not prime them. Applying gesso to your canvases improves the adhesion of the paint on the canvas, something that an acrylic paint coat cannot achieve.

5. Do you have to use gesso before oil painting?

Priming a canvas before the oil is important to improve your canvas surface. However, unlike acrylics which need an absorbent surface, priming a canvas involves putting a barrier between the canvas and the oil paints, so the oils don't sink into the canvas.

However, you don't need gesso for priming your canvas for oil painting. We recommend an oil painting ground instead as it improves the stiffness of cotton duck canvas or linen canvases for easier application of the oil paints. Sizing your canvases is also important.

Conclusion

Grumbacher Gesso is an excellent gesso and is very affordable, too. It is our best overall pick for the following reasons: it works on all porous surfaces, is best for priming acrylic and oil painting canvases, and has a creamy consistency.

If you're a professional artist, you'll love the Liquitex Professional Gesso. It is resistant to cracking, does not cause any discoloration or yellowing on your paintings, and improves the teeth of the canvas.

Do you want a gesso to prime for your acrylic and oil paintings? Handy Art Acrylic Gesso is non-toxic, affordable, and you can use it for undercoating your canvas.

You may want to enroll in one of the online painting classes to learn more about priming and painting for different mediums. 

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