In this article I am going to show you how you can paint with oils on paper. I use this technique successfully to prepare painting demonstrations in oils. I also use this approach to plan paintings in colour with oils. You also can complete entire paintings this way and mount the finished product for a modern look.
But you may be wondering how to prepare the paper correctly or even why paint with oils on paper in the first place?
Let me show you.
Why Paint on Paper?
A fair question since oils are usually painted on canvas or prepared panels. But there are excellent reasons to paint on paper too. But first let me stress that I am not talking about ordinary printing paper. You need to use good quality paper like watercolour paper.
1. Cost Effective: A sheet of paper will usually be cheaper that a canvas. So if you are painting a lot you may want to save your expensive canvas for a particular subject and use paper for other less important subjects. Whatever the reason painting on paper gives you a lot more potential painting surfaces.
2. Preparatory Studies: Colour notans or thumbnail sketches are useful when preparing for a larger work. Do quick studies or test out the colours for your painting on the paper before starting the main event.
3. Paintings on paper can be mounted differently from the usual framed option. For example box mounting the paper can give you a modern look and save the cost of more expensive framing. It could be an easy DIY project too.
Those are three excellent reasons to have paper available for oil painting. But you cannot painting directly onto paper either. The paper must be suitably prepared first.
How to Prepare the Paper
First take your sheet of paper and secure it to a board with masking tape around the edges. Make sure the tape is pressed down firmly. Then apply a coat of acrylic gesso to the paper. I prefer a soft brush so that the surface dries relatively smoothly. If you want a textured surface then try a bristle brush instead.
Once the first coat has dried apply a second coat and let that dry thoroughly. This should be sufficient for painting. You could also tone the paper with a coat of thin acrylic colour as required. A warm tone such as burnt sienna, raw sienna or red can achieve good results for your landscape paintings.
Oil Primer Option
You can also add a third layer over the dried gesso in the form of oil primer. This is not hardware store primer. A good quality oil based primer for painting provides a less porous option than gesso. It is also excellent for transparent paint effects and generally smooth surfaces. Simply apply the primer over the gesso and let it dry normally.
Ready for Painting
Your primed paper is now ready for your oil paint. Leave it mounted on the board for your preparatory studies. If you want to complete a painting on the paper you may want to first mount the paper onto a box frame. If so make sure the box frame is slightly smaller than the paper. This is to allow you to trim the paper flush with the box frame’s edge. Use a sharp craft knife to do this.
In the video you can see the preparation steps for priming watercolor paper for oil paint.
What do you think? Do you want to use paper for oil painting?
If you would like to find out more about starting your painting, notan studies and more then try my Free course How to Add Power to Your Paintings. You will discover how to transform your paintings quickly before your brush even gets to the canvas.
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