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A Complete Guide to Choose the Right Oil Painting Surface

A Complete Guide to Choose the Right Oil Painting Surface

Oil Painting has been one of the best luminous mediums to create the most astounding paintings. They are rich in pigments, and the oil medium gives the artist the ability to work on the smallest of details. But, before you blend your oil paints, it is worth spending some time thinking about the type of surface you are planning to paint on. Choosing a correct oil painting surface is as equally important as choosing the right oil paints. Many surface textures hinder the effectiveness of oil paints while others compliment them. The proper prep is also very important as oil paints never completely dries.

There are numerous choices when it comes to picking an oil painting support. In today’s blog, we will take a look at the oil paintings surfaces that create nice textures, as well as enhancement.


Paper is a well-suited option for oil painting studies and students who are learning to use oil medium. It is one of the best surfaces for practicing oil painting or test your colours. Choose papers specifically manufactured for oil paints. These are comparatively thicker and tougher than other regular papers. Oil painting paper is manufactured for even absorption of binder and solvent, leaving pigment on the surface. If you are using oil paint paper, no surface preparation is needed.

Ordinary paper is far too absorbent for painting with oils. The majority of the oil and shade will get lost underneath the surface, making a dull impact. When you paint on paper that is not intended for oils and without preparing the surface properly, the paper becomes dark, and the fibres become brittle and will start to crumble as the oil oxidizes superficially.

In case you're worried about the life span of the work you produce on paper; you can use an oil based varnished to make it archival. The ideal varnish for the oil painting is solvent base varnishes. Allow the paint is completely dry and stabilize; at that point, apply the varnish with a brush or spay. About 6 months to12 months, depending on the thickness of the paint.

Recommended Products:

Bienfang Canvasette Paper Canvas Pad is a 182 lb. (296 GSM) surface texture paper. Good economical choice for oil and acrylic paints and very good with mixed media.

Pro Art Real Canvas Sheets Pad is better choice; a medium weight cotton blend, double acrylic primed canvas and acid free. Readily accepts oils, acrylics and other painting mediums.

The best is Arches Oil Paper is a 300gsm (140lb), mould-made, 100% rag (cotton), neutral pH, acid free paper that is specially formulated for oil painting. King’s Framing & Art Gallery carries various types of papers which you can checkout here


Canvases can be purchased in various formats, in a variety of textures and fabrics.

Most of the artists buy the ready-made 'stretched and primed' canvas because getting a canvas that has been set up at a manufacturing plant spares a great deal of time, and it implies that you can paint straight onto it.

However, numerous artists choose to prime and stretch the canvas themselves as it gives them more control over their final product. They can make their canvases of any size they need, plus stretch and prime the canvas according to their plan.

The two fundamental fibre types of canvas that are utilized to make craftsmen's canvases are cotton and linen (which is produced using flax fibres).


Cotton canvas are inexpensive. Its flexibility makes it simple to stretch, however, if you are painting on a larger scale, it can work against you, as the surface won't be sufficiently rigid to apply pressure without the fabric moving.

Cotton has a recognizable weave and is very thick. Ensure to check the thread count, so you are not buying filler. The best thread count is between 7 to 11 or 12 oz. A good canvas is more stable and can withstand some abuse. Ladies know what happens when purchasing cheap sheets after a wash. The bed linen, thread counts make a world of difference, same when painting on a canvas. You would like the most stable affordable canvas.

Canvas boards is another great option for plein air paintings and studies for they are easier to lug around. Art Advantage canvas boards is acid free, double-primed 100-percent cotton canvas is glued onto warp resistant boards made from sugar cane waste which is a great renewable, sustainable resource.

You can reinforce the fibres with gesso, which is recommended to apply as a barrier, especially when using an oil base paint; which never dries, and will eat away on any substrate. The gesso will also create a smooth surface to work on.


Linen is solid and reliable and remains the favoured surface for some craftsmen. Linen holds its natural oils, which assists with protecting the fibre’s adaptability and prevents the canvas from going fragile. It is also considered to have a more' natural' weaved finish. Thanks to its resilience, linen holds up to a heavy hand of painting and does not become as quickly loose.


Oil painters around the globe have been painting on wood for quite a long time. It was the go-to surface for a large number of old connoisseurs.

It was during the Renaissance time when the cotton and linen canvases were made. Canvases quickly turned into a famous surface as they were progressively lightweight and simpler to move.

Despite this, wood is an incredible choice for oil supports. It's sturdy and smooth, it's frequently more affordable, and it is wonderful to paint onto. Wood Oil paintings feel natural without doing much. Bear in mind the rigidity of wood. If the wooden surface doesn't bend, the paint layer has less of a tendency to crack the same way as oil paint on canvas. If you think that your painting may be subjected to damage, a better option would be a wood panel. A wood panel is a support medium built on Masonite board, MDF panel, veneer plywood, reinforced with squared timber and used in all forms of painting, including oil.

Note: You will need to apply a couple of coats of gesso, as the oil and the acid from the wood would eat away at your work. Our grandfathers used to make a rabbit glue gesso, fortunately we can now simply purchase a ready make gesso.

Solid Wood:

A durable wood panel is necessarily great with regards to painting.

Hardwoods are best for painting, as they hold the paint better and do not warp. Woods, for example, poplar, oak, basswood, cedar, and walnut. Genuine mahogany is the most excellent timber you can use to colour. Mahogany is resistant to rot, insect harm, and is extraordinarily sturdy; it has a low T/R proportion and an extraordinary structure of interlocking rings that makes it impervious to distorting.


You will also find plywood sold at an art store as panel boards, 'cradled wood panels' as artist's painting frames, these are typically produced using Russian/baltic birch, and basswood.

Plywood is made of numerous layers of the wood veneer, thinly cut and glued together, with the grain course of each handle running perpendicular to the next cut. This makes the surface impervious to volumetric shrinkage.

Ampersand Birch Wood Panel Value Packs are priced for the budget-minded artist. They feature a sturdy birch plywood surface ideal for DIY projects and mixed media applications.

Gotrick Wood Panel Collection provide an excellent surface for painting in oils or acrylics, mixed media, collages and even watercolours and pastels. Raised edge panels are perfect for resin and pouring mediums. They are hand-crafted from ultra-stable premium basswood, sanded perfectly smooth and are free of knots, seams and excess wood grain.

Wood Composite:

Wood Composite is made of fragmented wood chip fibres glued together, creating smooth high-density warp resistant panels. This makes the surface impervious to shrinkage. Idyllic for oil, acrylic, alkyd, casein as well as other water-based paint. You still need to gesso the substrate.

Gotrick - Pale Masonite 3 mm Panel, made from high-density fibreboard with two different surfaces. One side is smooth and one side has a rough texture. Great for studies and class assignments and ideal for plein air painting.

Jack Richeson Premium Gessoed 4mm Hardboard is pre-toned and coated in a premium white, mid-tone grey or umber acrylic gesso.

Ampersand Museum Series Claybord is made using 1/8" true artist hardboard and features Ampersand’s simply amazing kaolin clay ground formula similar in paintability to the clay gesso grounds used during the Renaissance. Claybord is a favourite of both fine and graphic artists.


Painting on metal has benefits over canvas and wood. It offers luminosity as compared to other surfaces and more robust support for painting, which does not distort.

If you like painting on a 100% smooth, non-absorbent surface, metal is a good choice. The smoothness of the metal won't halt the paint flow and give luminous effect that no other subrostrate can offer.


Since the Renaissance period, copper has been utilized as a tool for painting. Throughout time, the liveliness and colours of those old works have not deteriorated. It doesn't make any difference which thickness you choose when working on copper, as you can mount it after painting.

Copper must be prepared appropriately before being painted on it. Firstly, use very fine sandpaper for sanding it. Then scrub it with a lint-free cloth using methylated spirit to wash off the dust. Ensure you wear gloves and ventilate the room before utilizing methylated solution as the vapor are poisonous.


Much the same as copper, this surface is incredible for artists who like to paint on a hard, smooth, non-absorbent surfaces. It's better for your brushes as well, as it implies you don't need to scrub them to chip away at harsh surfaces.

Reliable, lightweight, and luminous, aluminium is a steady preservation quality surface. It doesn’t react to changes in the environment like wood or canvas do.

It is important that the artist be aware of how the pre-coated aluminium surfaces has been treated before painting on the surface and the steps artists need to do before painting which will be included in our next blog.

If you've discovered a surface that you think will suit your style of oil painting, then give it a shot. Ensure you're appropriately equipped with the mediums and brushes that best suit the surface you have picked. And if you are considering to start with oil painting, checkout ‘Untold Oil Painting Tips for Beginners’.

Stay tuned for our next blog to know how you can prep your surfaces.

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