Techniques for Painting Art on a Wood Canvas

by Jeffery Keilholtz

Wood has a long history as a surface for paintings. Learning techniques for painting on a wood canvas gives you an advantage, as wood provides a hard, flat surface for a painting and is readily available in many different forms. Some helpful application tips important for painting on wood are crucial to success.


Wood is one of the oldest canvases used by painters, according to Oil Painting for Beginners ( Ancient Byzantine and Gothic-era painters created religious images on wood surfaces. Most such paintings were flat, one-dimensional images created prior to the widespread adoption of perspective -- the technique of painting to represent depth. In modern times, the painting of wood takes place for both creative reasons and in the construction of homes and properties -- painting wood posts, barns and fences, for example.


Proper preparation technique is essential for a successful wood canvas painting. The trick to prepping your wood canvas is to coat it with sealer, often an acrylic or gesso substance, according to Hy-Tech Thermal Solutions. Applying one to three coats of sealer prevents the paint from being absorbed by the wood. Taking a 12-hour break in between the application of each layer of sealer will ensure each layer is fully dry before the application of another.


Priming the canvas is essential for pre- and post-painting. Similar to sealer, primer acts as a base coat to prevent the paint from inadvertently staining or being absorbed by the wood. Adding primer once your painting is completed and fully dry, states Hy-Tech Thermal Solutions, will help prevent the image from flaking or cracking as it ages.


Once your surface is prepared and your post-paint primer is standing by, select from a range of different paints to create your image. Four specific types of paint -- flat, satin, semi-gloss and gloss -- will give your image various reflective qualities. The technique of painting with flat or satin paints will present your image with a non-reflective or soft appearance. Proceeding with semi-gloss or gloss paints will add enhanced levels of shine and reflection to your colors. Semi-gloss and gloss paints are also highly durable, states Hy-Tech Thermal Solutions, and are ideal for painting wood cabinets or fences.


Painting in thick layers will help your image stand out on dense wood surfaces, according to Earth Pigments. Creating a thick paste with an oil paint -- using two parts linseed oil and one part citrus solvent for every 6 cups of oil paint, for example -- gives the paint flexibility and durability. Oil paint, specifically, is designed to stretch with the naturally expanding nature of wood. Ideally, you should allow a layer of paint to dry fully before adding a second to ensure clarity in the image and an even drying time.

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